Color your clinic happy

Color your clinic happy

This solo female owner will inspire you to design or remodel your veterinary hospital to match your personal style.
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Aug 22, 2016

Nestled inside a strip mall, Finan Animal Hospital's space was previously a mattress store. Dr. Finan said this was ideal as it gave the team a large, empty area to design from scratch. Photo courtesy of Richard Lanenga | Richard Lanenga Photography

April Finan, DVM, wasn’t afraid to get a little crazy with her new clinic, which was designed by Mike Matthys of the Linden Group—at least when it came to the color palette.

“My personality is a bit funky and eclectic. I wanted to combine that feel with keeping things very clean and open,” Dr. Finan says. “I didn’t want people or pets to feel like they were in a clinical setting.”Her vision of bright red, orange, lime green and “Plum Dandy” (Sherwin Williams code for purple) walls in the conversion of Finan Animal Hospital in Darien, Illinois, paid off. Clients have told her, “Your hospital is so nice, I’d like to live here!” and she took home a Merit Award in the 2016 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition.With bold purple accents (1) and hanging ball light fixtures (2), clients are in for a bright and cheery welcome. The large front window (3), wood grain porcelain floor tile (4) and chair rails made of reclaimed barn wood give the clinic a natural, homey feeling. Front desk features include a recessed, walk-on pet scale, knobs for dog leashes and interior signage that's impossible to miss. Photo courtesy of Richard Lanenga | Richard Lanenga Photography

Now, let’s get inside her head and take home some funky tips you could use to make your veterinary hospital stand out.

Bye bye, beige

From the start of the project, Dr. Finan knew she wanted to design a modern clinic with fun, bold colors. However, her interior designer wasn’t so sure.

“At first my interior designer was a little worried about my color choices,” Dr. Finan says. “But it all turned out beautifully—we're always receiving compliments on our choice of paint colors.”

The red accent wall brightens up the surgery room, but that's not Dr. Finan's favorite feature: "The new LED surgery lights are great. They're bright and don't heat up the surgery suite." Photo courtesy of Richard Lanenga | Richard Lanenga Photography

If you want to brighten up your clinic but don’t want to overwhelm a room, take a cue from this team and add accent wall colors throughout your hospital. At Finan Animal Hospital you can find a purple wall behind the reception desk, a red one in surgery, lime green in the treatment area, and so on.“I wanted bright, vibrant accent walls to contrast with the more neutral colors in the rest of the hospital,” Dr. Finan says. “The color palette and my custom artwork really give the clinic my own signature.”  Dr. Finan made sure her style was well represented in the new clinic: "We incorporated little touches to add some of my own personality: brightly colored accent walls, eclectic light fixtures and large colorful paintings." These paintings can be spotted throughout the clinic. Photo courtesy of Richard Lanenga | Richard Lanenga Photography

Reuse and repurpose

Finan Animal Hospital’s current space, located in a commercial strip mall, used to be a mattress store. Dr. Finan says this was ideal, because the building was one large, open space with no walls. More positives came from what previous tenants left behind: a staff bathroom, an HVAC unit and leftover light fixtures were all salvaged and repurposed in the new clinic.

“The flooring in the mattress store was hardwood in great condition, so we removed it carefully and donated it to Habitat for Humanity,” she says.

Two exam rooms exit to the treatment area, and there's a viewing window from the doctor's office into treatment. There's also built-in shelving, plenty of cabinet storage, staff workstations and, best of all, a skylight. Dr. Finan calls it a must-have: "I wanted my staff to have lots of sunlight to keep spirits high. Natural light and high ceilings make a small space feel much bigger." Photo courtesy of Richard Lanenga | Richard Lanenga Photography

Drive a hard bargain

Taking on your first hospital project can be stressful to say the least. However, Dr. Finan quickly learned when to ask for help, when to do her own research and when to stick to her guns. Her No. 1 piece of advice? Hire a construction management team with experience building an animal hospital. 

Dr. Finan thought about her patients first in her hospital design, especially when it came to separate dog and cat wards. "The cat and dog wards are located on opposite sides of treatment to keep stress to a minimum," she says. Her big piece of species-friendly advice? Soundproof your wards and install plenty of ventilation to keep the air circulating. Photo courtesy of Richard Lanenga | Richard Lanenga Photography

“It made the process so much easier—they knew what brand of cages were the sturdiest, what type of flooring held up best against sharp nails and daily mopping, and what building specifications I’d need for AAHA certification,” Dr. Finan says.

She also recommends researching veterinary equipment ahead of time so you know what you want and where to get it early in the construction process.  That ways when your contractor tells you he’s ready for the surgery lights, you have them ordered and ready.

“My last piece of advice: Everything is negotiable,” Dr. Finan says. “As a solo female owner, it was important to me that I was firm in my negotiations and assertive when necessary.” 

To see a full photo tour of this hospital click here.

Ashley Griffin is a freelance writer based in Kansas City and a former content specialist for dvm360.