Infusing Excitement, Durability and Choice into Traditional Areas of Senior Living Design

February 14, 2018

Traditional is a look that’s been around forever. Transitional is more eclectic, with updated spins on traditional elements and new, more modern elements added to the mix. What began as a plan for another traditional senior living community quickly morphed into a transitional community with the help of StudioSIX5’s interior designers. Transitional communities combine traditional designs and add contemporary flair to meet the varying preferences of seniors – those who like simple designs with an understated elegance and those who appreciate designs which are more abstract and unique. Katrina Rutledge, registered interior designer for StudioSIX5, looks for creative inspiration in a variety of ways, including touring current, trendy hospitality-driven establishments, referencing trade magazines and even searching through design boards on Pinterest. When it came time for her to help design Arbor Terrace of Burnt Hickory in Marietta, GA, she and other designers envisioned creating an ambiance that exudes an upscale and sophisticated feel, yet makes residents feel welcomed and relaxed. To achieve this environment throughout the assisted living and memory care community, the designers used a neutral color palette with pops of bright colors. The approach resulted in elegant, yet light and airy spaces. A combination of patterns, shapes, textures and colors create a balanced environment in which commons spaces are timeless but make a statement. Stylish and durable accent pieces, artwork and materials complement this theme. 

“This community started off a lot more traditional, but the client was open-minded, and we changed a lot of the initial thoughts about this community,” said Rutledge. “It seems that upscale senior living design is desired in the area, especially for memory care, and as a result we have seen strong demand for memory care residences. By combining both traditional and modern designs, we have created an approachable environment that is fresh and stylish, yet serene and relaxing. A mixture of tonal wood tones along with metals adds a playful quality to the mix. The combination of textures, custom patterns, geometric shapes and pops of color create a striking contrast and give the community a sense of depth and dimension throughout. In addition, customized furniture and thoughtful design in memory care apartments provide residents with easier daily living.”

Specifically in memory care, StudioSIX5 made thoughtful and deliberate choices to cater to the needs of residents living with dementia. Instead of standard closets, each apartment features a built-in wardrobe with a lockable cabinet to store clothing, shoes and accessories. In addition, there is a built-in display which allows staff to lay out a couple of outfits so the residents living with memory impairments can select their preference. This design element reduces anxiety or overwhelming feelings which can arise from too many choices. Other times, seniors living with memory impairments organize clothing as a way to stay busy. Locking up most of the items encourages residents to partake in other activities and limits the need for caregivers to repeatedly tidy their rooms and doesn’t confuse the resident. Built-in wardrobes are relatively new for memory care residences, and StudioSIX5 found a furniture manufacturer to construct various wardrobes to fit the floor plans available in Arbor Terrace while also staying within the client’s budget.

“The design of the reception desk in the main lobby and bar in the bistro posed a challenge,” said Rutledge. “Oftentimes, communities feature a wooden reception desk, but these traditional designs take a beating over time. In Arbor Terrace, we decided to use geometric beveled panels on the reception desk and bar. These panels inherently have a durable finish which prevents them from getting damaged when wheelchairs or walkers run into them. Not only are they resistant to normal wear and tear, they add dimensionality and interest into the design.”

Arbor Terrace agreed to modify other features to make the community feel more upscale and cultured. The owners decided to invest in an art package which added local flavor and bright, artistic flair throughout. The variety and abundance of art creates a classy and refined look, making the commons spaces perfect for socializing. The art creates a warm and inviting atmosphere. In addition, StudioSIX5 suggested using luxury theater chairs accompanied by small round tables in between as opposed to the theater chairs with tablet arms attached.

“We felt the theater chair with the attached tablet arm had too much of an educational feel, like something you would sit in during a college class,” said Rutledge. “Thus, we suggested the use of these gorgeous narrow tables between the chairs for beverages or snacks.  This decision elevated the aesthetic of this space. We constantly look at furniture, accessories and other pieces that play into interior design, and we reinvent the concept while staying within our clients’ budgets. This keeps things interesting, beautiful and fun.”

Arbor Terrace of Burnt Hickory is a 71,861-square-foot community featuring 50 assisted living apartments and 29 memory care apartments. The community opened in spring 2017. In addition to StudioSIX5, Choate Construction, Foley Design Architects, Arbor Company Senior Living, Assisted Living and Memory, as well as Aspire Development Partners were involved in bringing Arbor Terrace of Burnt Hickory to fruition.

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