Well Being — 28 February 2015
The doctor’s waiting room getting a makeover


By Jana Soeldner Danger

Healthcare offices are no longer the clinical, design-challenged spaces they once were. Instead, many of them are attractive and inviting.

“Medical offices have changed,” says Catherine Pliess, program coordinator for interior and industrial design at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. “Aesthetics are really important. Medical services cost more now, and clients expect a greater degree of luxury.”

The environment of a healthcare office can color the experience of a visit, says Dr. Ashwin Mehta, medical director of integrative medicine at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Deerfield Beach, part of UHealth, University of Miami Health System. “We know scientifically that our bodies cue off our environments. An environment that’s stressful will provoke anxiety and raise blood pressure. Why should a medical office be a cold, clinical space when it can be warm, welcoming and spalike?”

Dr. Jacob Steiger, a facial plastic surgeon in Boca Raton, designed his office to reflect both his profession and personality. The contemporary décor features clean lines and white terrazzo floors with honey onyx accents. Walnut paneling adds warmth and contrasts with white upholstered furnishings. A dramatic chandelier of laser-cut steel reflects light, creating shape and shadow.

“I’m an aesthetic surgeon, and I wanted the office to convey aesthetics,” Steiger says. “My office is an extension of me and what I do.”

Interior designer Shauna Carpenter of Hollywood used textured wall coverings in natural hues of sage and dark beige, espresso-toned wood and table lamps to conjure the ambience of a warm, residential space for the Women’s Center and Imaging Center at Sylvester in Deerfield Beach. In the waiting area, she installed wood-framed glass partitions to create privacy, yet retain an open, spacious feel. “I wanted something sophisticated but still soft,” she says. “A patient can come in and not feel intimidated.”

The environmentally friendly office of Dr. Craig Spodak, a dentist in Delray Beach, qualified for gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Skylights called Solatubes capture sunlight, providing 85 percent of the building’s illumination. When clouds dim the space, sensors detect it and energy-saving LEDs and compact fluorescents brighten automatically. Recycled carpet tiles cover the floors.

Spokdak’s office also contains 14-foot live indoor trees, and there are live plants in every treatment room. Several small gardens surround the building. Cisterns can capture up to 14,000 gallons of rain water for irrigation.

The emphasis on nature in his office reflects Spodak’s vision of his profession. “People come to us to recreate their smiles,” he says. “If it’s done well, dentistry is an art that mimics nature.”

In the Fort Lauderdale offices of plastic surgeons Tracey Stokes and Laura Sudarsky, a mother-of-pearl accent wall is an immediate focal point. The doctors chose a color scheme of silvery gray with soft purple and sunny yellow accents, along with dark espresso wood. In the reception area, white and gray porcelain floor tiles add to the clean, fresh look. Patients sit on stools at a granite desk designed to look like a beauty bar and put their intake information into a computer.

Curved shapes are everywhere, including the walls and furnishings. “We wanted it to be feminine without being girly,” Sudarsky says. “We stayed away from pink.”

In the Adult Infusion Center at the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Broward Health Medical Center, a color scheme of turmeric, beige and green complements hues in an outdoor healing garden. A modular wall system with pop-out panels allows the configuration and color scheme to change easily.

Diffusion of essential oils and soft music creates soothing smells and sounds, and each patient controls the lighting in his or her treatment area. Wood cabinetry conceals readily accessible medical equipment.

“We wanted to build spaces that offer a natural healing environment, and also improve operational efficiency,” says Heather Miller, regional director of cancer services and the BHMC Lillian S. Wells Women’s Center, where sensory suites offer patients options of seaside, waterfall or garden videos along with aroma selections delivered through sensory bracelets.

Lisa Boccard drew on her own experience as a breast cancer survivor to turn a storage room into a comfortable, cozy waiting room now named for her at the Broward Health Coral Springs Women’s Diagnostic & Wellness Center. It features cheerful lavender walls, comfortable couch and chairs, soothing music, a writing table and a coffee and tea bar. Her personal journey with cancer is depicted in photographs on the wall.

“It looks and feels like home,” Boccard says. “You can forget you’re in a hospital.”


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