Aid and Comfort

Soothing new designs are putting the hospitality back into hospitals.

Valet parking and 24-hour room service are no longer the sole province of fancy hotels. Hospitals across the country have started taking cues from the hospitality industry, offering a host of creature comforts for patients and their families. Fluffy robes, gourmet chefs, ­private dining rooms, and sleeper sofas are among the amenities offered at some hospitals. At others, the ambience is more like a New Age spa. You can sip green tea while you wait for an appointment, stop by a Zen garden on your way to the clinic, or calm your nerves with a facial and a seaweed wrap.

Why are hospitals suddenly so hospitable? Alan Rheault, director of product development for Steelcase’s Nurture brand, thinks the industry has learned that patients heal better and more quickly if they are relaxed and comfortable. “Health-care officials have realized that design can become a strong point of differentiation,” Rheault says. “And improving the environment is not only good for the patient; it creates a better environment for workers. Happy workers are likely to provide better care.” The upshot is that we’re finally seeing products for the health-care market that are well designed, responsive to the end user, and, in many cases, even green. Increas­ingly, you’ll find waiting rooms looking less clinical, furniture that isn’t clunky, and textiles inspired by nature. The products shown here reflect a growing appreciation that the health-care environment influences healing and well-being—regardless of whether you’re in a Zen garden or the more prosaic hospital bed.

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