University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital includes more than 1,500 pieces of furniture from 21 different manufacturers.

Buying new furniture for a hospital isn’t as simple as walking into a store and picking out a few items. When choosing furniture, we gathered input from a team of employees, patients, and families. Staff from capital management, epidemiology (causes and prevention of diseases), environmental services (housekeeping), and nursing worked on the project.

The team used an evidence-based design (EBD) process. EBD refers to using facts and other types of reliable information to influence design. The overall goals of furniture in the new hospital included:

  • Providing comfortable accommodations
  • Reducing surface contamination linked to health care-related infections
  • Preventing or reducing patient falls and related injuries
  • Decreasing medication errors
  • Improving communication and social support for patients and families
  • Decreasing stress and fatigue for patients, families, and staff
  • Improving staff effectiveness, efficiency, and communication
  • Improving environmental safety
  • Representing the best investment

For each goal, key standards were written. For example, to prevent or reduce falls and injuries, the team specified that all rolling furniture include locking rollers or casters. Chairs were required to have armrests, and chair seat height had to be adjustable.

The team selected furniture that would not appear outdated in a few years. It was important to find options that would allow flexibility, too. For example, stacking chairs in public spaces would make it easy to rearrange seating quickly. Ideally, the chairs and tables selected could be moved easily to meet the needs of different-sized groups.

Here’s a summary of the furniture in our new hospital:

Patient Rooms on Levels 3, 6, 9, 10, and 11

The family zone of every inpatient room is designed to provide a comfortable space for families so they can participate in the care of their child. This space includes a large sofa that can accommodate two adults for sleeping and a unique chair. You could call it a recliner that glides or a glider that reclines.

When the design team looked for chairs, they could not find a recliner/glider that met all the criteria needed for our hospital. At the time, many recliners offered rocking capabilities. Nurses in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) knew that a rocker wasn’t the best solution for NICU families since rocking uses abdominal and back muscles which would be uncomfortable for some new mothers. With gliders, however, new mothers can use their legs to create motion.

In collaboration with a furniture manufacturer, our team helped develop and test a chair that reclines flat for sleeping, yet also offers gliding capabilities. These chairs can be used to soothe babies and patients of all ages.

Gerdin Family Lobby

The entire lobby serves as a welcoming area. Here, innovative artwork entertains and distracts. Patterns in the floor invite discovery. When selecting furniture, designers chose soothing, yet cheerful, colors. The furniture’s blue and yellow shades were picked to complement the lobby’s artwork.

A huge S-shaped modular sofa has a prominent location in the lobby. When the lobby is used for events, the curvy couch can be taken apart and rearranged. Modern elliptical-shaped chairs in cheery orange upholstery will be placed throughout the lobby. These include the high-backed egg chair. Its name comes from its curved lines and the way it seems to shelter anyone who sits in it.


The café is located at the west end of the lobby, across from Kinnick Stadium. Various-sized tables are positioned throughout the space to accommodate different sized-families. Colorful stacking chairs can be moved around for added flexibility. A large tile wall in shades of blue, green, and white provides a refreshing feel to the space.

Janice and Bruce Ellig Children’s Library

Located on the south side of the lobby, the library offers a place for reading, relaxing, and learning. Kid-friendly chairs have gold seats and backs. A wooden table shaped like an amoeba adds a touch of whimsy. Gaming chairs and swivel chairs provide a variety of seating types for flexibility. The adjacent education center features rolling mesh chairs and computers.

Nick’s Theater

Colorful, child-friendly, upholstered ottomans are found in the theater. The seating was chosen to provide flexibility and options for users. The furniture’s curved lines echo the patterns in the lobby’s flooring. When an event is held, additional chairs that match those found in the café will be used.

Additional Seating

In addition to chairs found throughout the lobby, a large counter with barstools is located close to the Bread Garden Café. The popular coffee shop is located near the connector that links UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital to UI Hospitals & Clinics.

In warm months, outdoor seating is available on the Hy-Vee Outdoor Plaza, located on the northwest side of the building. A new, accessible playground can be found on the south side. Benches inside the play area provide seating for adults who are supervising children.

Level 12—the Rooftop

The top floor of our new hospital has been designed as a calm oasis for patients, families, visitors, and employees. It is available for special events, small meetings, and child life activities. As a result, planners chose furniture that would be suitable for a variety of tastes and needs.

Meditation Room

The Meditation Room offers a space to think, pray, and reflect. Typically it will be set up with 30 chairs in two even rows. The chairs for this space needed to be comfortable, yet durable. At the same time, they had to be lightweight so they could be moved easily. Half the chairs will have arms; the other half won’t. The chairs are stackable, too, so they can be moved out of the way when not in use. The wall nearest the entrance to the Meditation Room includes two built-in benches. Under the upholstered benches are cubbies for storing shoes and other belongings.

Press Box

This lounge, located at the west end of Level 12, overlooks Kinnick Stadium. When not in use for special events, the lounge will feature small groupings of tables and chairs. Designers picked swivel chairs so people can easily check out the view or turn to talk to someone. Benches provide additional seating, as do upholstered ottomans similar to those found in Nick’s Theater on Level 1. This whimsical furniture is as fun to use as it is to look at.  

The front of this space is equipped with marker boards that are decorative and functional; they conceal a large television with audiovisual hookups. When events are held here, stacking chairs will be used.

Press Box Café

This café is open for special events only. Bold geometric patterns on the walls and floor create a fun atmosphere. A counter at one end of the room curves downward, transforming into a long bench.

Seating Alcoves

Level 12 features a seating alcove overlooking the North Healing Garden and another one overlooking the South Healing Garden. Each seating area is furnished with two groupings of lounge chairs and side tables. In the center are more upholstered ottomans for children.

South Healing Garden

During the day, the South Healing Garden is open to anyone who wants to experience the outdoors. Enjoy the plantings while sitting along the wall, or choose from patio furniture during warm months.

Other Public Spaces

Consult Rooms

These are designed as quiet places where families can meet with members of the care team. Each consult room includes a sofa, comfortable lounge chairs, and side tables. Located on every inpatient floor and Level 5, consult rooms feature upholstery whose colors and patterns will complement that level’s color scheme.

Family Lounges

Located near public elevators on each inpatient floor, family lounges include high-backed sofas for privacy, comfortable chairs, side tables, and ottomans. Lounges will also be located on Lower Level 2 and Levels 2, 4, and 5. Colors of upholstery vary and will complement paint colors used on each level. Lounges also include child-friendly furniture, such as puppy chairs.

Parent Respite Rooms

Found on every inpatient floor, these spaces are designed as places for parents to relax and refresh, yet remain close to their child. Parent respite rooms feature a loveseat, reclining lounge chairs with foot rests, and a dining table with two chairs. To create a calm environment, respite rooms will not have TVs.


Playrooms in our new hospital are designated for children of different ages. Furniture has been chosen to meet the needs of those age groups, while injecting a sense of fun into the spaces. All playrooms include rectangular tables with a flip top. This design allows the tables to be pushed to the side and stored without taking up much space. The toddler playrooms include red puppy chairs and colorful chairs with ball rollers. Both the tween and teen playrooms feature gaming chairs and small tables.