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6 Foolproof Approaches to Senior Living Decor in Common Areas

We all love a good cocktail table moment. Piles of beautiful coffee table books. Trays filled with interesting objects. Candles. Florals. All expertly curated and arranged in a way that makes you feel happy and at home. But unfortunately, in the commercial world, when it comes to senior living decor, such designs can be a waste of designers’ time and a burden on operations.

The biggest thing you need to think about when specifying accessories for commercial spaces in senior living communities is the fact that these spaces need to be cleaned often, and by someone who neither cares about design nor has the time to. They will take everything you carefully placed on that cocktail table off to clean the surface, and then put it back in whatever formation they choose. Not to mention that lots of people are passing through the spaces and have the opportunity to rearrange things (or take things with them into their spaces). I can’t tell you how many times I have come back on the last day of an install to find an empty sofa table where there was once a beautiful (and expensive) floral that ‘no one ever saw’.

So what do we do to keep things beautiful? Aim for foolproof senior living decorating ideas. And below are six tips to help you do just that.

1. Use as few items as possible on big surfaces

I know it’s so tempting to layer, layer, layer. But this just sets us up for failure. A set of three vases on one end of a console table. A floral that fills most of the surface of an end table. A large sculpture that runs the length of a credenza. Keep it simple.

2. Make it Obvious Where the Accessories Should Live

Nothing made me more frustrated than walking through a building during an install to see that someone moved around the accessories I painstakingly styled for my final photos. And seeing that told me that no matter what I did, someone would move things around. If you have a big piece of artwork over a credenza, using one long floral or sculpture can prevent it from moving.

3. If Using Multiple Items, Keep them Contained

Trays are great for this! A tray with a couple of coffee table books and a small sculpture on a cocktail table is hard to mess up, as is a collection of 3 things of varying heights on a tray. This is also helpful for housekeeping as they only need to move one item to clean versus multiples.

4. Stretch your Senior Living Decor Budget in the Least Public Areas

The farther away you get from the entrance, the less you need to spend on accessories and—dare I say it—make them less attractive to live in someone’s apartment. Especially in senior living and multi family situations, beautiful things at ends of corridors are going to go missing. Keep them generic in these areas and save your budget for the beautiful things in more visible spaces.

5. Create an Install Plan that Lists out Where all of the Accessories Live

This may never be referenced, but things like this have come in handy when an overzealous employee decides to re-decorate on a Friday night, and the executive director comes in Monday morning horrified and calling you to ask where everything goes. This is also great in theft prevention. We had a community where the management was extremely concerned that all the pretty new things we brought in would go missing. So they took our list of accessories to the resident meeting and showed everyone the list of everything in the building that housekeeping would be keeping track of—a very nice way of warning residents that they had an eye on them.

6. Keep Fragile Items Isolated

Move delicate items to areas where they have the least chance of being moved often or bumped. Built-ins are a great example—like bookcases, fireplace mantels, and similar areas. Also any furniture that is up against a wall or is solidly built like heavy credenzas.

Simple is Best with Senior Living Decorating Ideas

While you (or one of your employees) may be tempted to create nothing short of an Architectural Digest-worthy atmosphere with lots of little nuances and details, it’s easier and wiser to stick with the basics when it comes to commercial styling for senior living communities. Keep the above tips in mind and you’re sure to keep your residents — and your management — happy.

Want more decorating tips for senior living communities? Visit our blog.


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