Featured in Sources+Design Magazine

Dayton Place in Denver, is featured in the December/January 2011 issue.

Before opening Thoma-Holec Design, LLC in Gold Canyon, Arizona in 2006, interior designer LuAnn Thoma-Holec spent many years doing model home merchandising. “I helped sell a lot of homes, and made a lot of builders wealthy,” she reflects.

In 1996, working as vice-president of a large interior firm’s model home division, Thoma-Holec landed a a senior-care facility commission in Prescott, Arizona. “It was a high-end project, and the client was extremely knowledgeable,” says Thoma-Holec, who received her bachelor’s in interior design and museum arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The project was also her “aha” moment. “For the first time in my career, I felt like was actually helping to improve the quality of life for someone, especially in their last few years.” That seniorcare project led to three more, and to Thoma-Holec’s decision to go back to school to earn a graduate certificate in gerontology from Arizona State University, as well as to specialize in the senior market.

Walk into the lobby of Dayton Place, a senior living community in Denver, and you’ll see residents chatting over coffee and cookies, watching a game on a TV or checking e-mails on laptops. The lobby is sunny, bright, modern and cheerful, part of a recent property renovation led by interior designer LuAnn Thoma-Holec, whose Arizona-based Thoma-Holec Design specializes in senior-care design.

Dayton Place, a MorningStar Senior Living community, was originally built in the 1970s, and includes a three-story independent living building with one- and two-bedroom apartments and an assisted living unit. As part of a recent upgrading and expansion, MorningStar added a series of cottages, a recreation center and converted part of the assisted living building into a secure memory-care unit designed for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.

“Dayton Place was a meticulously maintained property,” explains Thoma-Holec, who began working on the project’s various phases with her design team in 2008, “but it had never really been updated. It had that typical healthcare look–pink walls on one floor, pale blue on another, cranberry-colored carpeting in one area, forest green in another.”

Thoma-Holec was asked to reenergize most of the existing public spaces, to create a residential-style interior for the new recreation center, and to put together some model interiors for both the new cottages and the independent living building. The design had to appeal to the residents, whose average age is about 85, as well as to their adult children, who often make housing decisions for aging parents.


Dayton Place in Denver, is featured in the December/January 2011 issue.
Wing chairs and deep colors give the library in the independent living building a warm ambiance.

One of the first projects Thoma-Holec and her team tackled was the remodeling of the independent living building’s lobby, the main entry point for the complex.

“I noticed that the original lobby was really large, and didn’t have a lot of furniture in it,” recalls Thoma-Holec. “The only time residents seemed to use the space was when they were waiting for transportation to take them somewhere. There wasn’t much conversation there.”

The design team decided to create an internet cafe theme for the lobby, making a destination space for residents to congregate and linger. Carpeting was replaced with practical wood-plank-style ceramic tile flooring, and a bar was built along one side of the lobby, where residents could have coffee or juice, chat or watch television. Several groupings of bistro-style tables and chairs, as well as armchairs placed closely together, also foster conversation. New lighting, paint, modern art, bold accessories and colorful fabrics add cheer to the space.

The bistro area in the new recreation building has enough seating to accommodate a party.

In the new memory-care unit, Thoma-Holec designed a comfortable gathering space where residents could come out of their rooms and enjoy a residential-style living and dining area. A traditional bookcase, fireplace and television provide a focal point for groupings of armchairs, while a nearby dining table doubles as a place where residents can work on cooking and crafts projects.

Thoma-Holec opted for a luxurious residential look for the new recreation building, detailing the living room space with leather and fabric sofas, a generous ottoman, custom bookcases and a tile-clad fireplace. The recreation building’s bistro area features juice and coffee machines, and enough barstools and dining chairs to allow a group to gather for a party around the granite countertops.

Designing models for the new cottages and the original independent-living apartments, Thoma-Holec veered away from trite, “grandma’s house” looks in favor of more sophisticated options, and varied styles from traditional/ transitional to downright contemporary. “You have to remember that these residents had some of their peak years from the 1950s to the 1970s,” says Thoma-Holec, “years when they worked, raised children and decorated their own homes. They can be quite comfortable with modern.”

During the design process, the Thoma-Holec team followed guidelines for senior design. While the look is residential, furnishings and materials were matched to users. Chairs are a certain size and height to facilitate ease of getting up and down, while arms are comfortable to prevent bruising. “We use a lot of fabrics with moisture-barrier and anti-microbial properties for the seating,”explains the designer, “especially in the assisted living building. We used it creatively to help with incontinence and medication issues.”

Flooring material and furnishings were placed to help with mobility. Contrasting colors were chosen to help with depth perception; vivid hues are easier for aging eyes to see. Thoma- Holec also used color cues on different floors for ease of wayfinding. “There was no overall color scheme for the project,” she says.

The project was completed in 2010, but Thoma- Holec admits there was a bit of wariness on the part of the residents when the renovation started. “Many of the residents liked what they had, and their feathers were a little ruffled when they found out things were going to change.” Once everything was in place, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

In the independent living building’s new library, a resident librarian made the room “hers” by rearranging Thoma-Holec’s artfully placed books into neat, alphabetized rows. “That’s what we want them to do,” the designer points out, “to feel like the place is their own.”

The common area in the memory-care unit has a residential look and a table large enough for cooking projects.
A model bedroom in the cottages offers a mix of modern and traditional elements.

Perhaps the best compliment on the new design came from other residents, who were a bit suspicious about the new lobby. “When we had the chairs in place,” Thoma-Holec recalls with a smile, “they came in and told us that the room felt like sunshine.”

This trade publication features articles of interest to architects, interior designers, landscape planners, developers and industry partners. Dayton Place Senior Living is located in Denver, CO and is managed by Morningstar Senior Living. To view or download the entire publication click the link below.