Practice Design Tips from an HGTV Star!

If you think you need an expensive overhaul to update your practice and optical, think again. Small tweaks can make a big difference, says interior designer and HGTV star Vern Yip, who spoke about design and aesthetics at SECO 2018.

When they walk into a space, people will notice if something is off whether they’re a designer or not, says Yip. If you want patients to know that you offer the latest and greatest products and services, your optical must look the part. “Looking like you’re really in the 21st century, that’s really going to help you,” agrees Donna Suter, who conducted several sessions at last year’s SECO conference in Atlanta.

Design Is in the Eye of the Beholder

The number one question everyone has is “how high should I hang my pictures,” Yip says. The answer is ‘eye level.’ But who’s eye level? Hang your pictures so they’re 60″ from finished floor to the center—60 inches is the average human eye level. In many practices, the walls are decorated with hand-me-downs from physicians’ and staffs’ homes, or a compilation of diplomas. Even if you have a mish-mash of things, the 60-inch rule acts as a thread of continuity, explains Yip. It’s not ideal, but least that mish-mash will look pulled together while you shop for new art.

Take a Seat

Next, take a look around your optical and lobby. Are there chairs lined up against the wall or in rows? That screams “out-of-date.” Modern opticals use smaller seating areas, or vignettes, to enhance the patient experience. Try rearranging your furniture, keeping these tips from Yip in mind:

  • If you have a coffee table, position it about 18″ from the edge of the sofa that’s in front of it. This gives patients room for their legs while still allowing them to reach the (new) magazines on the table.
  • A coffee table should be one-half to two-thirds the size of the sofa. Any longer than that, and it becomes cumbersome to get in and out of.
  • Side tables are the right height if they’re level with the arm of the adjacent chair(s).
  • In a seating group, keep the distance between chairs about 48” edge to edge, but no closer than 24” from the center of one seat to another. Closer than that, and people begin to feel uncomfortable. If the distance is greater than 120”, people begin to feel like they’re not part of the group.
  • Don’t make a furniture purchase just because it’s the right look and the right price—find out the details. Is the piece commercial-grade? Commercial -grade furnishings will show wear and tear much more slowly than residential furniture. For seats, are there springs? Without springs, seats will eventually sag.

Look on the Bright Side

Lighting is another area you can address quickly and inexpensively. “Fluorescent lighting is sort of really dated technology at this point,” notes Yip. Instead, choose warm, bright LEDs. The color temperature of light bulbs is measured in Degrees Kelvin (K). This is listed on the light bulb packaging. A color temperature around 3500K will seem neutral and flattering to most people, Yip advises.

If you have hanging lights over tables or a desk, keep them about 36” from the top of the counter to the underside of the light. If you need to walk beneath hanging lights, position them least 76” from the floor.

Other Practice Design Tips from Yip

  • Opticals can sometimes seem clinical, and you want to avoid that. Yip recommends adding organic elements to soften the space. For instance, a bowl of bright apples or a potted tree.
  • Commercial spaces get used and abused, so they need to be maintained more regularly than residential spaces. Repaint every 2-3 years, advises Yip.
  • To keep your space updated and minimize your investment at the same time, choose a basic neutral color scheme. This way, you can accessorize with different colors and change the look at feel of the entire space without having to repaint.
  • Keep the space monochromatic (shades of the same color). The floor is usually the darkest color, the walls the next darkest, and the ceiling is the lightest.

You Dont Have to Go It Alone

If you do opt for professional help, be sure to hire a certified interior designer, not a decorator. Why? Decorators focus on aesthetics, but a certified designer also incorporates building codes that affect the health and safety of your patients (for example, ADA compliance). Choose someone with experience in optical or medical spaces. And the consultation should always be free, warns Yip. “If someone tries to charge you—run.”

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