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Caroline Leemis Design is excited to offer unique and specialized interior design services to the Mid-Missouri community. With a Bachelors of Interior Design from the University of Arkansas, Caroline brings experience from both small and large architectural firms, as well as expertise in the sustainable design and healthcare design fields. CLD’s mission is to create powerful interior environments that inspire, comfort, and excite.
Caroline is currently the only design professional in the Mid-Missouri area to hold the EDAC credential (evidence-based design accreditation and certification). Through the principles of evidence-based design, CLD refers to the latest research in the healthcare design field to make informed decisions and create optimal healing environments in healthcare.
Gus: What’s influenced your decision to concentrate designing for the commercial and healthcare fields?
Caroline: When I first started college, I figured that I would eventually go into residential interior design. The “Trading Spaces” show on TLC was popular at the time, and many of interior design students go into their coursework because they enjoy things like HGTV. In reality, most collegiate interior design programs focus more on the commercial side of the industry, with emphasis on topics such as human factors and ergonomics, building codes and construction, psychology, architecture, and more. Much of interior design work directly affects health, safety, and welfare of the people, and the majority of the general public doesn’t fully understand that. That training and the licensing process is actually a big part of what differentiates an “interior designer” from just an “interior decorator”. There’s much more to design than just color picking, and thankfully I ended up really enjoying the interior design program even though it wasn’t exactly what I was initially expecting.
All of my professional experience thus far has been on the commercial side of the industry, so it’s the area that I’m most familiar with and passionate about. As far as the healthcare side, I really got interested in healthcare design around my junior year of college as I was learning about the impacts that design can have on the healing process. One of the last things my grandmother actually told me before she passed away was that I’d make a really good nurse. Since I decided not to work on the clinical side, it’s now my mission to use my talents to impact healthcare and patients through design. Healthcare design is also such a complex and challenging field – it’s definitely not suited for all interior designers. I love challenges though and making big impacts on people’s lives, so I feel like healthcare is a great fit for me.
With CLD, I’m looking to work with clients in the commercial and healthcare sectors that want to make a high-quality impact with their interior environment. With commercial interiors, I really enjoy incorporating a company’s brand and culture into the design to create an environment that fully reflects them. Branding and personal branding is a big topic with my generation, the Millenials, so much of that has just become common sense to me. So, being able to take that knowledge and a company’s brand and reflect that into the interior is something I really enjoy. It doesn’t have to be anything super fancy or necessarily expensive, but small design ideas can go a long way. They can boost employees’ morale and pride for the company, and also show their customers what the company is all about.
Gus: How do you think that interior design can inspire, comfort and excite?
Caroline: We came up with that little tagline as we were mapping out our business plan this summer. I’m wanting to work with clients that are open to unique and creative design solutions.
The words inspire, comfort, and excite all relate to CLD’s vision for commercial and healthcare environments. We want to create interiors that inspire – through innovative design and unique solutions that reflect the client. Healthcare spaces need to be comforting to reduce stress and aid in the healing process. Lastly, we want to work with clients who are excited about design and have our spaces excite others and have a “wow”-effect.
Interior design can have powerful psychological effects on people, both negatively and positively. Interior spaces, whether we actually consciously notice it or not, can make us feel unsafe, stressed, confused, lost, and overwhelmed. On the flip side, they can positively affect our moods, raise our self- esteem, and improve communication.
Through different and innovative design ideas, interiors can inspire by sparking creativity in the occupants or inspire others to incorporate better design into their lives. It could be something as simple as using an object in a different way, or providing a highly-functional environment that shows the power that design can have on flow and efficiency.
Spaces need to be comfortable and in some cases flexible in allowing occupants to personalize them. A well-designed interior space can be comfortable through the color palette, soft finishes, and the ability to add some touches of home. Soothing cool colors like blues and greens are used more in healthcare environments because they convey calmness. Healthcare spaces especially involve occupants with poor psychological health. Knowing how to respond to those issues from the design side – aesthetically and functionally is highly important. The workplace needs to be comfortable especially in the realm of ergonomics. With many employees spending hours at a desk, is the chair and keyboard height correct, comfortable, and in a position that will reduce back pain and other related injuries?
Similar to how interiors can inspire, they can also excite. It could be a space that incorporates rich history, has a vibrant color palette or feature wall, or is breath-taking by its grand scale. They provide something that is unique from the typical day-to-day spaces that you’re in. Many employers want their employees to be satisfied and productive in their jobs, so by providing a great space that they come to work in everyday, employees can be excited about their work. We want to create spaces that people look forward to going to and spending time in.
Gus: What are some ways that our readers could create a more inviting space within their work environment?
Caroline: With the workplace, you have to evaluate your current situation from both the customer side and the staff side. Does your office create a positive image for your customers and potential customers? If you market your company as being innovative and advanced in your field, an outdated and plain, boring office isn’t going to support that statement for you very well. Stacks of files and paper everywhere can communicate that you’re not very organized, and have a negative impact on customers as well. Little things like fresh coats of paint, artwork, and organizational systems in place can help with that.
On the employee side, are you providing an environment that they are most productive and satisfied in? Do they have access to natural light? What is the sound situation like? Cubicles and open offices are great in maximizing space, but can also be horribly distracting and causing you many lost hours in productivity. Also, with all of the Millennials entering the workforce now, we have our own expectations and desires as well – from flexible work schedules, more collaboration spaces, and opportunities for learning and growth. Is your company addressing those needs in order to recruit and also retain some new and great talent? Solutions to address some of those issues may be rearranging workstations, swapping out or adding workstation panels and sound masking systems to help with noise, providing areas away from workstations for personal conversations, and making sure you have enough areas to foster collaboration. Of course, I’m here to help with any of those needs and issues you may have.
Gus: What should healthcare professionals be considering when it comes to choosing art for their premises?
Caroline: Art can have such powerful effects in the healthcare environment. You’re dealing with both a sensitive and complex environment, and one that touches the lives of so many patients, so it’s important to have either an interior designer or art consultant on board throughout the selection process. Abstract artwork and any art that conveys a negative or dark mood should not be used, and unfortunately I’ve been in hospitals and seen pieces like those. There’s actually been research done on how abstract pieces can especially negatively affect psychiatric patients. Nature-themed artwork or photography is actually one of the best types you can use. Research has proven that connections to nature –whether it be through artwork, garden-like environments, or other methods – improves the healing process for patients. I also love seeing local artist work being incorporated into healthcare environments.
Gus: Can you elaborate on how designing for public spaces can be different than working on an interior design project for a private residence?
Caroline: Absolutely. Designing for each of those types of places can be both very similar, yet very different. With public, commercial spaces, you deal more with building codes and restrictions, and you’re also dealing with a wide range in types of occupants that you have to constantly consider. A private residence on the other hand is more personal for those homeowners, and a more intimate space with different functions and needs from a commercial space.
Gus: What would your dream project look like?
Caroline: Any project with a great client, a fantastic project team, and an exceptional design result would be a “dream project” to me. A great client can make all the difference on a project. I’m passionate and excited about design, and that’s something you’ll see right away if you meet me in-person, so I want to work with clients that are excited about the design process as well. We’re here to take the stress out of projects for them, and we want them to look forward to meeting with us. It’s our goal to create exceptional spaces for the Mid-Missouri community to enjoy, and I look forward to what the future will bring with the growth of our business.