How does an interior designer approach the challenge of decorating a major expansion? If you’re Annette Vega-DeFazio of Christian Health Care Center (CHCC), you may start with a single chair.
“Interior design always starts with an inspiration, whether it’s a piece of furniture or a carpet,” Mrs. Vega-DeFazio explains. “The interior design for the Ramapo Ridge Psychiatric Hospital expansion had to start somewhere. That ‘somewhere’ was the nourishment center. One administrator said to me, ‘I envision the nourishment center looking and feeling like a cozy, comfortable coffeehouse – the kind of place you walk into and know that it’s the place to go.’ So that’s where I started. I found a chair that I thought was the most fabulous chair we could ever have. I thought that if I were in a great coffeehouse, this is what I’d expect to sit on. The design just kept going from there. You don’t tell a space what it’s going to be; it tells you.”
The design process actually began when the architectural firm met with representatives from CHCC and Ramapo Ridge administration, nursing, medical staff, risk management, infection control, and support services. The group discussed the function and flow of the addition.
“Based on these meetings and state regulations, the architects determined how the addition would be built, as well as space requirements, electrical requirements, etc.” Mrs. Vega-DeFazio says. “Once that was finalized, I determined how the addition would be furnished.”
Input from those who would be using the space was critical to Mrs. Vega-DeFazio’s inspiration and design.
“My vision – what I see in my head – is nothing more than what everyone else has expressed to me. I’m always interested in other people’s ideas. I take those descriptions and convert them into a design of color, furnishings, flooring etc.” Mrs. Vega-DeFazio says. “I try to accommodate as many of the ‘wants’ that I possibly can, but needs and regulations take priority.
“There are so many little details that have to come into play to make a design work. Take window treatments. They can be anything from mini blinds to elaborate floor-to-ceiling drapery. I’m bound, first and foremost, by state health and fire codes. Much of my design is based on what’s available to use safely in a health-care environment. Vinyl flooring, for instance, has to be non-slip/scratch resistant and antimicrobial.”
Designing for a facility which provides mental-health care brings other factors, like color, into play.
“I choose colors based on color theory and color psychology. Certain colors make you happy, certain colors agitate you, and certain colors depress you,” Ms. Vega-DeFazio says. “In a mental-health environment I stay away from too-dark colors and too-light colors. Those ends of the color spectrum can create a blank space, in a matter of speaking. I use rich, warm colors, which tend to make people feel comfortable.’
Mrs. Vega-DeFazio’s design is also mission-driven.
“The Center’s mission is to be the hands of Christ,” she explains. “My goal was to create a space in which patients feel that they are enveloped by compassionate care, to create a space that is aesthetically pleasing and pleasing to the soul.”