May 21, 2020

Creating a Home Away from Home for Soldiers Through Interior Design

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and Memorial Day is coming up coming up quickly. With these occasions in mind, we have had deep thoughts of appreciation, gratitude, and reflection. Our team has a strong desire to help and support soldiers and increase their wellbeing through what we know best, design.

We have an overwhelming sense of respect for those that serve our country and we want to do our best to serve them in return. Our goal is to use the knowledge and experience we have with interior design to create a clearer separation between the strenuous demands of military service and the time that should be spent relaxing off the job. We want to make these spaces truly feel like home for the soldiers.

The Military has adopted new standards within their housing as an, “investment in quality of life aimed at improving military readiness and retention.” Laws were enacted to support this commitment by allowing the Department of Defense to work with the private sector to build and renovate military housing – this is where we come in.

We want to ensure that when soldiers enter a space, they have a sense of ownership of where they are living and working. After one group leaves, we want the next group to feel equally connected to the space. Designing interiors that fit the emotional needs of many is a unique challenge presented in military projects.

Emotional welfare, although a primary focus of our designs, is not the only thing taken into consideration when conceiving military spaces. We also have to think about generating a timeless appearance that can withstand a great deal of wear and tear, safety for large groups, and the unique set of challenges that come with remodels or upgrades (a reality for the majority of military projects). These items all must happen within the constraints of a tight budget.

To get more specific about experiences and tactics behind enhancing military facilities Tyece Pool, CWG Interior Design Director, and Meagan Miller, CWG Interior Designer, have answered questions below.

What types of military projects have you worked on?

Department of Military Affairs (DMA) Barracks 710 &724
Helena Armed Forces Reserve Center (HARFC)

What types of military projects have you worked on?

Department of Military Affairs (DMA) Barracks 710 &724
I’m currently working on the Department of Military HAFRC Classroom/Auditorium

What kind of look/feel do you want the space to have and how do you make that happen through your design?

TYECE: We want the spaces to have a balance between regal and comfortable as well as be timeless and tasteful.  To achieve this, we like to add a warm wood boarder to the flooring which helps introduce symmetrical balance to the space, this type of balance gives the area formality. Another design element that cannot be overlooked is lighting. Natural lighting promotes mental wellness (along with many other benefits) probably more so than any other element, so we use it generously through all our projects. When natural light is unavailable, we tend to use LED for its energy efficiency and ability to mimic daylight. We want users to feel cheerful and pleasant in the buildings we design.

MEAGAN: When designing for the military I try to have more of a structured, sophisticated, and masculine atmosphere. To achieve this ambiance, I use horizontal lined patterned materials, neutral colors and a slight color/material change from area to area. I use a neutral color palette because it provides a change that is noticeable, but not too distracting. For a splash of an accent color I usually keep a darker blue or green color palette. I’m fond of using blue as an accent color because it is favored by so many people, it is often viewed as a non-threatening color that can seem conservative and traditional. Blue calls to mind feelings of calmness or serenity which is good for promoting relaxation. It is often described as peaceful, tranquil, secure, and orderly. Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams  paint are the brands I recommend using for these projects because they are durable and provide a long lasting finish for the facilities’. Utilizing patterns, especially horizontal lines, leads your eye around the composition and can communicate information through their character and direction. Horizontal lines suggest a feeling of rest or repose because objects parallel to the earth are at rest.

What are some tactics you use to combine functionality while keeping the aesthetic?

TYECE: We always use great quality products, but we try to make these spaces statelier to inspire respect. An example of this would be the Koroseal wainscoting and wood chair rail that was applied to the walls. It helps a long, sometimes narrow, corridor to feel more grounded and less sterile. It also adds protection from heavy traffic to the walls. We also selected Tarkett rubber base with a wood-look that was thicker/heavier duty than the typical rubber base, and it looks better in this application. We’ve seen a big trend in the industry lately where some companies who have been around for a long time and are known for their durability are offering more design-appeal to their product lines. Innovations like these really give us the ability to be creative and practical. One company that comes to mind when I think of durable, functional products is Johnsonite/Tarkett. Their resilient flooring not only looks good, but can perform to military standards.

MEAGAN: Product manufacturers have been great at developing multiple products to suit our needs. They have numerous products and materials that give us options to maintain the function and aesthetics that we all strive for. It used to be there were only a few options when using functional materials. That is certainly not the case any longer! We are lucky to work with knowledgeable reps who can quickly answer our questions. For example, I have never used marmoleum as a wall wainscot. The rep at Forbo guided me through finding the right product and how the installation would take place so the product would not fail and be long lasting. Marmoleum ended up being a great choice for a wainscot. Forbo has many aesthetically pleasing products available that will last longer than a typical wallcovering. I’m looking forward to using it again on future projects. Other products that I have enjoyed using on military buildings include Shaw resilient flooring, Patcraft carpet tile, and Schluter tile and stone-edge profiles

We feel grateful when military projects are complete and can be enjoyed by the end-user. Our design process is so human-oriented, we spend countless hours drafting designs that we hope are the solutions to soldier’s problems, wants, and needs. Being empathetic designers mean that we take the daily experiences of others and turn them into inspiration for our work. This is what helps us be able to meet the needs of the people who use the space. The hours of hard work on these military buildings pay off knowing that we have helped enhance the daily lives of those who serve our country.

Remembering and honoring all those who have died in service to the United States during peace and war.

— Tyece Pool and Meagan Miller