Doctors of décor

Cramped seating, florescent lights, wallpaper motifs that were in style during the Jimmy Carter administration. Let's face it, the archetype for the typical doctor's office and its décor has always been more utilitarian than upscale, more akin to the lobby of a small-town Best Western than the Bellagio.

But some local practitioners are trying to cure what ails the current state of décor by bringing things up a notch -- or two or three. They're using sleek, upscale furniture, textured fabrics and even focal points such as fireplaces and natural-stone fountains in the hope of building warmer spaces that give patients the feeling they are being taken care of the moment they walk through the door.

When cosmetic dentist Dr. Mike Golpa was planning the interior design of his new office near West Sunset Road and the Las Vegas Beltway, he poured through magazines and books for ideas, and even drew from the three years he spent in architectural school prior to his medical career.

"I wanted something that didn't look like a dentist's office. I wanted something that looked like a living room, that was away from the cold, clinic type of feel," he said. "I call it contemporary and cozy at the same time."

His waiting area is filled with his own designs including the modern white furniture and a fountain that covers nearly an entire wall. It's made from three 4-by-10-foot panels of black and gray river rocks interspersed with colored glass.

The color palette includes earth tones such as tan and brown to instill a sense of comfort, accented by dark wood floors and sheer drapery, he said.

Cosmetic surgeon Dr. Stephen Weiland of the Weiland Group, and his wife, Debra, the practice's administrator, also took a very personal approach when considering the interior design for their new building at South Hualapai Way in Summerlin. They worked with Indianapolis designer Shannon Glassley to create a luxurious, spalike feel while at the same time giving patients a glimpse into Stephen Weiland's personal aesthetic.

"We're like a high-end hotel. The front door is a pivot door which sets the tone that you're entering a very calming, soothing and warm environment," Debra Weiland said.

"We were also looking to echo (Stephen Weiland's) personality so we brought this sense of calm, and that here was a man of integrity who had the best interests of the patients at heart."

Inside the suite of offices is a private waiting area with a fireplace as its focal point, thick-cushioned chairs in caramels and dusty blues and a flat-screen TV. The treatment rooms, where patients receive nonsurgical skin procedures such as chemical peels, have sage-green walls, chocolate-brown comforters and soft lighting from emerald glass wall sconces.

Dr. Jason Michaels of Aspire Cosmetic MedCenter, 9097 W. Post Road, worked with local designers from ABA Avery Brooks and Associates when choosing the décor for his new office, which opened about a year ago. His goal was to instill a sense of professionalism, while at the same time creating an environment of beauty and sophistication.

"I do cosmetic dermatology so the look of things is important to people. That's what they come here for, to look better, so the surroundings should reflect that," Michaels noted. "I wanted something that had a classy, rich look that wasn't intimidating to clients."

He calls the style of his office "modern but not ultramodern" with its color palette of soft golds, yellows and greens, mixed with details such as a flat-screen television and photographs along the walls that reflect the theme of restoration. Some of the photos, for example, show experts doing restoration work on some of the masterpieces of past centuries, Michaels said.

Vases full of fresh flowers, bowls of apples and even bottles of spring water in stylish containers add the extra touch.

With the high cost of running a medical practice today, Todd-Avery Lenahan, principal with ABA, commends those who are going the extra mile to design, or redesign, their spaces in a way that both suits the needs of their patients and instills peace of mind. When looking at office design, it's important for a physician to think in terms of what message he or she is trying to convey, he added.

For instance, many of the practices undergoing design changes are in the realm of both restorative and cosmetic medicine. Their patients usually have "a heightened aesthetic and visual acuity, and appreciate detailing," Lenahan said.

"This is highly technical work, precise, and that needs to be conveyed (in the room design)," he said.

Any medical office design should first instill a sense that this is a "clean and hygienic" space, but that doesn't mean style has to be sacrificed, he added. There are plenty of materials on the market today that offer a richness to an office yet are easy to keep clean, such as nonporous porcelain tiles and antimicrobial fabrics with the look and feel of velvet or mohair.

In terms of color, many of the old combinations should be thrown out, such as the ubiquitous teal-and-mauve palette. These two colors were actually determined by studies years ago to be the least offensive to the largest number of people.

"It was like saying, 'Of all the foods you can offer, hamburger has the most universal appeal so let's serve hamburger patties,'" he said.

He advises choosing enduring colors that cross gender and ethnic lines, such as flesh tones and platinums, which impart "a strong, enduring connection between state-of-the-art and the organic quality of the human form."

Finally, a medical office needs to reflect the amazing amount of work the doctors put into their practice and, of course, the kind of care they aspire to provide because, in the end, that's what it's all about.

"You can still be soothing but you don't have to eschew the fact that this is medical office," Lenahan said. "Sometimes what people try to do is mask who they are with an aesthetic overlay that has nothing to do with what they're about."