Building an audiology practice on a micro budget.

DSC_0002

Pretty barren to start.

IMG_0001While Barb was thinking about how she would return to audiology, I was more concerned about keeping her fixed expenses low. We found a 18′ by 12′ space owned by a Russian lady. Growing up in Stalingrad, tall ceilings were the norm for her so the room we rented was built with a 12′ ceiling.

Which was a perfect height for the wall hanging that Barb found on sale in Palm Springs (at 75% off). Barb asked if I could design an office using the wall hanging as the theme.

The pictures speak for themselves, so I won’t go into detail about how I designed Barb’s office other than to note that I had roughly 200 square feet and tall ceilings to work with. Barb needed a fitting station, sound booth, and repair lab. Managed to fit everything in plus added a conference area, too.

Barb’s concern was all the tall “buildings” designed as part of the decore would make her office seem small. A valid concern, but adding receding roof lines removed the sense of standing on a New York street corner.

All shots of Barb’s office were taken “as is”. Just walked in and started shooting. Click on any photo to better see detail in the scene.

Barb’s office, as it is today.

The look and feel of your office tells your clients what, and who, you value. Details matter.

View from the entrance

View from the entrance. Fitting desk is to left, conference area is straight ahead, sound booth is on right. Lab, storage and display cabinet is not visible in this view.

Lab is to left, sound booth is to right.

Sound booth on right, lab on left.

View when jooking towards entrance.

Same “buildings”, this view looks towards front entrance.

View of sound booth from audiologist seat.

View of sound booth from audiologist seat. Booth is about 3.5′ by 3′.

Decore detail on sound booth.

Another view of sound booth. Lefty audiologists, go ahead and cringe.

Bonne Rue is reference to Barb's maiden name.

Bonne Rue is reference to Barb’s maiden name.

Door to lab, and decore detail.

Door to lab, and decore detail.

The lab is cozy, but big enough to work in.

The lab is cozy, but big enough to work in. About 6′ long by 2.75′ wide.

Counter opposite from previous view. Storage shelves are above and below counter on both sides.

“Other’ side of lab. Storage shelves are above and below both counters.

A better view of the most used side of the lab.

A better view of the most used side of the lab.

Display and storage, adjacent to fitting desk.

Display and storage, adjacent to fitting desk.

I try to hide clutter that is usually on audiologists desks. Unfortunately, two computers became a necessity.

I try to hide clutter that is typically on audiologists desks. Unfortunately, two computers became a necessity.

View from audiologists perspective. HiPro, real ear and otoscope hardware is in cabinet see lower left corner)

View from audiologists perspective. HiPro, real ear and otoscope hardware is in cabinet (lower right corner).

Impedance bridge had to go somewhere. This spot works pretty well, despite not looking like it would.

Impedance bridge had to go somewhere. This spot works pretty well, despite not looking like it would.

View from patients side of desk.

View from patients side of desk.

Interfaces and cables are hidden in compartment at end of desk. A slot allows only cables to be seen.

Interfaces and cables are hidden in compartment at end of desk. Cables run to patient through a slot.

Facade is backdrop to  conference area.

Conference area facade.

Conference area has room for 6 people, or 4 plus a dog on the bench seat.

Conference area has room for 6 people, or 4 plus a dog laying on the bench seat.

Facade detail. Visible is a corner of the wall hanging that started this mess.

Facade detail. Visible is a corner of the wall hanging that started this mess.

A corner of the hall leading to four offices serves as waiting room.

A corner of the outer hall leading to four offices serves as waiting room.

Unintentionally artsy-fartsy shot that Barb took of the outer hallway leading to her office.

Artsy-fartsy shot that Barb took of the hallway leading to her office.

If you want to dive deep, here are a few shots of the construction.

Lab and sound booth being framed. A mixture of 2x2 and 2x4's.

Lab and sound booth are framed with 2×2 and 2×4′s.

Conference area facade. Frame was built at home, reassembled on site.

Conference area facade. Frame was built at home, reassembled on site.

If I ever talk about building another sound booth, shoot me. Then wrap my remains in mass loaded vinyl.

Kim is great with sheetrock. But at 5’4″ tall, he wasn’t much help hanging 2 pound per square foot mass loaded vinyl. The door Kim works on weighs around 250 pounds.

IMG_0044

Had the woodwork for Barb's desk desk professionally built, finished the rest ourselves.

Had Barb’s desk desk professionally built, the base actually, and finished the rest ourselves.

IMG_0074

IMG_3917

IMG_3926

IMG_3935

Finally, getting close to done.

Finally, getting close to done.

If we owned the office space rather than renting, I would have gone more elaborate and worried less about making holes in walls. Thing is, doing the big stuff that looks elaborate isn’t expensive. The building materials we selected are usually the cheapest stuff we can find, and paint is cheap. In our home theater below, cheap wood and foam was used to create the look and feel of the walls and ceiling.

DSC_0026

If what draws your eye is not flat against the wall, chances are it is inexpensive pink foam that has been carved, textured using Parex, then painted.

DSC_0057

Gold leaf provides visual interest, and is proper with the Mayan theme.

DSC_0126

The walls are not painted gray. Seven colors are applied, giving what looks like gray a rich depth as you move around the room.

Not ready to do a big redecoration of your office?

Here are three quick kills with the most bang for the buck that anybody can do.

For most immediate effect: Reduce clutter.

This is the most difficult suggestion only because you are used to seeing your office every day, so you don’t see the clutter. Or worse, don’t think it is clutter. Brochures, patient charts, manufacturer posters and forms litter your counters and walls. I visit offices regularly during our travels and this, by far, is the most common problem encountered.

All that stuff screams at patients that you are either: Disorganized, or always looking to sell, sell, sell. So hide the important junk in cabinets or behind curtains. Make it easy to get at, but hard for patients to see. You’ll be amazed at how much more appealing and professional your office will look. I didn’t clean anything in Barb’s office before taking the pictures above. It looks like that for every patient. (Note that Barb has a few brochures in the display behind her desk. Haven’t convinced her, yet, to make them to disappear.)

Next: Paint walls.

Paint is the cheapest way to make a dramatic change to the look of your office. But you’re not going to simply throw some plastic on the floor and grab a paint roller. You want the wall color to have texture and depth. You’ll use a simple to learn technique called rag-off. For your first foray into creative painting, apply a solid base coat of a light color using a roller. Then apply a second color (a complimentary color is easiest for beginners) with a dry brush. Bunch up a rag (a cloth about  2′ square is good) and roll it across the wall where you just painted. The more you roll, the more paint is removed to reveal the undercoat. Paint small sections of the wall at a time, and overlap brush strokes slightly into areas you just finished. Vary the amount of rag rolling you do within each section, leaving some areas covered more than others.

There’s no right or wrong way to rag off. Experiment. Don’t worry about getting everything perfect. The beauty of this technique is you can always apply a new base coat to any section you mess up and start over. Below are examples of this technique in our house. As you can see, you can go crazy with colors. I think eighteen paint colors are present in the five photos. It would be a jarring experience walking from room to room IF there wasn’t a common element. In this case, beige, gray, black or green smoothes the transition between rooms.

DSC_0001

DSC_0006

DSC_0027

DSC_0030

You can create a false chair rail look, too. You don’t have to stencil the chair rail, it can be a band of paint or a strip of wallpaper.

DSC_0047

Third step: Change lighting.

Those florescent fixtures in what seems to be every office ever built aren’t soothing to the soul. They also don’t provide good lighting. You can make a dramatic change by adding floor and desk top lights around your office. The goal is to create shadows and bright spots – like nature does, through direct and indirect lighting.

I prefer to add enough lights such that there is no need for overhead lights to be used, but that isn’t always possible. In those cases I make shields that are attached to the overhead fixtures so light is redirected sideways rather than down (watch the weight, you don’t want to yank the fixture out of the ceiling). This creates a reverse cove lighting effect, if one could call it that, which plays well with the painting of your walls (and ceiling) that you just finished doing.

I have also installed rope lighting (LED versions are now affordable) near the ceiling using commonly available wall trim, hiding the lights while directing light where I want it to go. If you float trim an inch or so from the wall, light will wash upward and downward. Or you can direct light in one direction, as seen below. The effect can be quite dramatic.

IMG_0251

Lousy picture with an old camera phone of rope lighting directed upward. The ambient light is enough to see one’s way around the room. Task lighting is installed for when one needs to see something really well.

I hope this post serves as food for thought and inspiration. The main point I want to make is that decorating an office doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. You don’t need to hire an interior designer. You have good ideas in your head already. You just have to be brave enough to try them.

Bonus.

You gotta see this dentists office. Mind glowingly excellent. Ya think his patients talk about him and his office? A special thanks goes to Patti R in Cali for sending me the link.

One thought on “Building an audiology practice on a micro budget.

  1. I absolutely love the décor of this clinic and enjoyed the hints and tips as well. I am more into the unique look because you will ALWAYS stand out and be remembered. There is a difference between Classy Unique and Trashy Unique and you my friend have done an amazing job a creating that Classy, Unique, Comfy environment. KUDOS! I might be calling you in the future for some more hints and tips.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s