Medical Design Space: Medical Co-Op Reinvigorates Age-Old Interior

by Susan Belknapp

Combining medical businesses and California Vein Specialist and About Face Medical Aesthetics were co-founded in 2001 by Kenneth Jesser M.D. and J. Michael Leary M.D., FACEP. They now have three offices throughout Southern California: Palm Desert, La Quinta and Newport Beach.

The Newport Beach office, at 400 Westminster Avenue, occupies a coveted location on a V-shaped corner adjacent to illustrious Hoag Hospital, just a few blocks from Newport Harbor. The pre-WWII building underwent some dramatic renovations in order to house the medical offices, treatment rooms and training center.

Dr. Leary, recognized for his skill in performing Endoveanous Laser Treatments, is Diomed Laser’s only national physician trainer in California. Physicians from all over the U.S. come to these offices to be trained by Dr. Leary.

Practice Manager Wendy Metzger headed the recent interior design makeover. “The trick is to bring warmth and comfort to a sterile environment,” says Metzger. “Because first and foremost, this is a surgical center.”

California Vein Specialists provides a broad range of medical and cosmetic vein treatments, from laser therapy to sclerotherapy, large and small varicose vein procedures, to elimination of spider veins and veins on the face. About Faces Medical Aesthetics treats all manner of skin rejuvenation, wrinkle removal, scar and acne treatments, cosmetic injectables and therapeutic massage.

Starting with the lobby, Metzger chose to showcase the historic feel of the building, with its large windows, plaster walls, asymmetric angles and original moldings.

“I wanted to create a welcoming environment that didn’t say, ‘doctor’s office,’” says Metzger. “Our patients should feel at ease from the moment they arrive.”

She achieved this by utilizing the abundant natural light and contrasting the tile floors with overstuffed chairs and an earth-toned sofa. Wooden tables, a black wood wall unit and bamboo trees – which symbolize good luck – give the room a decidedly Moroccan feel. The fluid angles of the furniture complement the clean, natural lines of the plants. Two straight-backed leather chairs on the opposite side of the room anchor the area. Glass tea light candleholders and decorative accents provide homey touches for the room.

“We decorate for every holiday,” says Metzger. On this day, pink and red Valentine’s hearts dangled from the ceiling. A flat screen TV is suspended on the main wall to inform patients and prospective patients about the revolutionary treatments available at California Vein Specialists and About Faces Medical Aesthetics.

Large floral paintings on canvas line either side of the main hallway. “We are in the process of creating a ‘before and after’ gallery along one wall,” says Metzger.

Each treatment room is decorated with the comfort of the patient in mind. The massage therapy room has muted lighting and cozy décor. Metzger uses fresh flowers and touches of whimsy to keep the atmosphere bright. Opaque-nylon clad acrylic legs are placed on high shelves as a type of representative sculpture.”
The surgical treatment room was the most difficult,” says Metzger. “And it’s still a work in progress.” A mounted fish tank, vases and knickknacks on carved shelves provide touches of color and texture to the hygienic atmosphere. The white wooden blinds, which line an entire wall, are accented with decorative cloth tape in a rich brown.

“One thing that made it infinitely more functional is our new ultrasound system,” says Dr. Leary, who specializes in sclerotherapy. “The previous set-up was the size of a refrigerator, tethered by cables and wires.” The current system is essentially a laptop, which is maneuvered easily on a metal cart; the display monitor is a large flat screen in the corner, which gives the doctor, assistants and trainees an unprecedented view of the procedures.

Because of Dr. Leary’s status as a national trainer, he frequently has several doctors observing and learning the intricate treatments and they need full viewing access. With the small monitor of the earlier system, this was next to impossible.

“This makes it so much more comfortable and functional as a training facility,” says Metzger. “This way everyone can see without crowding each other or the patient.”

Metzger and Dr. Leary credit the uniqueness of the building for much of the office’s overall charm.

“People really seem to respond to this old building,” says Dr. Leary. “I don’t know if it’s the permanence or the unusual touches, but it seems to foster a sense of comfort for our patients.”