One thing we value immensely at Warner Design Associates is our hard-working team. We think it’s important for our clients and other industry members to learn more about these important team members of ours. In an effort to support this, we’re sharing about our interior designer, Rachel Gooding. Check out her interview below!

How long have you been working with Warner Design Associates? As of last month (December 2017)

I have been working at Warner Design Associates for 6 years. Sometimes it feels like a lifetime but other times it feels like I’ve barely blinked!

What do you enjoy about working with senior living communities, including independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, CCRC and hospice communities?

Working with seniors is extremely rewarding because our goal is always to improve the lives and health of residents, staff, and family.  One of the aspects that I find most interesting is how interiors and the built environment can impact the mood of inhabitants.  I enjoy creating specific spaces within communities that are soothing, focused, or energizing to support the programming and lifestyle that our clients are trying to create.  Finish selections, color, artwork, furniture and integrated technology are important for defining usable spaces that support meaningful activities and connections.

What is the senior living design trend that you predict for 2018?

We’re seeing a big influx of “new players” in the senior living world – newcomers from the residential, office, hospitality and retail world.  Senior living is unique because it has elements of every other industry within one building, so we’re getting valuable input from these newcomers who have an outsider’s perspective.  I think there will be more experimentation with the programming and physical layout of senior living communities since we have fresh eyes looking at what has typically been a traditional and reserved industry.

What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the senior living commercial design industry throughout your career?

The senior living industry has evolved rapidly over the past few years.  There has been a shift away from the “old folks’ home” toward engaging communities that appeal to people of all ages.  We want the families and staff to enjoy the spaces as much as the residents, so it can be challenging to create designs that entice such a broad group.  The integration of technology for health and for entertainment has also been a huge factor.  Technology can be really non-invasive and beneficial when integrated properly and seniors are much more interested in the capabilities than some anticipated.

What is the best way for designers in this industry to stay on top of the trends?

It’s important to stay in the loop with our colleagues, collaborators and competitors.  We’re in a unique industry where everyone has the same goal of serving seniors so you don’t want each other to fail even if you are in direct competition.  I enjoy sharing experiences and techniques with other professionals so we can all strive toward the best end product.  We don’t want others to make mistakes and we want to share our successes.  Conferences and seminars are a great way to meet industry professionals and see the most recent project trends.  We always joke that you learn more at the bar after the conference though; there is a lot of camaraderie and sharing!

 How do you learn and understand the unique desires of each community, and create relevant interior designs?

We spend a lot of time researching the region of each building so we can understand who our residents are.  What are the main industries, recreational activities, significant historical events and landmarks that have meaning to this group?  We tailor our aesthetic for every building to assimilate into the larger community so our finished interiors will appeal to local seniors and their families.  This isn’t a one-size-fits-all process, and the projects are always most successful when we let the location and our client’s programming dictate the evolution of the design.

What’s your favorite interior design “find” lately? (Tool, vendor, product, trend, etc.)

The joke in the office is that I like shiny things, so I’m very excited that glitter and metallic are on trend lately.  Kidding! We don’t have many opportunities for sparkle glitz in senior living.  My favorite real find is that Sherwin Williams provides exterior rendering services!  You can send in exterior photos of your renovation project and some color palettes, and they’ll create these very realistic renderings so you and your client can easily visualize the options.  And it’s free!

What has been one of your best career memories/proudest moment?

There are so many to choose from!  One of my favorite funny memories was when a new construction project wrapped up and I only had two RFI’s (request for information) on the interior plan set.  Typically, we have dozens of RFI’s, so I was proud of my clean and detailed plan set.  The best reward is always hearing from residents that they are excited and happy; we try our best to make things great so it’s nice to hear that we were successful.

What do you normally do on the weekends (when you’re not working!)   

On the weekends, I hang out with my coworkers.  Not kidding!  We’re all friends and enjoy going out together, and some of our friend groups have become intermingled.  I love live music and relaxing with my family and friends.  Other than that, I enjoy staying active and hiking to offset my Netflix binging (usually sci-fi or fantasy, secret nerd over here!)

Thanks for the interview, Rachel! To learn more about our other team members, visit our Founders & Team page.