July 2, 2019|News

Healthcare Interior Designer Q&A | Michelle Clark

Interior Designer Michelle Clark Rees Associates

This post is the first in a series where we talk to healthcare interior designers about their work. 
Michelle Clark is a Senior Associate at REES Associates and is certified by the American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designers (AAHID).

What is one book, person, or talk that has been most influential in your career?

Narrowing this down to one is very difficult.  So, if it is okay, I am going to give you a few. 

When I was a designer at HOK, I worked under an Architect who focused on Convention Center design and designed the renovation of the Fort Worth Convention Center. Late one evening, like 11:30, he arrived in the studio and could see I was not enjoying myself. He turned to me and said, “Don’t your realize that people spend 90% of their time experiencing what you design and only 10% of what I design”  This stuck with me.

When I was a senior designer at HKS, I was asked to develop our LEED program. This came from the AIA COTE group. While researching, I read a book by Amory Lovins called Natural Capitalism and it changed how I approached projects forever.

What products have you been excited about recently?

I get excited about a lot of new products. On my list right now are:

  • Quietrock (a gypsum board that drastically reduces sound transfer)
  • Blossom Umbrella by ShadeCraft (this is a smart umbrella that will go down when bad weather is coming, it is voice controlled, charges devices and runs on solar energy)
  • Remi Smart Mirror (designed for hospitality, I am working with them to create a product for senior living)
  • Huper Optik Films (This film does a much much much better job of reducing heat gain and loss than LowE glass, plus it does not patina)

Do you have any go-to design solutions or techniques for creating healing environments?

I think every designer has products, details, etc. The key is to understand the type of environment and how you want to make the inhabitants feel. This is done holistically rather than with a kit of parts.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

Don't push yourself too hard. I worked 90 hour weeks, had little to no social life, and lived modestly. I don't regret it because I was able to propel myself quickly, but it was not good for my health.

What is one product that doesn't exist but should?

That is a tough one. I think products that are truly interchangeable, flexible, and reusable are so important. Manufacturers will get cradle to cradle certified and have parts that are made with recycle content, but really miss the point. The goal is that a product does not ever lose its intrinsic value. I recently tried to get a new cover for a desk chair I have had for 20 years. The parts are no longer made. It is just sad. We will never heal our earth if our only goal is to use more resources and not upcycle or downcycle or reuse products.

We've also talked to Jennifer Fink (BDA Architects), Lindsay Hampton (Pulse Design Group), Melinda Avila-Torio (THW Design), Lilliana Alvarado (UPHEALING)Ashleigh Pfluger (TJNG Partners)Jane Rohde (JSR Associates)John DuBard (Boulder Associates)Lisa Cini (Mosaic Design Studio)Susan Clark (Clark Patterson Lee)Crystal Hill (Odell Associates)Dr. Debra Harris (RAD Consultants)Libby Laguta (L2D.design)Kristin Ellingsen (KE Design & Office Furniture Group), and Kimberly Bernheimer (PF&A Design).