Small change: Huge impact

January 18, 2017
Heather E. Lewis, AIA, NCARB
Heather E. Lewis, AIA, NCARB

Heather Lewis, AIA, NCARB, is a partner at Animal Arts, an architecture firm in Boulder, Colorado and frequent HospitalDesign360 conference speaker. She's a lighting geek and a (seriously) devoted advocate of minimizing pets' stress and anxiety during their veterinary visits. She has designed practices and shelters that range in size from 1,200 square feet to 110,000 square feet. During grad school (as a break from architorture) she trained miniature horses to pull carts!

If your reception area could use a refresh, start with the reception desk says veterinary architect Heather Lewis. That one change will make a big difference in your space.

A small change that has huge results is to update your reception desk, says veterinary architect Heather Lewis, AIA, NCARB. It's the first interaction clients have with your practice, but the desk gets old and wears out. Over time it doesn't reflect the statement you want to make anymore.

You can get a desk relaminated or replace the countertops, or buy a new desk entirely. The best ones are completely new, Lewis says.

When choosing a new desk think about what kind of relationship you want your client service representatives to have with your clients:

> Do you want CSRs to be eye level? Seated?

> Do you want the desk to be less of a wall-like barrier?

Think about the materials of the desk and how to upgrade them to be more modern and durable. The desk takes a lot of abuse over time and you want something that will stand up to that, Lewis recommends.

Hulen Hills Animal Hospital, in Fort Worth, Texas, before updating their reception desk. Photo courtesy of Dr. Steve Hotchkiss.


Hulen Hills after their remodel. Photo courtesy of Dr. Steve Hotchkiss.

In addition to the desk itself, you can update or change the lighting above the desk to give the reception area a new feeling. There are a lot of different pendant lighting options, Lewis says.

Pendant lighting over the reception desk at McGregor Boulevard Veterinary Clinic in Fort Meyers, Florida. Photo courtesy of Stuary Gobey, Island Studio Photography.

Another thing to consider is your receptionist's comfort. Get them new chairs that are comfortable to spend long periods of time sitting in. Receptionists often get cold sitting right by the door that's always opening. Some practices combat this by installing radiant heating in the floor so receptionists won't have to plug in space heaters, Lewis notes.

One final point is to think about your computer and the paper storage that the desk will need. Cutting down clutter is a good idea because it gives the desk clean, client-pleasing appearance. Plan to have space for prescription pick up, will you have drawers or cubbies in your desk? Some hospitals utilize hanging pharmacy bags to save space.

Melrose Animal Hospital in Melrose, Massachusetts, stores drugs for client pick ups in hanging pharmacy bags behind their reception desk. Photo courtesy of Tim Murphy, FotoImagery.