This Chic Dental Office Will Make You Long for Your Next Cleaning

Slate’s design blog.
Nov. 18 2013 11:31 AM

This Chic Dental Office Will Make You Long for Your Next Cleaning

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This charming Parisian dentist's office proves that medical facilities don't have to be impersonal.

Courtesy of Franck Evennou

Many of us think of the dentist's office as a sterile torture chamber, not a place for visual inspiration. But one interior design-savvy Parisian dentist says that her patients arrive for a checkup and end up asking for decorating tips.

Every inch of the 160-square-foot office, located in a converted apartment in a Haussmannian building in the 8th arrondissement, has been thoughtfully decorated by French interior designer Marianne Evennou. The design brief was to create a charming, relaxing, and aesthetically pleasing work space that makes you wonder why dentist’s offices have to look so clinical.

Not every Parisian dentist has a stylish office, but since there are many medical offices located in mixed residential buildings, it’s not unheard of to encounter the kind of décor that reveals something about the practitioner and has a personal feel that is foreign to those who grew up sitting on stiff chairs in fluorescent-lit waiting rooms for our root canals. I have seen Parisian doctor’s waiting rooms decorated with Persian rugs, baby grand pianos, velvet-tufted antique sofas, and oil paintings (though my own albeit beloved dentist’s quarters are located in a tile-floored, nondescript building, his reception room a hodgepodge of old wicker furniture and ancient magazines).

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“It’s a question of sensibility,” says the dentist, whose name I am not allowed to use because of a bizarre French law prohibiting medical professionals from doing any publicity whatsoever. “Some [dentists] give no importance to decoration. But I really like the art of living objects that are beautiful, for me it’s something pretty indispensable to work in a pretty environment.”

The dentist first asked Evennou to redecorate her own apartment.

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The designer's sketch includes the custom-made console and pendant lights wired from a rosette in the ceiling of the Haussmannian building where the office is located.

Sketch by Marianne Evennou

“I felt so good there I thought why should I work all day in a banal environment?” she says. So last year she asked Evennou to renovate her office space as well, which was featured in the French magazine Côté Paris.

While some might bristle at the thought of having a medical procedure in anything less than a nondescript white room, the dentist says that she and Evennou chose materials for countertops and equipment that were hygienic and easy to clean and sterilize.

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In addition to the standard medical equipment, the dental office has personal touches like a teaching model of a tooth, a vintage barber's mirror, and magnetic photo frames that can be switched out at will.

Courtesy of Franck Evennou

“She is very, very practical, and was very precise about ergonomics, the number of drawers she needed, the height things needed to be for her work,” the designer says of her client, adding that she used herself as a muse when conceptualizing the decorative touches that create such an unusually soothing atmosphere. “I’m of the generation that associates the doctor’s office with pain and fear. So I identified with the patients. I wanted to create an atmosphere that was very soft and zen so they would be as relaxed as possible.”

Charming gray-painted wooden drawers on a built-in storage unit had a retro apothecary feel, but plastic containers from Muji are used for storing materials. A vintage Saarinen table and chairs and mirrors were found online and at the flea market. A narrow made-to-measure console and hanging pendant lights give it a casually chic vibe.

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Instead of outfitting her office with a desk, the dentist chose a vintage Saarinen table and chairs to promote a relaxed atmosphere and encourage conversation.

Courtesy of Franck Evennou

Details like porcelain cups with tooth root-inspired legs make it more cabinet of curiosities than cabinet dentaire. “Marianne really goes to the extreme; she’s a maniac about details,” the dentist says. “My patients are won over, they adore it. As soon as they come in, they look around, a bit amazed by everything. It opens up a dialogue that relaxes the atmosphere, and we end up being able to talk about things other than the procedures. Because this profession is all about human relations, after all.”

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Every detail of the dentist office reflects a concern for aesthetics as well as ergonomics and hygiene.

Courtesy of Franck Evennou

But if this dentist uses her décor in part to get her patients' minds off their nerves, once it's time to get down to business she doesn't use the flat screens that many modern dental offices employ to distract patients. The wall opposite the dentist chair is covered with crowd-pleasing Cole & Son birchwood wallpaper. “Watching TV is passive,” she says. “I play sort of New Age piano music, and they have something concrete to look at that each person can interpret according to their own sensibility. It lets them escape into their imaginations.”

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The designer's conceptual sketch for the dental office.

Sketch by Marianne Evennou

Kristin Hohenadel's writing on design has appeared in publications including the New York Times, Fast Company, Vogue, Elle Decor, Lonny, and Apartment Therapy.