Feature Article - May/June 2003
Find a printable version here

Natural Wonders

Trends in interior design, whatever your budget

By Kelli Anderson

Oasis Women's Fitness and Spa in LaGrange, Ill., uses indirect lighting in the locker room for a chic look.

"A major impact on members is the locker room," says Bruce Lutz, associate principal of Ohlson Lavoie Corporation of Denver. "It's a place where you can bring in some nice upgrades. It's making members more comfortable—it's not a minor expenditure but it really changes the member's experience."

Lavish details invoking a resort-like feel can range from wood-paneled lockers to heated floors, but it doesn't have to cost a fortune to let patrons know they're valued.

For the more limited budget, changing vanity tops to quality, solid materials (avoid seamed laminates); putting in larger mirrors or even framing them and leaning them against a wall for a more residential feel; updating lighting such as adding indirect lighting from the top of the locker base (very effective and inexpensive); adding a lounge area with amenities of telephone and television to provide a place to relax alone or with friends; changing ceiling and wall materials to better absorb sound are all ways to make patrons feel a little more pampered, a little more at home.

Picture This

North Boulder Recreation Center in Boulder, Colo., has just celebrated the opening of its new, large addition—a front lobby, the perfect place to showcase an equally impressive work of local art, "whirlwind" by Tim Upham. The sculpture is even interactive: It rotates when people touch it.

"It was a reaction to the plan," says Dave Hammel, vice president and principal at Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture of Denver. "Different curves of whirlwind come together like the converging curves in the roof and walls. It's in total keeping with the lobby space."

Art should be viewed as an integral, connected part of the interior design of a facility, echoing its color schemes, themes and personality.

Entrance areas are ideal homes for such art, but once a piece has been selected, it needs to be displayed to maximum effect. Making it a permanent feature by placing it in a specially designed niche or highlighted with reflected light makes it become a part of the structure itself. It should be something that can't be anywhere else but there. Be careful, however, to pair the right size art to its display wall or area—a disproportionately small piece will get lost on a large wall. Pay attention to scale.

Art doesn't necessarily have to come in a frame. Branding or large graphic designs or just artfully placed swaths of color can transform a space. Even staff, appropriately dressed, can become part of the overall aesthetic look. Think: performance art.

"Attendants are all dressed in a certain fashion or with graphics on their shirts—they're like artwork," says John Burchard, director of interiors at DeStefano Keating Partners of Chicago. "It's all about setting a space."

Another ideal canvas for visual creativity is signage.

"Integrate the signage," says Craig Bouck, principal at Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture. "It's part of the architecture that is purposeful—not just stuck on a wall."

Aside from locker rooms and entrances, little patrons also deserve the attentions of interior design. Whimsical art on walls, incorporated into the flooring or built into interactive furniture, can help make the space attractive to kids and result in happier parents.