Design and Decorating Ideas for Nursing Home or Assisted Living Rooms

When decorating the nursing home or assisted living room of a senior or elderly loved one, there is more than design to consider. Think about the senior's safety as well and make that a key part of your decorating plan.

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Making the decision to move your loved one into an assisted living facility or nursing home can be difficult. Adding the stress of the actual move and trying to redecorate the new space can make the whole situation feel overwhelming. However, the best things you can do are keep a positive, energetic attitude and get excited about decorating the new space with your loved one.

To make the transition into a senior nursing home easier, this post will outline several decorating tips and design tricks to make the new space just as warm and inviting as the home your loved one is accustomed to.

senior woman in an assisted living center being cared for by a nurse

1. Identify the Most Important Things

It’s almost certain that the senior nursing home space your loved one will be moving into is much smaller than the family home. This means that you will have to be selective in the things you choose to bring along and those you leave behind.

It can be hard for a loved one to part with some of the sentimental bric-a-brac that may be cluttering the home. To help with this, try to identify the most important photos, books and pieces of decor that can be used to recreate a cozy space in the nursing home that is filled with your loved one’s most important memories. The idea is to distill as many wonderful memories as possible into as few belongings as can be managed.

2. Be Creative With Storage

More than likely, your loved one will want to bring things like photo albums, keepsakes and other extra items that may help preserve happy memories. Don’t argue the point. Instead, consider how these items can be stored in a streamlined way within the space confines of the senior nursing home space.

The best solution is to invest in interesting home decor like ottomans or decorative trunks that provide easily accessible storage. These items can usually serve dual purposes as well. Most storage ottomans can be used as seating or end tables, and if you find decorative trunks with flat tops, they can also double as coffee tables or shelving.

ALSO READ: How to Label Clothes for Nursing Homes

3. Consider Safety and Mobility

As your loved one ages, the danger of slips and falls becomes more significant. While it’s important to ensure that the new living space in the senior nursing home is as safe and accessible as possible, you don’t have to sacrifice style or interesting home decor to do this.

Secure Rugs and Cords

Even if your loved one is not yet using a cane, walker or wheelchair, there is a good chance that he or she will make a new friend in the senior nursing home community who does. Rugs can be difficult to navigate, especially if they slip or slide on the floor. If you must have rugs, be sure that they are nonskid or able to be completely secured to the floor.

For help with this, you can watch this short video of interior designer Erica Lugbill demonstrating how to secure rugs to a hardwood floor:

Electrical cords can be tucked behind furniture or secured along the walls. There are many sleek, decorative cord management solutions that can be purchased from a hardware or furniture store as well.

Make Clear Pathways

As you’re decorating and arranging furniture in your loved one’s new senior nursing home space, make sure to account for tripping hazards, and keep the main walkways clear and easy to navigate. It can be helpful to position furniture so that it can be used as a prop if your loved one needs extra help moving around in particular areas.

Streamline Accessibility

Take your loved one’s daily routine and habits into account when arranging the new senior nursing home space. For example, position the phone in the place where your loved one is likely to be using it most often. This may mean putting it near the sofa, beside the bed or in the kitchen.

Find easily accessible and visible places to put items that your loved one uses most often. If memory issues are a problem, you can even make discreet labels that serve as reminders of where items are located.

Make sure that all light switches, lamps, door knobs and drawer pulls are visible and easy to use. It may be best to replace certain types of handles and knobs with larger, more manageable ones.

Add Extra Lighting

Your loved one’s vision is likely not as clear as it once was, so it’s best to install additional light fixtures anywhere that isn’t well-lit. You should check with the senior nursing home staff about how to safely do this before adding fixtures. In addition, adding motion-activated nightlights along common pathways, such as from the bedroom to the bathroom or kitchen, can help minimize the risk of trips or accidents.

4. Use Lively Colors and Simple Designs

As we age, eyesight dims, and objects become less clear. While you don’t want your loved one’s nursing home space to be filled with primary colors like a daycare, you should opt for bright, sharply contrasting colors whenever possible.

This can be accomplished with almost any color palette. Expert interior designers recommend using warm, healing colors such as blues, greens and yellows along with neutral accents to create a soothing, inviting space. If possible, use strongly contrasting colors for the walls, drapes and furniture to help more clearly delineate what each object is.

Experts also recommend avoiding busy patterns or dark designs whenever possible. Busy patterns can be unsettling for some seniors, and dark spots in designs may even look like stubborn dirt patches or holes, which can cause confusion or anxiety. Instead, opt for simple, clean designs, and try to incorporate as much of your loved one’s favorite artwork and photographs as possible.

Many of the design elements in this photo are good examples of simple, inviting colors and organization for a senior nursing home living space:

example of a well decorated space

5. Don’t Forget the Kitchen

If your loved one enjoys cooking, baking or entertaining, pay special attention to the kitchen setup. Make sure that all of the dishes and utensils are easy to find and user-friendly. Opt for cups and bowls with handles, and be sure there are plenty of oven mitts, silicone potholders and trivets readily available to reduce the risk of burns and spills.

Remember That Home is Where the Heart is

Your loved one’s living space should ultimately feel like a safe, restorative oasis. It should be a reflection of his or her most cherished memories and accomplishments. The best way to restore your loved one’s spirits in a senior nursing home is to create a space that’s comfortable and full of life.

Scott’s notes: This article was contributed by Michelle at and I received no compensation for it. It is also advisable to check with the staff at your loved one’s facility before making any changes. 

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About Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

Assistive Technology Professional, Custom Wheelchair Specialist, Medical Equipment Guru, Dad and Grandfather

I am a lucky dad to four awesome daughters and grandfather to three pretty terrific grandkids. When not working as a custom wheelchair specialist at a regional home medical equipment company, I enjoy early morning runs and occasional kayak trips. I am also a self-admitted nerd who loves anything from the 1980's. Learn More

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