A reader in design at Kingston University is brightening up the lives of people suffering from long-term illnesses after being given a major cash award to look into the use of colour in healthcare environments. Hilary Dalke has received nearly £175,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) for a two-year project looking into how combinations of colour, lighting and design can affect patients’ feelings.
Ms Dalke will head a team of experts visiting institutions such as a psychiatric ward, a spinal injuries unit, a hospice for teenage cancer victims and a nursing home for the elderly. The Colour Design Research Group will assess interior design schemes in each institution, including paint, flooring and furniture, before trialling alternative combinations. “Individual colours are not so powerful that they can change moods, but combinations of colour, light and design can influence the way people feel about their environments,” Ms Dalke said.
Something as simple as a multi-coloured duvet could make all the difference to a patient’s sense of well-being. “By reflecting coloured light on to the area around a bed, such items can make a room which might look fairly plain a lot more visually exciting for occupants,” Ms Dalke said. “In a previous study of Alzheimer’s disease sufferers with dangerously low appetites, patients showed more interest in eating their food if their carers changed the colour of their plates frequently. We will consider every possible detail before making our recommendations for interior colour design schemes.”
Ms Dalke explained the group would also investigate ways of increasing the amount of natural light in a room. “Outside a building, sloped window sills can be used to bounce light into the far corners of a room, while light paving or white gravel paths can have the same effect,” she said.
The success of the project will be measured by the way patients respond to the design schemes. In instances in which patients are unable to communicate, their carers will be consulted. Ms Dalke hopes her research will result in guidelines for developing long-term healthcare environments. “Once we have collated our findings we will present them to architects and designers, and have an exhibition, which could have a major influence on the way these institutions are designed in future,” she said.