Breathing new life into existing buildings through refurbishment

Right now, refurbishment over demolition and rebuilding is one of the rising trends in the interior design industry. As the world shifts its attention towards mending, maintaining, and repairing resources rather than disposing of them, the Bernard Interiors studio is revisiting existing buildings to improve and enhance what is already there. 

An example of this is the team’s work with Principle Care’s developments in Fleet (Hampshire) and Chelmsford (Essex). This care home provider is co-founded by brother and sister, Ashish and Nisha Goyal, and applies a progressive approach to later living. 

The Bernard Interiors design studio has applied a range of upgrades to the former Chelmsford Nursing Home in Essex, as it undergoes its transformation into a Principle Care project. The project is a 3-storey, 139-bed development, with a mix of standard, premium, dementia, and studio bedrooms, and aims to challenge the status quo of the care and retirement industry. Principle Care opted for a retrofit solution rather than demolition and new build, which reduces the significant cost and environmental impact.

The Bernard Interiors team was enlisted to retrofit the building and create a sustainable solution for the care home provider. By using its knowledge of commercial and healthcare spatial design, the studio was able to implement a string of changes, all designed to improve the well-being of residents.  

First and foremost, the existing development was bolstered using light steel frame (LSF) Façade and LSF structure solutions. These structures can be speedily constructed and are sustainable, with steel being the most recycled product in the world. Steel also offers impressive levels of energy conservation, as airtight connections between components work to insulate buildings.

Alongside this structure, the energy efficiency of the building was increased by the relining of the walls of the project, to keep residents warm and comfortable all year round. This is especially important when considering how design can limit the susceptibility of residents to viruses, which are especially prevalent during the colder months. 

A retrofit is an ideal way to upgrade a building with new technology to improve levels of safety and comfort in line with modern building regulations and spatial standards. Of course, at the heart of Bernard Interiors’ work is the security of residents, so the fire safety of the building was improved and the distance to essential fire escapes was reduced. 

Repainting walls, upgrading mechanical equipment, and improving lighting were all part of the holistic approach of the design studio. Together, the changes create a more welcoming and homely environment for residents, as careful thought was given to smart choices that maintain a high level of well-being for all. 

These improvements are complemented by a host of new communal spaces to encourage socialisation. Some examples of these include a music room, an ice cream parlour, and garden rooms. The garden rooms draw on the concept of biophilic design, which integrates nature into interior design and strengthens the link between indoors and outdoors. On the first floor of the Chelmsford care home, there are two roof terraces that provide a lookout to nature. Residents in these spaces are given the opportunity to experience the beauty of the natural world, which has been proven to enhance mental health. This is especially important for those who don’t leave the building often.

As a whole, Bernard Interiors has created a home bursting with innovative ideas for later living. With a host of different zones and a sensory-driven approach to design, the Principle Care projects are truly progressive developments that use the most modern thinking and the latest research to achieve the end goal – providing well-being for residents, no matter their needs. 

Our style is born from our clients vision and our skills realise our clients’ business aspirations or dream lifestyle.


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Photography © Neale Smith / Kristen McCluskie