Changes in the design of hospital wards have usually been determined by architects and members of the nursing and medical professions; the views and preferences of patients have seldom been sought directly. The Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale and the Disturbance Due to Hospital Noise questionnaire were administered to 64 female patients on bay and Nightingale wards together with a questionnaire designed for this study. Perceptions of social and physical factors of ward design were examined, and their relationship to psychological well-being and sleep patterns. The results show that the bay ward seemed to offer a more favourable environment for patients but some of the disadvantages of bay wards are balanced by better staffing levels and better and more modern facilities. Visibility to nurses was lower on the bay ward. The Nightingale ward was perceived as significantly noisier than the bay ward and noise levels were significantly correlated to anxiety scores. Paradoxically the increase in noise levels appeared to improve the perceived level of privacy on the Nightingale ward. Seventy-five per cent of patients were found to prefer the bay ward design, and since neither design appears to have major disadvantages their continued introduction should be encouraged. However, recommendations are made concerning the optimizing of patients' well-being within the bay ward setting.