Creating the Wow Factor in Your New Office

(Mark Tholen, DDS, MBA is our guest blogger today at Sidekick Magazine)

I am frequently asked how to create an office that will immediately impress the new patient and serve to quickly reinforce their choice for dental treatment. The term “wow factor” is the phrase most often employed in this question posed to me. Usually, I reply to the doctor’s question with a question: why do you want a “wow factor”?

You might think it odd to answer a question with a question, but it is important to articulate the architectural objective or desired (emotional) impact of a particular space. The anticipated response to my question would be a desire to communicate the quality of care delivered to patients in the practice through the office appearance. The mosaic of office appearance is created with lighting, flooring, wall coverings, furniture / accessories, and equipment.

But lighting is the 800 pound gorilla of design.

How is effective, accentuating, elegant lighting created in certain restaurants, art galleries, churches, and even dental or medical facilities? Are certain projects lucky enough to have an architect or interior designer on the job site? Do you ‘fortunately’ find a talented electrical contractor who has great taste? How does it happen that you would meticulously consider the floor plan, carefully select all the furniture, finishes (wall coverings and flooring), and artwork for the office, but the completed facility results in an ambiance that is ‘o.k.’? What is the difference between a ‘nice’ office and a beautiful office?


Light invites people into a space. It gives them permission to enter. It draws people to itself. Light has powerful subliminal messages of invitation, trust, and competence that can be effectively communicated, throughout the office, to the patients.

Think about the possibilities: light spilling from the clinical treatment rooms or operatories into the clinical treatment corridor (Fig. 1), elegant pendant lighting in the consultation room (Fig. 2), or light accentuating technology such as radiographic units. In other words, use lighting to create an effect that has a purpose.

And all of this can be obtained for approximately seven dollars per square foot. There is no other component of the office that can make such a dramatic statement to your patients for such a small expenditure; lighting is the greatest interior design value of the office!