Interior Design Methodologies for the Homeless

The interior design of a facility can have a significant effect on its clients. Although lighting, furniture, and wall color can affect a person psychologically, simple renovations, such as decorations, can achieve similar results. Studies suggest that an interior space can be designed to satisfy its clients by incorporating client input, give a homeless individual a sense of belonging, dignity, and security, and avoid major, costly renovations.

When designing a space to create a certain environment, it is important to consider the guests that the space attracts. In consideration of interior design, 53 trustee members conducted a study out of London NHS Hospital that researched and surveyed ways that interior design could effectively control an environmental mood for their health center (Payne, Cain, Mackrill, Gate, & Strelitz, 2015). The authors concluded that “end users,” or clients, should have an opportunity to provide input on the design (Payne et al., 2015). However, the authors warn that clients can sometimes falsely predict how an environment will affect them. Therefore, a suggested method of design involves a combination of client input and final input by the designer (Payne et al., 2015).

Receiving input from a guest regarding a design can give guidance to a designer; however, when designing specifically for the homeless, there are architectural approaches that exist that can be considered to give them a sense of dignity and security. Sam Davis discusses an architectural approach toward designing facilities for the homeless in his book Designing for the Homeless: Architecture That Works. The main purpose of his book encompasses providing homeless people with a sense of dignity through design methodologies (Davis, 2004). Homeless individuals often struggle to define themselves in context with the world around them, and Davis believes an outreach facility that creates a comfortable atmosphere for the client can provide a sense of self-worth for a homeless client. Furthermore, this comfort should also encompass a feeling of security. If the design of a building or an interior structure of a greeting room creates a “safe haven” feel, the homeless client is more likely to utilize the service (Davis, 2004, p. 20). Davis argues that, since many homeless people are isolated on the streets, often fending for themselves, an atmosphere of care and safety will help homeless clients feel “worthy of this concern” (Davis, 2004, p.21).

Although making homeless guests feel dignified is important, designing for facilities that work with the homeless often have monetary restrictions that impede design. Davis additionally argues that a space can still provide a sense of dignity to guests despite these factors. Thoughtfully, Davis suggests ideas to create designs that “build architectural character” through the use of features the facility already has. For example, Davis states “all buildings have walls, roofs, windows, and doors,” and these structures can be decorated to develop an intended atmosphere (Davis, 2004, p. 71). Considerations can be made to walls, windows, window frames, and doors to change the environment of a room. Davis even extends these claims to decorating exterior amenities, such as walls, fences, window awnings, and gutters. Considering the design of these basic structures can help create a place that clients can feel comfortable and have a sense of belonging in the space.


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