Thursday, June 3, 2021

What Were They Thinking???

After spending hours and hours as a patient in numerous medical establishments these past six months, I feel somewhat qualified to make this observation: somebody needs to tell the interior designers and others who select the paint colors and furnishings for these places that sick people do not benefit when surrounded by the color of cooked liver. Or something the dog barfed up.

Since I've become a roving observer of medical facilities of all kinds - hospitals, doctor's offices, labs, clinics, etc. etc. - I've noticed that a dull grey-brown is the most prevalent color used in these places, with a sickly grey-beige following a close second. Usually everything in sight - carpeting, walls, furnishings, you name it - is swathed in one or the other color. In some places even the artwork is equally monochromatic and unappealing. It's as if every one of these places all shopped at the TwoColorOneStop Store for their interior design needs. These aren't old, decrepit facilities, either. Most are quite new or fairly new, so the colors selected were in almost all cases chosen recently.

Take, for example, an establishment I visited not long ago to have some tests done. They were running a bit behind time-wise so I was asked to take a seat in a small room where I had a view of the hallway. The color of the walls in that hallway was unspeakably depressing. Who in their right mind thinks a hallway painted the color of a hairball (yes, a hairball!) is going to make patients feel anything but depressed?

Wall color in the "hairball hallway"

The color above looks more greenish on the screen than it did in real life. Besides an actual hairball,I couldn't find anything ugly enough to match the real life version.

This trend of using colors perfectly suited to Soviet-era housing projects seems to be widespread among designers these days. That may be fine for establishments other than those where people who are ill or in pain seek treatment. Medical environments should support patients' recovery, not hinder it. I think back to a hospital visit I made to a relative who was undergoing treatment for a broken hip. The lobby of the hospital was elegantly furnished in a beautiful floral color scheme with blues and golds predominating. The patients' rooms, however, were another story. Their walls were painted an ugly dull mid-range grey with greenish-brown undertones. It was dreary enough to be described as morgue-worthy.


The wall color in my relative's hospital room

Newsflash: grey is the color of decline and death. Why would anyone in their right mind choose that color for a hospital setting? In the patients' rooms, no less, where they'd have to look at it 24 hours a day from their hospital beds. Perhaps the intent for choosing such colors is to create an impression of sophistication. However, anyone who has ever been a hospital patient suffering from nausea is unlikely to be helped one bit by having to stare at walls painted such a depressing color.

Maybe no one has told these designers that countless studies have been done on the recovery rates of patients when they're surrounded by lighter, more cheerful colors versus those who are exposed to colors that are dark and drab. It's a proven fact: patients heal faster when they're in environments where the color of walls and furnishings are brighter and lighter. 

Color affects a person's outlook to an amazing degree. Outlook affects outcome. This isn't exactly rocket science. So, to all the designers and architects and anyone who's responsible for designing the interiors of medical facilities, I beg of you all: for the overall health of your fellow Americans, please lighten up!!

©2021 Lynn Edwards