HGA-Designed Nonprofit Hospital Guest House Debuts in Milwaukee

By HCO Staff

MILWAUKEE, Wis.—Kathy’s House, a non-profit, hospital guest house in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, has opened a new 30,000-square foot, two-level facility on the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center (MRMC) grounds, adjacent to the Froedtert Hospital. Celebrating 20 years, Kathy’s House has provided affordable lodging for thousands of people traveling to the Milwaukee area for medical treatment.

As demands for their services steadily increased, Kathy’s House began planning and researching for a new facility in 2016. And after touring facilities throughout the country, Kathy’s House chose national, interdisciplinary design firm HGA to test site options and design its new location with the twin goals of doubling capacity and expanding its services to better meet patient needs. Breaking ground in May of 2020, the new “Home for Healing” welcomed its first guests in June 2021.

HGA’s Milwaukee-based team, along with key Kathy’s House leadership, staff, board members and former and current guests focused the project around the Eight Dimensions of Wellness model by Dr. Margaret Swarbrick—emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational and social—as a guide in their design process. These elements are seen throughout the facility’s amenities as patients and families can enjoy and explore areas outside of their rooms and interact with others in a variety of welcoming areas including large and small scaled seating areas, a library, communal kitchen and dining area, business center, fitness center, a meditation room and family area.

Each of the 36 short- and long- stay guest suites were carefully designed to make the spaces feel like more than a hotel room. For example, in addition to two beds per room in twin, double, or queen-sizes, rooms have ample closet space, as well as comfortable chairs and workspaces, and the long-stay suites feature kitchenettes. To create a home-like environment, HGA focused on details such as providing operable windows in guest rooms and incorporating skylights to draw in as much fresh air and light from the outside, with views to the outdoors and the surrounding landscape.

Outside, there is a large courtyard with garden spaces for guests to enjoy, a walking trail that rings the site and an outdoor sitting deck overlooking the courtyard and ponds beyond. There are also seating areas at the front of the house to provide a variety of lighting conditions and a sense of home and welcomeness.

Unique to hospital guest houses like Kathy’s House, the new house has a separate wing for immunocompromised patients. Additionally, if a patient has a minor medical need, such as a blood draw or telehealth visit, HGA designed an inpatient medical space, allowing guests to stay at Kathy’s House rather than go to the hospital.

With a draw to sustainability, Home for Healing has large solar arrays on each wing’s roof that provide 40% of the facility’s total energy needs, significantly reducing annual electricity costs.

“HGA is proud to support the mission and innovative vision of Kathy’s House. Working closely with collaborative partners—Froedtert, CG Schmidt, Kohler Hospitality, and Legacy Solar, along with many others—we applied our collective expertise designing healthcare, workplace and multi-family architecture to create for Kathy’s House a healthy, restorative environment for the well-being of their guests,” said Kevin Allebach, practice group leader and principal with HGA.

Kathy’s House is a nonprofit hospital guest house that provides affordable lodging and caring support in a “home away from home” environment for people who need to travel to Milwaukee for medical care. Open 365 days a year, it is the only such facility in southeastern Wisconsin that serves patients of all ages, their families and caregivers, and accepts referrals from all area hospitals. Since opening KH has served 22,000 guests. Their new Home for Healing will serve 3,000 guests annually. Most are cancer patients, and more than 70 percent live in Wisconsin. Kathy’s House was founded in 2001 by the parents of Kathy Vogel Kuettner, a local mother of three and cancer patient.

HGA is a national interdisciplinary design firm with a practice that spans multiple markets, including corporate, cultural, education, local and federal government, healthcare, and science and technology.