Accentuate the positive
In budget-conscious projects, accent is everything. Putting touches of color, offering a surprising amenity or two, or placing upscale material in a strategic place can add a "wow" without breaking the bank to achieve it.
Whether a locker room and restroom space is large or small, painting an accent wall—that is, painting one wall a complimentary or contrasting color—is a popular technique to create a focal point. In a busy room like a locker room, splashing colors all around can add to the visual chaos.
"Take one area of each room and make a focal point to be drawn to one view," suggests Kristi Railey, interior designer at Sebree Architects in Avon, Ind. "It's too busy otherwise."
Other than an accent wall, another way Railey suggests using color is on dominant, vertical spaces like lockers and partitions, which come in colors that add nothing extra to the budget but can add a lot to the character of the room. Going all neutral can be boring. Color contrasts like neutral walls against punches of color on lockers and partitions help break up the monotony.
"Don't be afraid of color," Railey says, "Pick a brighter standard color—you always see a green or blue or burgundy that isn't as trendy—a color that's bright, cheerful or fun."
Non-trendy doesn't have to mean neutral. But if you want trendy, it's best to keep it on surfaces that don't cost a lot to change out. On surfaces like counters or sinks, however, Railey does caution against the use of dark colors. Dark surfaces near water can highlight water spots, which make the area look unclean even when it isn't.
Adding additional touches of more expensive materials like wood trim, wood bull-nosing or decorative tile banding can help achieve the appearance of luxury without paying for high-end throughout. Investing in a few well-placed upscale materials like solid surface or stone or choosing integral sinks can add more elegant looks in the areas that get the most attention.
Even choosing several colors from more affordable materials like tile flooring and walls to create some accentuating patterns will not necessarily cost more and will achieve a lot of visual interest or even make a space look larger.
"Our architects did an outstanding job," says Gary Buczkowski, director of planning and development for the Hoffman Estates Park District. "They took a small space and put a field of color with a one-foot border around the floor of the room. A border on flooring, whether porcelain tile or ceramic, makes it look bigger in locker rooms and restrooms, which are tight spaces anyway."
Other decor accents like floral arrangements, plants and pictures on walls add touches of warmth and comfort and can be had for less than you think. Arranging deals with local merchants in exchange for free advertising is one way to keep patrons feeling pampered while improving relations with local businesses.
Privacy and Security
With the advent of cell-phone cameras, privacy and security are getting more attention in the locker room and restroom areas of recreation facilities and schools. Being proactive is a good strategy to avoid unpleasant surprises and will make patrons appreciate your concern for their privacy and welfare. Posting signs is one way to bring your expectations to their attention.
Banning cell phones or other camera-capable technology has been another approach. In one instance, a facility included a signed pledge in its membership registration form to abide by its no cell-phone camera rule.
Balancing privacy and security can be a real challenge. In some cases, too much privacy can lead to unwanted behaviors. In family changing areas, for example, some facilities have found it useful to use partitions raised off the floor to deter improper use while still maintaining enough privacy for patrons to use comfortably.
Sauna areas, too, traditionally private spaces, are being designed with more security in mind. One of the new features in the recently renovated sauna in the YMCA of Bethlehem in Bethlehem, Pa., was switching to a full-pane window for reasons of safety.
Another security measure for patron safety that has multiple benefits is staff walk-throughs. By keeping staff present in locker rooms with hourly or frequent checks, areas can be kept tidy, safety and privacy conditions can be monitored, and more opportunities for customer interaction can improve customer service.