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Polly's Blog - What’s hot and what’s not? Things to avoid during a dental practice build

With Treetops Dental Surgery undergoing a big redesign, we take the opportunity to ask our interior designer a few questions and things to avoid in a dental practice

"For yourself Polly, we need the practice to feel aspirational. Somewhere that private patients want to come, but still achievable for NHS clients. If it was just for private clients, it could be completely different"

Extending Treetops Dental Surgery was never going to be easy. But I never thought finding somebody to actually take on the build would be the difficult part. Because the project has become so big, many are turning their back on it, searching for smaller, easier projects. But every cloud has a silver lining. And one of those silver linings has been finding Steve at Tonic Interiors. Steve visited the practice recently to give us some ideas on how to furnish our practice to give it a high-end, yet welcoming feel. I grabbed the opportunity to speak to him about current trends and dos and don’ts when building a practice.

Polly Bhambra (PB): Steve, please give us your background and experience.

Steve: I met you through some projects I’d finished before. But I have no real background in dentistry. We’ve worked together on the ‘nice parts’ of the dental practice, but never the surgeries and technical areas.

PB: Can you please talk me through the process, where do you start when furnishing a dental practice?

Steve: In your case, at Treetops, I started by looking at the building, which has an "Art Deco" feel and began with that. We discussed if you wanted to go down the art deco route. And you'll see little influences of that. But actually, you weren’t too particular about keeping that theme throughout. So we did follow that through into some of the internals, some bathrooms and light fittings to complement that. But ultimately, you weren’t too keen, so we added a few different elements that matched in but were still subtly different.

PB: And then how do you bring it all together?

Steve: Over the last few months, we’ve had various discussions. I’ve listened to what you wanted and the feel you wanted to give to your clients. From that process, I just started pulling different things and elements together to get to a mood board. Once we get the mood board sorted, you can then tell me whether there are elements you like or don’t like. And we'll refine it again. Once you like the mood board, I'll start actually designing the spaces out, putting chairs in and putting the reception in and working out the space you need for the people, for working, the reception etc.

PB: How long does that process?

Steve: I'm doing it over a long period. I'm just getting ideas all the time.

It's hard to say how long, a couple of weeks maybe.

PB: And when you say you start designing it, is that through computer-aided design?

Steve: I will get someone to do the visuals for me once I’ve got the final designs for the furniture, flooring etc. That will give a really good idea of what it might look like. I'll literally draw the furniture in and do it to scale.

PB: I imagine some clients may come to you with a preconceived idea about what they want. How do you explain to clients what they need versus what they want if the two don’t match up?

Steve: A lot of it will depend on the budget to start with. That's going to be pretty crucial.

So that always keeps the design in check. But if a client isn’t going to be open-minded and very opinionated, they don’t need a designer. You're telling designers what their job is. And if you've got your own strong opinions over what you want, there’s almost a competition. It's not that easy for the designer then. So I would say there’s not much I can do for you now, you carry on.

PB: You’ve designed and agreed on the mood board. What’s the next step?

Steve: First thing to do is get it all priced up right. And that will ultimately come down to the client. We may need to go back and forth at this point to find fixtures and fittings that are appropriate. It's always a challenge, but you can change certain variables and shop around until you get the same look, but cheaper. There is quite a lot involved in that process and how long it takes is really hard to say.

PB: For a dental practice, what’s hot and what's not? What should principals be avoiding?

Steve: It’s important to always keep the patient in mind. For yourself Polly, we need the practice to feel aspirational. Somewhere that private patients want to come, but still achievable for NHS clients. If it was just for private clients, it could be completely different. Because it’s NHS, we have a fairly broad spectrum of clients. We’re not just aiming for say the 20 to 30-year-old market. This is for everybody, so everybody can come in and say the interior is lovely. It’s not just a disco Instagram vibe for the young kids.

And you've got to think about how this space is going to flow. You might want walkways throughout, or for people to avoid certain areas. You could have two separate areas in one room. In the reception, if the client's going and checking in, then one area may be tiled and another waiting area split off. And finally, surgeries will need specialist floor coverings and furnishings to ensure you remain compliant throughout.

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