Not Quite the Tooth Fairy
Sheila Kim-Jamet -- Interior Design, 11/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Taking a child to the dentist can be as easy as, well, pulling teeth. Offices that are appealing and calming make the experience less painful for drill-shy kids—and their parents, too. So when North Shore Dentistry for Children in Evanston, Illinois, moved from a cramped office in an early 20th-century building to the 3,300-square-foot sixth floor of a 1970's mid-rise nearby, the partners hired Design Collaboratives to infuse the space with kid-friendly cheer.
Principal Tom Marquardt drew inspiration from the oceanic animated adventure Finding Nemo, and the undersea atmosphere begins in the waiting area. Walls are painted beach-glass tints, while windows and cutouts are shaped like portholes. Bubble-patterned plush carpet welcomes floor-level play or simply sitting and gazing at the tropical fish in the 6-foot-long aquarium. Seating is enlivened by coral-orange vinyl.
To determine what makes a visit go swimmingly, Marquardt's team culled research from the old office. "Kids there were always curious to see what was above a cabinet or through a doorway," the designer explains. "Things don't have to be such a mystery." Thus, doors are often glass, and the U-shape reception desk features a child-height lower counter (29 inches) as well as an upper one at 44.
Little-people appeal was important to the design, but so were circulation, information access, and hygiene. Painted in more restful nautical colors and decorated with paintings based on illustrations for a children's book by Kristin Fippinger-Cahill, two parallel corridors streamline incoming and outgoing patients. Data wiring runs in channels underneath the carpeted half of the flooring rather than the vinyl half. In the sterilization room, which opens onto both corridors, Marquardt's double-sided cabinets allow assistants to pull out trays of clean implements.
The sterilization room shares the core of the floor plate with a three-dimensional imaging machine and kiosks where staff can pull up health-plan information or view digital X-rays. Along the perimeter of the space, four wired carrels provide telephone and computer access for visiting professionals and students. Also along the perimeter, Marquardt placed the employee lounge and locker room, the laboratory, the conference room, three offices, and seven treatment rooms, four open ones for basic cleaning and three with doors, for more involved procedures. At 120 square feet, the latter can easily fit an accompanying parent—when no design on earth can equal the comfort of a familiar face.