Healthcare design has long presented a challenge to the world of product manufacturing in its demand for offerings that are equally beautiful, durable, and cleanable. The latter has been redefined amid COVID-19, with surfaces, furniture, wallcoverings, and everything in between having endured even more stringent cleaning regimens, particularly before it was clear how the virus spreads.

In fact, there was a point about a year ago, when we were still seeing lots of plexiglass and cleaning everything with bleach, that I began to hear talk of aesthetics not ranking as high in the product specification process. It wasn’t just a response to operating in the world of COVID-19 but also to consumer demand for medical environments that simply look clean.

I admit, I was a little worried. I couldn’t help but wonder where we’d be today. Fortunately, my mind has been set at ease, thanks to a panel of interior designers I spoke with for the January/February issue. While that moment in time may have tested us as an industry, it didn’t stick around for long. Today, my roundtable participants said, is all about a warm welcome back. You can turn to our digital edition for more on our discussion, but I will tell you that they unanimously agreed that residential-inspired design is what’s guiding projects right now.

And while that’s appreciated news, it doesn’t necessarily make the product specification process any easier—in fact, it’s inspiring some tall orders. The panel told me they’re seeking options that bring the color, texture, and comfort of home into healthcare-grade offerings. Melissa Dallal, project manager, interior design, at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, shared how she breathed a sigh of relief recently after receiving a kit of wall protection samples and finding updated colors and textures, allowing her the ability to match a corner guard with wall color.

That’s just one small example of the types of solutions designers are seeking and the ways manufacturers are stepping up their game.

For an even better look at celebrated new products on the market, our 2021 Nightingale Awards special coverage includes a great Q+A with leaders from CF Stinson LLC on their Best of Competition-winning C.A.R.E. x Stinson line. As you might expect, jurors loved the depth of hues and finishes available in the materials selection. But what really pushed this one ahead of the competition is a cool tool that allows designers to search for options that match not only their aesthetic goals but their operational ones, as well. It offers the ability to cross reference a fabric choice against the disinfectants and cleaners a facility uses to ensure compatibility and support longevity.

It’s this type of thinking that will be critical as we continue to navigate design amid the ongoing pandemic. That balance of beautiful, durable, and cleanable is possible, even now. We hope this Product Issue, and the 2022 Buyers Guide inside, helps guide the way.