The interior design of your practice is something that most owners tend to ignore over time. It’s often not intentional—you and your team are in the space daily and may not realize what’s become, well, eyesores.
To start figuring out the visual problems so you can come up with better-looking solutions, ask some of your new patients or someone right off the street to answer five questions from this list (or come up with your own):
• What was your first impression of the interior as you walked in?
•What about our interior design needs updating most?
•Do you like our current color scheme?
• Do you feel the artwork is up to date?
• Is the guest seating attractive and comfortable?
• Did you find the restrooms clean and appealing?
• Should the flooring be updated?
• Is our front desk appealing and functional?
• Do you find the lighting sufficient?
• Are the frame fixtures to your liking?
The free service SurveyMonkey.com allows you to set up questions online and provides a link that you can use on a tablet or email out. Consider giving a small free gift or discount on purchase after patients fill out the survey so they feel their time is appreciated.
After you get the necessary feedback, go over the results with the whole team and the owner. Find out if anything about the interior is not working on a functional level and address those issues first, as they may be preventing you from additional potential revenue. Once you have a punch list of what needs to be changed, consider some of these ideas that can dynamically update your overall interior. There are lower and higher-priced options.
Art: Many practices have wall decor that is easily 10 to 40 years old. Consider a clean, modern look with stretched canvas prints with no frame, and choose ones that are at least two inches in thickness. Art.com allows you to search artwork via genre, subject matter and color, so choose an interior pop of color and keep that theme throughout the next choices as well.
Throw pillows: Once you have chosen an accent color for your interior, you can add pillows with more of that color throughout the lobby area. Throw pillows on love seats and sofas add a cozy, homey touch.
Paint: Figure out where you might be able to place your accent color on walls. Make sure the area is not too large, walls that are only 10-15 feet wide are often ideal, and that there is nothing else on them other than art or a mirror. The color becomes a design in itself.
Get color swatches from a paint or home repair store and match the paint to your artwork and throw pillow color. This color could be sprinkled throughout the interior, perhaps on every other hallway wall, or on one or two walls in the optical display area. You can also paint one wall in each exam room and restroom.
Flowers: Real flowers are the way to go, so it’s worth it to set aside a bi-weekly budget and ask your local florist for a wholesale price and a stack of business cards so you can help promote them. They will get endless compliments, and many patients will use that card to place an order.The florist will notice and in all probability will become more generous with price over time. Ask for arrangements that are clean, simple and very long lasting. Some orchids or calla lilies can be submerged underwater to last for weeks or longer.
A few vases, small art prints, candle holders and other décor in your new color added to some of your optical shelf displays can tie in nicely and draw attention to your frames. Props often look stronger in clusters of odd numbers in varied heights, so group three items to create an invisible triangle with their varied heights.
Flooring: There are several great options. Consider carpet tiles because they are easy to swap one out if it gets a coffee stain or worn out before the others. Flor.com has a great assortment. Carpet tiles are also a great way to add a pop of color to the bottom of a window display or as a faux area rug. Many practices are going with modern options such as ceramic tile, luxury vinyl tile (LVT), vinyl composition tile (VCT), hardwood or laminates.
Fixtures: These often look the most dated of anything in a practice. While no one wants to spend the money to replace them when they are still fully functional it might be time to bite that bullet. If you replace some or all of the laminate on the fixtures, this can totally reinvent them. Also consider replacing any built-in lights with brighter LED bulbs. Warmer looking light is very flattering on eyes and skin tones, but cool, almost bluish-white looking LED lights make the colors in frames pop out. The best combination can be warm lights over areas with mirrors and cool lighting projected on areas with frames. You can also play it safe and get neutral lighting that is in the middle between warm and cool.
When you are ready to refresh your practice’s space, make a list of what needs to be done and a budget so that you can do it in stages, perhaps every year for the next three to five years. Commit to one big renovation and a couple of small ones each year. If you need help making these decisions and finding the right vendors, hire a consultant or an interior designer. Make sure their decisions feel correct for your brand image and that the changes don’t feel so modern that they could look dated in a few years. Check out what your favorite stores are doing in your area and duplicate that with your own spin on the designs.
Travis J. Reed is owner of Creative Visionary Inc., a company that provides visual merchandising, interior design and special event production services for the optical industry.