Georgina Colwell and June Gallagher from Linden House on why moving to a care home doesn’t need to be daunting

PUBLISHED: 14:40 18 June 2014 | UPDATED: 14:40 18 June 2014

In a breakfast room, pinks and blues for the chairs, footstools and throws have been picked out from the exotic patterned curtain treatment

In a breakfast room, pinks and blues for the chairs, footstools and throws have been picked out from the exotic patterned curtain treatment

Nicholas Yarsley

Making the move in to a care home can be a daunting time, but Georgina Colwell and June Gallagher from Lymington’s new Linden House show us what can be done when you think outside the box

The 'drawing room' in the reception area with sofas and chairs upholstered in warm brights against a wall of fashionable greyThe 'drawing room' in the reception area with sofas and chairs upholstered in warm brights against a wall of fashionable grey

Extended family’ is a phrase that June Gallagher uses frequently to describe the atmosphere and approach at Linden House, Colten Care’s latest specialist dementia care home which opened in Lymington last month.

It is an appropriate description as it not only reflects the ethos, but the realities of this family-owned and family-run Lymington-based business. When it 
comes to finding a home-from-home for elderly relatives, it’s that family feeling that matters.

I was shown around by June, operations manager, and Georgina Colwell, head of design. Georgina is also the daughter-in-law of the founder of the original company, Colten Developments. This really is a family business.

It is Georgina and Jane Colwell who are responsible for the warm and welcoming interiors of Linden House; however they work closely with June to ensure that aesthetics and function marry. The emphasis may be on stylish home comforts, but that is coupled with an impressive attention to detail, from lighting (turned up bright) and flooring (plain carpets rather than patterned tiles with strong contrasts) right down to choice of cutlery, to meet the specialist needs 
of residents.

Both the interior design schemes and the landscaping in the gardens incorporate many local references, giving the house and its residents a sense of place. The house is in a lovely spot, conveniently positioned in the heart of Lymington, not far from the high street. It’s a handsome contemporary build with something of the appearance of a classic alms house with arched windows and steep gables. Part of its exterior brickwork is painted sea blue – a nod to Linden House’s coastal location.

In the gardens surrounding the House there’s an area inspired by the local seaside with decking, ropes strung across posts, mini beach huts, bandstand-style summerhouse and motifs of landmarks along the coastline on ‘groynes’.

Meanwhile inside Linden House the outside has been brought in. There’s a New Forest landscape in one corner, and a street scene with ‘town square’ in another, complete with old-fashioned street lamp, ‘shops’, including a post office, and cafe tables against a charming backdrop of Lymington’s cobbled Quay Hill. Elsewhere there’s a cafe, themed as a yacht club with a boat-style bar, a world map across one wall (as a talking point), and a colour scheme of fresh coastal stripes and blues, a reminder of Lymington’s yachting legacy. Then there’s Malt Hall, a rather sumptuous cinema room decorated in rich red and an opulent paisley patterned fabric and named after Lymington’s original cinema. These rooms and areas have been created by June, Jane and Georgina as ‘hubs’ and destinations for residents, somewhere for them to meet that inspires memories and develops associations, as well as somewhere visiting families and friends can enjoy. After all, as time goes by we all appreciate the comfort of familiar namesakes and landmarks. June tells me that the cafes are hugely popular.

The bedrooms and communal areas are grouped into intimate ‘houses’ each with 15 ensuite bedrooms, a dining room and a themed area. Each ‘house’ can be identified by a different carpet colour: such as a warm rust red in one, nautical blue in another and forest green in a third. However all hallways are painted a soft yellow. Like the carpet colours, this is a tried and tested preference; yellow is used rather than white or cream as it’s a sunny colour that gives a warm, cosy feeling;

As Georgina explain, “It is all about making the House as warm and cosy as possible.”

Throughout the House, Georgina has used lovely fabrics from the best names, such as Designers Guild, Jane Churchill and GP&J Baker for curtains, upholstery and cushions. For example, the entrance opens onto a drawing room-styled reception area furnished with deep comfy sofas piled with cushions and upholstered in an inviting mix of colourful brights including the latest painterly, impressionistic florals, against walls painted a calm and fashionable grey.

In a breakfast room, with French windows opening onto a sunny terrace, an exotic print of tropical flowers and birds of paradise has been used as curtain drapes, and Georgina has picked out pinks and blues from the vibrant fabric for armchairs, footstools and throws. The effect is cheerful, yet comfortable and relaxed.

More traditional floral prints are used in the bedrooms for a warm, cosy, familiarity.

All in all, Linden House has the feel of a lovely boutique hotel or a home at its most stylish, and that is the intention.

Georgina continues: “I want to create the feeling of a country home, somewhere people want to live. After all, we are creating a lovely, comfortable home, not an institution, and our residents expect quality furnishings and interiors.”

She adds: “We try and use a lot of colours so it’s a nice, vibrant, colourful environment for residents and visitors, yet still feels safe and homely.”

What Georgina calls “little pockets of space” and “cosy corners” have been created along hallways and at intersections where residents can pause, and where items of interest, such as old sewing machines and old patterns, have been placed to provide talking points and trigger reminiscences.

There is a similar approach outside. Linden House is surrounded on all sides by gardens thoughtfully landscaped and with lots of signage - footpath-style signposts to help residents feel safe and comfortable.

Themed garden ‘rooms’ that inspire or stimulate recollections are also an effective use of space. On one side there’s a shady garden with the path leading over a bridge across a feature ‘river bed’ of Purbeck stone fringed by bold, textured and sculptural planting of bamboo, grasses and white-barked Himalayan birch. On another side is a formal south-facing garden adorned with obelisks, roses and topiary. A further area has been cleverly ‘lawned’ with artificial turf for activities and games such as bowls. A kitchen garden area, a shed with potting bench, and raised beds for easy gardening allow plenty of interaction and involvement for those residents who are keen gardeners.

Every corner and boundary is used. There are espalier fruit trees growing against one boundary and pleached limes on another, while a trellis system against one side of the House will eventually form a stunning wall of greenery.

Head gardener Charles Hubberstey explains that more than 44 tons of plants have been used within the landscaping to create these delightful gardens that lead off each other and lend themselves to spaces where residents and their visitors can sit and relax and be content.

And I understand June’s reference to ‘extended family’ – Linden House is a home not just for the residents, but for their relatives, too. June says: “Many relatives visit every day. They become part of the family of Linden House. They’re treated like extended family; they belong, too.”

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