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Designer Sarah Ward uses minimalism and biophilic design to inspire a calming and Instagram-worthy aesthetic.
Let’s face it, nobody likes going to the dentist. For most, a trip to the dentist’s chair is a dreaded necessity while for others it can be a source of major anxiety and even fear (it’s called dentophobia and it’s more common than you’d think.)
Credit: Joel Klassen
Knowing this, designer Sarah Ward of Sarah Ward Interiors takes a different approach with the design of Swish, a new hip dental clinic that opened in Calgary. “We wanted a design that was low anxiety, interesting and compelling for people to want to come to,” says Ward. This meant that every design decision had to consider how it would make the patient feel. “We did research into the science behind the design, the physiological benefits—certain colour tones make you feel calmer,” explains Ward.
The pale blue-toned walls and soft whites in the space keep the space feeling light and airy while edges are rounded on furniture pieces, the reception desk and doorways for relaxed feel. The riff-cut white oak in the floors, ceiling and accent pieces throughout the clinic keep the overall vibe grounded and natural.
Elements of biophilic design keep this clinic from feeling sterile, but it’s more than just adding plants. “I think part of what we’ve seen in the industry is that people just throw plants into a project and call it a biophilic project,” explains Ward. “I didn’t want to approach it in that way.” Despite there being plants on shelves, the designer puts care into being intentional with the greenery. “We did design a planter box behind one of the banquets in the reception window area to incorporate plants in a meaningful way.”
The result is a Pinterest-worthy (and TikTok’d about) minimalist design that feels minty-fresh with soft pastels, creamy whites and bright natural light. “We made a really conscious decision to maintain a slight clinical reference within the interior,” explains Ward. “Because I think it was important to have that certain sense of cleanliness that people are used to.”
It is a clinic after all—but that doesn’t mean the vibe needs to be clinical.
The exterior of the building is also an inspiration for the design with the stunning slatted wood exterior and curvatures of the building being emulated in the vertical wooden dowels surrounding the consultation room and in moments throughout the space. “We really don’t get the opportunity to do this very often, to bring the exterior inward, and the building architecture is very interesting,” explains Ward. “We wanted to bring that curvature and the slatted exterior inside.”
The designer also wanted to keep things intuitive to navigate with one sweeping corridor from the front to the back of the clinic for a zen-like flow. The light was also prioritized in the space for its health benefits. “Access to natural light and views are extremely beneficial to us healthwise,” explains Ward. “That’s why every patient area is focused along the windows and we did as much glazing as we did.”
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