What is the most important aspect?

What is the number one most important aspect of an interior environment? Flow and Function. There is an old saying nearly every architect or designer knows: “Form follows function.” A space can function even though it may not flow very well and a space can flow but if it doesn’t have everything necessary for functionality, then it misses something.

Every well-planned interior has to start with programming of what needs to happen during the client/patient visit. This is most often accomplished with either experience on a personal level or observation. The input of the owner or practitioner is critical. Often times it is helpful to obtain information from staff as well however it must be noted that one needs to have critical eyes and ears to decipher whether staff input is on a generic or global level or from a personal perspective of want.

Once the number of rooms or areas are determined in the space provided, then there needs to be careful evaluation of the “flow”, not only from the patient/client perspective but of staff and their duties and responsibilities. Think of the kitchen triangle: this is a process to count the number of steps it takes to process a meal from the refrigerator to preparation to cooking to presentation. Minimizing steps maximizes flow. Same goes for the entire space plan.

Making your interior inviting

Everyone has had different experiences in different types of restaurants. Restaurant design is a perfect illustrator for how to think of interior design.

First, imagine a fast food restaurant such as McDonalds or Burger King. They don’t make any money by their patrons sitting around in their establishment. They make their money on volume. They want you in and out as fast as possible.

So, the design of a fast food restaurant is to encourage customers to come in, place their order and either take it to go or spend as little time eating as possible. Usually, this is accomplished with hard surfaces, bright colors, stark (harsh?) lighting and materials that do not absorb sound making it a loud, sometimes frenzied atmosphere.

Now, imagine a high-end restaurant. Lighting is soft. Colors are muted and usually include rich “colors of Royalty” such as Purple, Navy or Burgundy. Materials are usually soft with lots of textures to absorb or dissipate sound waves. Music levels are usually soft and soothing.

The high-end restauranteur wants his customers to sit, relax, stay a long time and spend big money on cocktails, appetizers, high-end wine and carefully presented main courses along with dessert, after dinner drinks and so on. All of which are highly inflated prices to make up for the lack of volume.

In both cases, however, special attention is paid in both types of design to accomplish the end result: THE BOTTOM LINE. Every detail needs to be carefully considered to create the experience that will enhance profitability which applies to nearly every type of business, especially when dealing with patients and their health.

Sound in an Interior Environment

How important is sound in an interior environment?

One needs to consider the type of atmosphere they want for their patients or clients to experience from the moment they enter. Sound plays a huge part of the first impression. If the experience needs to be fun and lively, then sound attenuation is not really an issue and one can use just about any material they wish.

If the experience needs to be a more calming effect, then special attention needs to paid in several areas. If one thinks about Opera House or theatre design, the best are never designed as a box or a room that has opposing flat walls. They are designed in steps, both vertically and horizontally and most often curvilinear in nature.


Sound reflects directly off of a flat surface. When you have opposing walls that are flat, especially when the floor and ceiling are the same, then sound reverberates creating an echo effect. In some cases it can be perceived as amplification. If there are a lot of different types of sounds at different decibel levels, it can be quite disturbing which does the opposite of calming—it heightens emotional levels. Children get hyper-active. Adults get annoyed and geriatric people get irritable sometimes to the level of angry.

So, the type of facility and desired effect needs to dictate the level of sound attenuation. Curves help dissipate sound. Angles or tilted walls can help as well. Soft, sound absorbing surfaces help no matter what and can be emphasized should the ability to create curves or angles be unrealistic for what ever reason.

What is your Vision?

Some questions one needs to ask themselves when planning a new office or remodel are:

  1. Where will my office be located?
  2. Who are my current clientele or demographic?
  3. What demographic do I wish to attract?
  4. What does my office say about me?
    1. As a professional?
    2. As a person?

Kitsap Kids Dentistry | Dannix DesignThese are just a few preliminary questions that need to be answered honestly prior to planning any sort of long-term office. Geography and demographics play a big part. In every city there are things to consider such as the climate and income strata. Designing an office in the sunny, hot desert of Arizona is completely different than one in the cloudy, rainy northwest. Same goes for an affluent district of town vs. an area with people of lesser means.

Light, scale, proportion, colors, materials—all affect the way an office “feels”. How an office feels affects perception of patients and clientele. How they feel will affect your bottom line by way of referrals and repeat patients.

So, what is your vision? Do you want to be a “drill-fill-and-bill” dentist? This is easily matched by way of doing everything as inexpensively as possible. Pay no attention to the design as a whole and you will attract those types of patients. This mindset is also perceived to trickle down to everything about you. Patients recognize that if you are doing everything “on the cheap”, that is a mindset that is not only the office but also how you may or may not keep up with the latest technology, techniques and the way you treat your patients.

Do you want to be thought of as “the best” in your respective specialty meaning do you want to attract only the high-end clientele? One needs to be prepared to pay very close attention to every aspect of their office design and operations to accomplish, however this can alienate people who do not wish to spend the high-end dollar even if they can afford it.

If you wish to appeal to a broader spectrum, then it is even more important to pay attention to every design aspect and detail to attract your target demographic. Every balanced decision, collectively, adds up to how the final product will feel, not just to patients but to you and your staff as well. Happier staff (which includes YOU) makes for higher productivity, higher sales and simply a happier environment—which all adds up to the “experience”.

The overall experience is a much greater sales tool than simply being a great dentist or practitioner and is an intangible that will positively affect your bottom line.