by Leatrice Eiseman

From the moment a patient enters a space such as a clinic or offices, they are inundated with a sense of the colors surrounding them. Even though they might not be overtly aware of it, color is the first thing they notice and the final message they take away when leaving the space. Color is a vital conveyor of the emotional expression found in any given environment, so it is especially important to provide an ambiance that expresses a positive atmosphere where patients and staff feel comfortable, reassured, welcome, and in tune with their surroundings.

There are essentially five different classifications of moods that are suggested for a practice or clinic, depending on the overarching theme that is chosen for the space. It is much easier to decorate when a preconceived concept, a definite idea of the desired mood, theme, or message is arrived at. It simplifies the process, enabling a starting reference point that helps to define the area. Above all, color is key to establishing the mood.

The first of the five themes is described as Tranquil. This is a serene, restful, peaceful and quiet mood that evokes thoughts of a placid blue sky and soothing waters. The dominantly cool light- to mid-tones of clear green, aquas, soft blues, pristine white, and dove grays suggest a restorative calming effect. Another facet of this mood is inspired by what the French call “l’heure bleue”—as reflected in twilight when all the world seems to be winding down and an even more quiescent mood is encouraged by the use of dusky blues, misted blue-greens, shaded lavenders, and vaporous grays.

The second mood is referred to as Nurturing. These are the colors that evoke a sense of caring and an escape from anxiety. They are approachable, warm, and welcoming colors that are so tactile in feeling that they transform even rougher textures such as stucco or sturdier wood finishes into a softer look. The dominant colors are variations of light pastels and neutrals such as tender yellow, peach, rose, and creams balanced by subtle blues, sage greens and blue greens, lavender tints, feather gray, and tinted whites.

The third mood is called Contemplative. This theme is most often expressed in minimal styling utilizing a neutral palette of classic and dependable hues, such as gray, beige, taupe, ivory, and off-whites. Black can be used as well, but not too heavily. Although it can convey sophistication, an over-abundance of black could be too “weighty” or even foreboding in the context of clinics and practices. In order to alleviate visual boredom in this achromatic setting, rather intense accents can be used in artwork or accessories by adding interesting and eye-arresting focal points.

The next palette, called Traditional, provides a comfort level for those patients who relate to a sense of history, connectedness, substance, and stability. In muted shades of teal, burgundy, hunter green, navy or grayed blues, mahogany browns, and patrician purple, these hues have withstood the test of time. A contemporary touch can be added with some abstract art on the walls or other contemporary furnishings that provide a current-day modern twist to the traditional.

The last of the five palettes are those that suggest a sense of fun and good cheer. Called Whimsical, these are the free-spirited, optimistic colors drawn from primary and secondary shades with lots of bright touches and contrast. They are seen as capricious and carefree. These jellybean tones induce a sense of pleasurable expectations, playing to the youngest of patients or to those clients who are young-at-heart.

Each of the chosen color palettes expresses an image and ambiance providing a setting that patients will want to return to.