Makeover success

The task of fitting in two surgeries, storage space and a reception area-without making it feel cramped-required some creative thinking.
The task of fitting in two surgeries, storage space and a reception area-without making it feel cramped-required some creative thinking.

Not only was Bundoora Dental Clinic renovated, modernised and beautified, it was nominated in the BDAV Building Design Awards, reveals Kerryn Ramsey

When Dr Thanh Nguyen looked around his rooms, the functional surgery space needed a revamp. Like an ’80s time capsule, there were brown benches and chairs, small windows and even wooden parrots sitting in a terrarium of artificial foliage. The entire 24-square-metre space-about the same size as a single-car garage-was dark, cramped and outdated.

On the other hand, Dr Nguyen was very happy with the way Bundoora Dental Clinic in Melbourne had been organised. He and the three other partners had set up the clinic so they had their own tenancies within the larger practice. They share the main reception, sterilisation rooms, waiting areas, lunch rooms and bathrooms. Dr Nguyen’s tenancy consisted of two surgeries and a small inner office-and they were well overdue for a makeover.

“I wanted my rooms to look warm and earthy yet clean and uncluttered,” he says. “To put patients at ease, I wanted the feel to be as far away from a hospital dental setting as possible.”

He turned to Alexander Cornall of Cornall Building Design and dental practice fit-out specialists, Dentequip. “We met with Dr Nguyen and he was pretty happy to give us free reign as long as his broader requirements were met,” says Cornall. “He didn’t want to be sitting in a sterile, cold dental environment. He wanted a space where he, his staff and his patients could feel relaxed and comfortable.”

Dr Nguyen had obviously chosen his renovation team well. When the Building Designers Association of Victoria (BDAV) held its prestigious Building Design Awards in late July, the Bundoora Dental Clinic received a commendation in the Interior Design-Non-Residential category. This was a fantastic achievement for this small, two-chair dental practice, which is part of the 11-chair Bundoora Dental Clinic.

Even more amazing is that the whole renovation was completed in three weeks. Dr Nguyen started the process by choosing two A-dec chairs, one in blue and one in green. Cornall used these colours to set the tone in the two surgeries.

“They were quite bright colours,” he says, “so we coupled them with a neutral palette and used highlight strips underneath the benches that colour-match the chairs. We also used blue and green as feature wall colours in the respective rooms.”

Dr Nguyen was more than happy with this idea. “Having the rooms colour coded makes it easier for the assistants to know where to place materials and to take patients to the appropriate room,” he says.

At this point Dr Nguyen left for a two-week holiday. Cornall and Dentequip had a huge task in front of them to redesign and refit all the rooms before the dentist returned.

The task of fitting in two surgeries, storage space and a reception area-without making it feel dark and cramped-required some creative thinking.

“Everything was designed to the millimetre,” says Cornall. “Rather than wrapping the room with joinery, we deliberately left gaps in the corners to make the space feel more open. The arm of the X-ray machine had to be modified so it would reach from the position we had available. We worked closely with Dentequip to put this jigsaw together.”

The tight space and short schedule meant that the joinery had to be perfect. The joiners made templates of the cabinetry out of MDF and they were fitted into place in order to confirm sizes. Cabling was also measured and positioned at this time so that when the finished joinery was installed, everything came together perfectly.

“I can tell you Dentequip worked day and night,” Cornall says. “I know because some nights I would be working late and they were always on the job.”

Everything that could be integrated was integrated. Furniture was built in with magazine storage underneath. Tissues, paper towels and glove dispensers all have their own built-in spots in the cabinetry. Holes in the benchtops lead to integrated waste bins that divide the sharps and dirty waste. Everything fits into its own space.

“We also wanted to keep the rooms looking clean and seamless,” says Cornall. “All the surgery’s cabinets have no handles but they can be bumped open with an elbow. This allows the dentist to keep his hands sterile. The benchtops are made of Corian, a solid stone-like surface that can be sized, formed and joined to fit any shape and area. The sinks are also Corian so they could be seamlessly integrated with the benchtops.”

The windows were increased in size from 1m x 1.2m to 2m x 1.8m while frameless glass doors help make the space feel bigger and introduce more light into it. The dark, artificially lit rooms are now brimming with natural light.

Televisions are mounted on the ceiling above the chairs so patients can watch DVDs. “Some patients like to have all their treatment done in one go and it can take up to four hours,” says Dr Nguyen. “I’m quite happy for them to bring in their own DVDs to watch.” The screens also connect with the X-ray and intraoral camera units so the results can be shown to the patient.

As another visual treat, Dr Nguyen came up with the idea of adding a tropical fish tank, replacing the original space that was used as a terrarium. “It works as a partition, and patients can enjoy this feature from either room,” says the Bundoora dentist. And Cornall adds: “The tranquil feel of the water, the natural stone materials, the slowly swimming fish all makes the dental space very calming.”

When Dr Nguyen went on holidays, he left his dark, outdated practice and returned to a sleek, contemporary surgery flooded with natural light and exuding professionalism. “It was a dramatic difference,” he says, smiling.

The renovation has been a huge hit with patients, dentists and designers. The nomination in the BDAV Building Design Awards was a surprise but not completely unexpected. With its simple clean lines, smart use of limited space, warm and relaxing interior and sleek contemporary look, the practice ticks all the boxes. For the practice to then win a commendation in the best Interior Design-Non-Residential category is the icing on the cake for Dr Nguyen, Cornall Building Design and Dentequip. Good things certainly do come in small packages.

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