Keri Moore-Muniz headshot
Keri Moore-Muniz
Keri Moore-Muñiz headshot
Keri Moore-Muñiz

Renovations, regardless of scale, can be a headache. There’s an old saying that tells people embarking on a renovation project to expect to spend double the money and time they initially think they will invest. 

In senior living, you can imagine that what starts out as a small project can turn into a labyrinth of decisions and budget and time increases. The good news is that you don’t have to spend all that money on your renovation project if you don’t want to.

Think small, think locally

Small changes to the community can give communities an affordable face lift. For instance, simply changing the flooring or the paint color can transform a room.

Interior designers can show you exactly which colors are good for refreshing environments and for aging adults, along with other tips about repainting that a community’s maintenance director could manage. (Cheaper paint often requires more coats, so it’s not always a good investment.)

Another good place to start is with updating all of the light bulbs to LED bulbs throughout your community. Doing so will increase the brightness in your space and even out the color to avoid any mismatching that time has brought.

Furniture updates are good investments, because furniture technology constantly is improving to make seniors more comfortable. Consider reorganizing rooms as well. Changing furniture and fixture locations in a room immediately can bring a sense of newness to a community. Sometimes, repurposing pieces in a new space that previously were in another room can enhance program support and give you a new perspective on furnishings. Doing so also can lower the hefty cost of changing everything all at once and will save you money in the long run.

Those small changes can also be planned out together. You can build a renovation plan that includes updates to flooring, furniture, paint, and fixtures — then, spread out the changes through several years. This way, you will ensure that all the pieces will look good together in the end, but you don’t have to make the initial big investment to change them all. 

Try to think locally. When you work with local experts and use your local resources, you can keep costs down without bringing in trades from out of town or state. Working locally also can build brand awareness in the community at large. When you forge relationships with local businesses, you’re integrating your senior living community in the world around you, which can help you get more outside involvement and even volunteers.


Upcycling also is a great trend for renovations on a budget. Instead of spending money on replacing all of your community’s dining chairs, you can reupholster the furniture with modern fabric and give it a brand new look. It can be as simple as changing out pillows on a sofa to reupholstering existing furniture pieces.

High-needs communities may not have this option as an active adult or independent living community would, but always ask yourself how much it will cost to fix something rather than replacing it. A cheap option almost always is out of the question because of creating higher fall risks due to poorly made furniture or accessories. But for other communities, repairing can be a perfect solution.

Remove clutter

And finally, it’s not always about changing or adding new stuff. Sometimes, the key to a successful renovation is removing all the clutter that prevents everyone from seeing the beauty of your community. Bulky furniture in the lobby might not be necessary.

When you become comfortable in your home (community), you start to overlook items that have been sitting for months, maybe even years. It’s time to change your goggles and do a deep spring clean.

For example, you may have signs taped on the walls, plants that haven’t been tended to, temporary stands or accessories that once served as interim decor but have overstayed their welcome. Find the right spot between the needs of your residents and a minimalistic approach to interior design. Less is more. 

In the end, your goal should be to cater to the needs of the residents in your community. Developing the right renovation strategy will depend on cost, but it also is important to remember that at the end of the day, the renovation has to work for your staff members and your residents. Turn your plan into action!

Keri Moore-Muñiz is founder and CEO of senior living interior design firm 828id. She has more than a decade of experience across 18 states.

The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living guest column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.

Have a column idea? See our submission guidelines here.