The Caramella Ranch Clubhouse, part of the Caramella Ranch 55+ active adult community in Reno, Nevada, is a site informed by the majesty of the Sierra Nevadas and the electric energy of nearby city life. The design, provided by Unscripted Interior Design, focuses heavily on providing multiple engagement opportunities for residents while also encouraging fitness and activity through artful placemaking, natural daylighting and borderless, multifunctional designs.
Recently, I had an opportunity to speak with the Unscripted team on their design process for the space and what inspirations influenced their approach. So, without further ado, here is the conversation I had with CEO of Unscripted Interior Design, Kari Armstrong; Director of Commercial Design Svendja Wypyszyk; and Interior Designer on the Project Alyse Hages, NCIDQ
DesignWell (DW): What was the scope of the project (square footage)? Was this a new build or a renovation?
Kari Armstrong (KA): The Caramella Ranch Clubhouse is a 14,000 square foot resident-resort as part of a brand new 55+ active senior living community in Reno, Nevada.
DW: What was the inspiration behind the placemaking efforts within the community? Was there any specific type of design or aesthetic that the team was aiming for? Any goal?
Svendja Wypyszyk (SW): Looking into active workspaces for inspiration helped to understand how we could give residents a space they can both connect and relax in. We wanted each area of the building to feel comfortable regardless of if there was one resident or 20. Flexibility and versatility of space was key.
DW: Were there any specific goals that the clients had in mind when designing this space? How were you and the team able to reconcile their goals with your own?
Alyse Hages (AH): With the soaring ranges of the Sierra Nevadas to one side and the illuminated cityscape of Reno to the other, we wanted design elements to maximize the natural light and capture the show-stopping mountain views, creating a welcoming space for active retirees with multifaceted lifestyles. We worked with the land developer and landscape architect from the beginning to create a memorable space and activate the natural landscape and build location.
KA: There were a couple revisions of design that did happen along the way as the client understood their changing demographic and the needs for the community. This meant integrating more technology and flexibility in the space. We were able to accomplish this by introducing more areas for work such as powered tables and chairs as well as offering seating groups that provided more privacy. Another goal was keeping the design vibrant and playful yet functioning for an aging demographic. There are a lot of opportunities in this space for a range of activities and it is equipped to handle anything from a poker night to a full community event.
DW: I’m certain that keeping people active was a huge focus of the design. Are there any ways in which aspects of that design help encourage a more active lifestyle from seniors?
AH: This project had a large focus on the fitness and pool area in the building. The fitness room is unique in that there isn’t a dividing wall from the main path of travel, which gives the space a sense of energy and entices residents to join the activity. The full-sized indoor pool offers mobility assistance via a long access ramp into the pool as well as pool lift assistance. Custom mural work in both areas adds an extra layer of excitement and playfulness. The outdoor platform of this community also speaks volumes in the amount of offerings for activity including pickleball courts, lawn games, an outdoor pool and abundance of greenspace.
DW: Were there any interesting types of technology that you had a chance to work with in the space?
SW: One fun piece we were able to incorporate was a community-style table with phone charging capabilities—this is unique in the way that you can just set your phone on the designated spot and it will charge wirelessly.
DW: Were there any challenges on the project that you and your team had to overcome? How did you overcome it?
KA: This project came to completion during a time materials and furniture were on a huge delay due to the ongoing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. This meant we did a lot of resourcing to find replacements that would be able to make the opening date.
DW: Material choices: I always like to ask about any specific materials that were used on projects as these small little details can often have big impacts while also hinting at an underlying ethos to the design.
KA: There is always an effort to make sure everything from paint to flooring is a low-emitting VOC product. This small detail impacts your experience in the space, especially in new construction where these off-gassing materials can linger for a while. Another key element is in the furniture fabrics and finishes. Being a well-used space we wanted to ensure each furniture piece would stand up to varying activities. Commercial grade fabrics were carefully selected for each item considering everything from food and drink exposure to the effects of a sun-filled room.
DW: Still in the vein of material choices: how did you select the artwork that was used for the space? Did you use themes of subject matter? Style? Perceived emotional resonance?
SW: This is a space that was designed with a lot of procured art in mind. In creating a space geared for the younger retiree with an active lifestyle we used artful placemaking to inspire throughout the property. You’ll find pieces everywhere from the stairwell to locker rooms, invoking a sense of playfulness that invites you to have a little bit of fun.
DW: What aspects of accessibility were there that needed to be considered in the design?
AH: The focus on an aging demographic was a huge consideration in this project. Going beyond ADA compliance, we were able to accomplish this by acknowledging seat heights and depths that are easy to get in and out of, ensuring task areas are well-lit and understanding where additional safety needs to be considered such as fitness showers.