Heather Nye says it’s her love of problem solving that drew her to a career in interior design and has kept her curious and motivated all of these years.

“Every phase of design brings on new challenges,” she says. For the last decade, she’s been utilizing her skills at NBBJ’s Seattle office where one of her most recent projects—Swedish Edmonds Ambulatory Care Center in Edmonds, Wash.—was recognized in the 2016 IIDA Healthcare Interior Design Competition.

One of her goals there was to use materials that reflected the region’s natural landscape and history in logging, and would be suitable for healthcare. For an 18-foot-tall log feature in the lobby, she worked with a local company to procure salvaged wood and clean and seal its holes and cracks to ease cleaning. (Image at left: Logs used in the lobby display at Swedish Edmonds Ambulatory Care Center in Edmonds, Wash., were locally sourced. Credit: Meyer/Wells.)

“It’s important to have comfortable, familiar, and welcoming spaces that encourage positive distraction, even if it’s just for a moment,” she says.

Biggest change in the interior design of healthcare facilities over the last decade:

“The use of research in behavioral studies and psychology, primarily focused on patient healing and well-being. From this research, we’ve learned the importance of things like strategic use of materials and colors, ease in wayfinding, the inclusion of culturally resonant features, and access to daylight for the healing process.”

Challenges that keep you up at night:

“Aside from codes and budget limitations, one of the thoughts that weighs heavy on my mind is, ‘Am I doing the right thing for the caregiver, the patient, and the family members?’ It’s important to look at a project from more than one angle and from the lens of different users.”

Color trends you wish would go away forever:

“Mauve and teal. Color trends come and go—they evoke a period of time when something was designed. Some clients push for a timeless design, but the truth is there’s no such thing. Only good design will withstand the test of time.”

Dream healthcare makeover project:

“Staff support space. Healthcare design can be very patient focused and rightly so, but staff support spaces are often neglected or the first to be cut back. We have to remember that healthcare spaces are also workplaces, a place where people work long shifts caring for others. It’s important to have private spaces for a break or privacy.”

Three items on my desk:

1 Post-its

2 Snacks

3 Pens (Where did I get all of these pens?)

Favorite quote:

“Don’t be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.”—George Saunders, from “The Braindead Megaphone.”


Sketching tools: “PaperMate Flair pen, medium point, in black. No paper is safe from my doodling or random thoughts.”

Piece of décor in my house: “A wooden box that’s decorated with simple illustrations of food and the name of the restaurant it came from in black paint. It was used to carry groceries at the restaurant my husband and I were married in, and it was given to us as a way to bring home our wedding cake. Now it serves as a nice reminder of that night.”

TV character: “Leslie Knope from ‘Parks and Recreation.’ She’s passionate, kind, and always chooses to do the right thing above everything else. She has a level of intensity that I admire, but hope that I never re-create.”

Snack: “Popcorn if I need something salty and anything dark chocolate when I need some sugar.”

Way to unwind after a long day: “I read--a lot. Books, articles, you name it. The internet makes it so easy for me to get my fix.”

Photo credit: Heather Nye/NBBJ