Design, Build, or Makeover Your Office in Three Simple Steps

Dentistry Today


This approach to designing your dental office involves specific steps that will help you get excellent and predictable results. Three-dimensional (3-D) modeling adds a new and exciting high tech dimension to traditional design techniques. With computer-aided design and Virtual build software you can take a tour of your new office before you even break ground.
Some of us can see a 2-dimensional (2-D) floor plan drawing of their new project and be certain of what it will look like. Many, like me, have to walk among the 2 x 4s or drywall before we can tell if our ideas actually came to life. This same visualization gap often exists in our restorative solutions. Think diagnostic wax-up, provisionals, or wax try-ins for dentures. Sound familiar? These are used every day to help us test and “see” a scale version of the finished product before committing precious resources to their completion.

Figure 1. Overhead of 3-dimensional (3-D) model of finished design that can be “walked through” in a virtual reality state. Design concepts can be tested here and changes made before construction begins.

One of the coolest things about this project was the creation of a virtual reality 3-D model of the finished makeover. Denice Murphy of Funktional Design Group and Dr. Eric J. Kosnic (Rochester Hills, Mich) had collaborated on the original design and build of this office in 1996. By 2009, it was time for an extreme makeover to occur. Tired décor and finishes needed a funky new look. Mrs. Murphy created a 3-D model from her original space plans allowing Dr. Kosnic and his team to walk through it and to suggest potential changes. They could see how the new finishes would look before anything was actually started. This eliminated costly mistakes and helped to saved time. Files were easily transferred via e-mail, and reviews/changes were made in bits and bytes rather than expensive changed construction orders (Figure 1). (You can walk through this and other virtual designs at Click on PORTFOLIO.)

The formulation of preliminary plans, 2-D and 3-D design concept studies, and sketches that integrate the client’s program needs and are based on knowledge of the principles of interior design, as well as theories of human behavior. Space plans and design concepts must be safe, functional, and aesthetically appropriate. They must also meet all public health, safety and welfare requirements; including code, accessibility, environmental, and sustainability guidelines.
Dr. Kosnic and Mrs. Murphy worked extensively on “bubble diagrams” that helped establish the flow requirements for maximum space use and efficiency. The triangular-shaped building fit well on the same shaped lot but provided some design challenges. Mrs. Murphy stepped off the hypotenuse in operatory-sized dimensions to create a functional design. Then, they applied current and growth space requirements by functional area as determined by the bubble diagrams. Patterson Dental assisted them with existing and new equipment specifications as well as the layout. The centralization of a small lab and sterilization area helped anchor a hub and added a “spoke” concept to the flow. One hallway primarily carried patient flow; while the other 2 made staff movement efficient.


Figures 2a and 2b. Finished photo and 3-D rendering of central hallway demonstrating, floor coverings, lighting and wall finishes that were chosen and shown in the computer-aided design version (CAD) and similarly depicted in the finished office.
Figures 3a and 3b. Finished photo and 3-D rendering of hallway detail, note the sogi screens which were deconstructed and hung using small diameter steel cables from the ceiling and backlit for a dramatic affect.

Next the selection of colors, materials, and finishes to appropriately convey the design concept was done with the goal of meeting sociopsychological, functional, maintenance, life-cycle performance, environmental, and safety requirements in mind.
Environmentally friendly, sustainable, and low maintenance flooring was chosen (Figures 2a and 2b). Energy efficient blinds were chosen and they would be prebuilt inside the dual-pane Pella windows, helping to manage radiant light. Color-corrected fluorescent ceiling bulbs were with 5,500°K to simulate daylight throughout the office were also chosen. The original design had been traditional. The countertops, flooring and faux-wall painting reflected that choice. The recent redesign or extreme makeover charged Mrs. Murphy with creating a more modern feel to mirror the style preferences of Dr. Kosnic and his team (Figures 3a and 3b). Modern wall colors and surfaces, suspended light reflective panels in the central hall, and updated floorings would help temper the countertops and cabinetry that was not being replaced.


Figures 4a and 4b. Finished photo and 3-D rendering of reception detail. Note the similarity of decor and design features presented at the design stage with CAD, and after project completion.

Figures 5a and 5b. Finished photo and 3-D rendering of reception detail, note the furniture, fixtures and finishes are presented in the rendering as design concepts and replicated almost identically in the finished room.

Selection and specification of furniture, artwork, and décor, includes layout drawings and detailed product description to facilitate pricing, procurement, and installation. There are several resources for inexpensive quality furniture and décor. Mrs. Murphy shopped multiple supply sources to find funky modern pieces that helped bring the feel, textures, and colors together. Several décor pieces were specified in advance and shown in the virtual reality model (Figures 4a and 4b). Even small details like the eclectic wall clock for the reception room was specified from a source and shown in the model (Figures 5a and 5b). All the steps were accomplished under budget and on time.


When you hire an interior designer, you get the benefit of an experienced professional who can solve problems, help you avoid costly mistakes and, most importantly, create an attractive and affordable space designed specifically to meet your business needs. This is true for new design and build of a dental office to a simple redecorating of an existing interior space. Designs must adhere to safety code and regulatory requirements, and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability. Designers may be involved at any or all 3 of the design and decision steps: (1) space planning, (2) materials and finishes, or (3) furniture, artwork, and décor. Like other professionals, they vary in their combinations of talents, skills, knowledge, experience, personalities, specialty areas and reputations. What and how they charge will vary accordingly. For information about interior designers or to find one near you, go to the American Society of Interior Designers Web site at

Dr. Murphy is the vice president of educational services for Mercer Advisors, director of professional relations for Quantum Dental Resources, and consults and lectures for dental labs, manufacturers, and dentists throughout the United States and Canada. He can be reached at


Disclosure: Mrs. Murphy, Dr. Murphy’s wife, owns Funktional Design Group.