The goal of the recent First Colonial Inn renovation is to show that design isn’t just about sight — it’s about the other senses as well. Visitors to the community in Virginia Beach, VA, will have their senses of sight, hearing and smell awakened when they walk through the front door, members of the design team said.

With the new display cooking area as part of the renovated commons area, “you can see the food being cooked, hear the sizzle of onions being grilled and smell the deliciousness of the meal being prepared,” said Marco Vakili, vice president, development for Kisco Senior Living, which has owned the property for 25 years.

Although the refurbished dining area — which includes a bar and bistro — is the centerpiece of the $2.3 million makeover, the entire project is aimed at revitalizing a 30-year-old community and bringing it in line with the sensibilities of today’s consumers, Vakili said.

The residence includes 117 independent living and 60 assisted living units.

Before breaking ground in July 2015, the Kisco design team spent two years in the planning phase to get each detail right, Vakili said. To get to the finished dining area design, the team went through six or seven alternate scenarios before making a final decision.

“It was a good process to go through,” he said. “There a lot of details to handle, and it took that level of diligence to get it right.”

Architect Steve Freyaldenhoven and interior designer Katie Denton agreed that the methodical planning has resulted in a vibrant new environment.

“This is a real modernization and upgrade from a traditional venue,” Freyaldenhoven said. “By turning the dining area into a central focus, it becomes an essential part of the culture and the community.”

By removing a partition wall and door, and raising the ceiling, the space took on a new aesthetic and functional dimension, Denton said.

“It creates more transparency and leads to more connections and social interactions,” she said.

By effectively using existing windows, adding new light fixtures and contrasting finishes, the interior design has a more “holistic and family-centered” approach, Freyaldenhoven said.

Other parts of the renovation include an enhanced wellness center with new fitness equipment, an updated beauty salon and ongoing upgrades to the residences and corridors throughout the community.

“Consumer preferences change from market to market,” he said. “We don’t believe in a cookie-cutter model — Palm Beach is different from Virginia Beach, which is different from Utah. But a common theme is that adult children are a big part of the decision process and appealing to them is what we strive to do.”