Andy Keller carries the unofficial title of “wayfinding missionary.” As president of Cincinnati-based Keller Studio Inc., Keller’s worked on a number of pediatric interiors, including Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, and he believes that what you put under your feet is just as important as what you hang on the walls or sit on. He’s focused on sharing that idea and getting clients to put more thought into their flooring decisions.

“I feel like I’ve failed if I hear someone say, ‘Walk down the hallway until you see that picture,’” he says. “They should have something better than that to get them on their way.”

While traditionally hospitals may have literally put a line of red tape on the ground to direct patients from point A to point B, today’s designers are getting creative and turning to flooring to support a home-like aesthetic, add a decorative element and help patients and visitors find that all-important waiting room or clinic space. “I’m always excited when I find a product that’s not only durable and comes at a decent price point but can be harnessed to help with wayfinding,” Keller says.

In fact, many interior designers see today’s conversations about flooring as more than just price, maintenance, and carpet verses rubber. For the design of Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Iris Dates, vp, director of design for healthcare interiors, HKS (Dallas), says one of the design team’s directives was to create a better wayfinding system. “In their existing building, the wayfinding was so bad that you had to have volunteers take every person to where they were going,” Dates says. “We want people to be able to find their way around.”

Some of the solutions, she says, involved installing windows near elevator wells to help guests orient themselves, assigning different color palettes to each floor, and adding decorative accents into the flooring to help move people in the right direction.

Jennifer Mango, interior designer, TSOI/Kobus & Associates (Cambridge, Mass.), says she worked with Duke Cancer Center to create an identity concept for its Durham, N.C., facility that referenced the client’s gothic architecture. A new medallion icon was woven throughout the interior design and into the flooring at key locations, including entry points, atrium corners and elevator cores, using terrazzo and carpeting.

“Healthcare is so focused on the patient experience, designers have a lot more ammunition to push the aesthetics and feel as well as the performance,” Mango says.

Check out HCD's May issue for an in-depth article on flooring trends.