I remember a friend of mine once coming back from New York City and telling me about a hotel he stayed in. “You walk into the lobby and its lavish—vaulted ceiling, dramatic pendant lighting, the reception desk a broad sweep of oak, a gleaming marble floor. You can't wait to see what your room looks like! You get there, open the door, and immediately fall across the bed, because that's all you have room to do.”

Ah, yes, the vaunted—and misleading—lobby. HEALTHCARE DESIGN has a sister publication, Nursing Homes/Long Term Care Management, that publishes an annual review of long-term care facility designs, somewhere around four dozen a year. A common complaint among the judges for this review, especially in the early years, was that nursing homes and assisted living facilities spent a great deal of money and attention on their lobbies and, in the case of the latter, on incorporating chandeliers, grand pianos, and spiraling staircases. Then there were the resident rooms “in back”—usually double-occupancy, with bare walls, utilitarian furnishings, and scarcely enough room to turn around. Facility design, by this definition, was strictly showbiz.

Cut to the present day: An experienced healthcare design journalist finds himself walking through a wide, expansive hospital lobby featuring a pleasant, welcoming reception desk, high ceilings, and plenty of natural light. He is visiting a relative. Immediately upon entering her double room, he trips over a bedside chair, nearly landing on her lap. In righting himself, he bumps her bed uncomfortably and steadies his stance by placing his hand in a pile of clutter on her bedside table, which proceeds to roll toward the beige-on-tan walls. As he yells an apology to her—she is quite hard of hearing—the elderly woman in the nearby neighboring bed shouts “Shut up!” as a younger woman (presumably her daughter) nods assent. Such are the glories of non-patient-centered design.

I bring this up because more and more projects being sent to HEALTHCARE DESIGN these days feature patient rooms that are models of thoughtful planning—attractive headwalls, wood or carpeted floors, colorfully painted and decorated walls, lots of space providing comfort for family and staff, sculpted ceilings to dispel the “boredom of the bedridden,” and natural light galore. I have come to realize what these spaces represent. The popular cable TV show says it best—they are “modern marvels.” These wonderful spaces are probably the signature product of today's movement toward patient- and staff-centered healthcare design.

I have nothing against nice lobbies, but may the modern marvels go on forever. HD