A Contemporary Classic
It seems somehow fitting that Rachel Nguyen turned to the Internet to find a designer for Eye Needs, a new Richmond, Texas dispensary. The shop, which sits in the Waterside Marketplace shopping mall, boasts its own web site and Facebook page—tell-tale signs that Nguyen and her partner optometrist Dr. Nancy Nguyen (not related) are more than comfortable with the inner-workings of today’s virtual landscape.
That Nguyen, manager and optician, found herself in the capable hands of design director Cy Furman of San Francisco-based Magic Designs proved to be another comfortable fit. Nguyen was looking for something new and different, and Furman had just the thing.
“I had a new design I was playing with on the computer,” says Furman. “So when she contacted me and said she was hoping to find something that hadn’t been done before, I was excited for her to see what I was working on.”
The resulting design—Intersections—sports a contemporary look within a customized “Design-to-Fit” program. Dispensers can change the color and size of the cabinets, play with table shapes and incorporate additional design elements at a nominal cost. “It’s simple. Uncomplicated,” says Furman. “And it speaks directly to the bottom line of retailing without sacrificing its professional edge.”
“This really was exactly what we needed,” says Nguyen, who coveted an interior design that would both entice and appeal to clients, while fostering an increase in eyewear sales. “It’s clean and simple, but has a lot of impact.”
Working via email, phone and Internet with Furman proved to be a good experience for Nguyen. “Our architect sent him the correct measurements and he took over from there. The fixtures arrived on time and were easy to set up and install.”
The shop, which opened in February, caters to family eyecare with an emphasis on comprehensive eye exams for eyeglasses and contact lenses.
Approximately 650 frames, including styles from Versace, Kate Spade, Michael Kors and Nine West, are neatly displayed on frame boards and inside lockable showcases. There are storage cabinets below the displays and customized features—including extra drawer space—that speak directly to the individual needs of the store. The dark wood display cabinets, dispensing tables and mirror backs are linked thematically by soft curves and sharp angles. Similar curves and angles turn the vibrantly colored walls and sofits into focal points, while spot lighting highlights the frames and creates interesting shadows.
The overall look and feel of the dispensary is very retail-centric and one that Nguyen says patients truly appreciate. “Someone is always commenting on the colors and the displays. And the eyewear reps love it too.”
Furman credits Nguyen with adding many of the finishing touches. The vibrant green wall, the whimsical area rug—“She wanted to create a memorable marketing image with her own artful interpretation of an optical boutique.” According to Furman, the budget for displays was approximately $39,000.
“Even though the look is young and trendy, it has broad appeal. Our clients tend to be older suburbanites and they really appreciate the new design,” says Nguyen.
Furman agrees. “It’s a look that is really taking off and one that offers an alternative to the more traditional, masculine designs that have been so popular over the years. Because the price is right, it’s a very cost effective way to achieve something special. I think we really struck a chord with this.”
Seeing the Light
The Portland, Ore. suburb of Oregon City is a hub for medical services in the areas south and east of the city. It is also home to Eye Health Northwest, a branch of a small optical chain that has services ranging from pediatric vision care and laser vision correction to cataract and glaucoma treatment. The clinic, located on a busy street right beside a hospital, medical building and retirement center, caters to all ages, but the elderly population in particular. By the summer of 2009, the staff realized that their dispensary no longer had an appearance that matched their professional office, so they teamed up with Fashion Optical Displays and an interior designer to plan a redesign.
The ultimate irony in optical is having an unsightly dispensary. But at Eye Health Northwest that was exactly the case. Director of optical operations, Bill MacGillivray, says the practice had a bad case of unflattering colors and dim lighting. “Everything was brown and poorly lit,” he explains. “The carpet and the background of the frame displays were brown. The fixture over the front desk was yellow and it flickered incessantly. The lighting around the frames was greenish.”
Not only did the lighting and coloring make for an unattractive workspace, it proved distracting when trying on frames. “Because of the brown background in the frame displays, the frames themselves blended in and were very hard to see. The colors of the frames got lost,” says MacGillivray. “And when you’re trying on frames, you want warmer tones. The lighting prevented customers from seeing how the frames looked on them.”
Orders were placed for materials in July 2009 and renovations were underway by August. So as not to interrupt the flow of business, much of the construction took place after normal business hours. The dispensary, with an ample 1,000 square feet to work with, began to take shape. “Some construction needed to be done while we kept the dispensary operating, so we had to have the crew work nights to be able to accommodate our patients,” explains MacGillivray. “The contractors worked quickly and got the job done.”
When it came to implementing the displays, Lori Estrada, designer for Fashion Optical Displays, was already a seasoned veteran working with Eye Health Northwest, having collaborated on several other branches previously. She identified the lighting issue in the dispensary and devised a way to brighten it up and give it a new look. “We put in ètagéres, shelving units that are see-through to open up the space,” she explains. “I made sure the displays were well-lit, with SRT [Shadow Reduction Technology] panels behind the frames, especially for the special collections and high-end product. Then we added some new dispensing tables.”
To accompany the newly furnished office, the staff decided the color needed some freshening up. “We picked the colors of muted purple and pale yellow to create interest, brighten up the space and coordinate with the rest of the office,” says Cindy Rowe, practice administrator. “We started with a fabric sample and developed the color scheme around it.” The new color scheme completed the look.
The dispensing area has gotten a lot of attention for its makeover. “It was a very dramatic difference,” says MacGillivray. “People could definitely see the change and have commented on how good it looks.” And the frame displays—hosting an assortment of frame lines such as Oakley, Maui Jim, Ray-Ban, Gucci and Dior—don’t get lost in their displays anymore. Along with their point-of-purchase materials and the newly lit shelving, they stand out, as does the new professional look of Eye Health Northwest.
The New European Chic
David Wolf, OD has been in practice since 1983. So when he opened Oregon Eye Physicians and Surgeons in 2009 it was important that his new dispensary reflected his 26 years of experience as an optometrist.
Dr. Wolf’s goal was simple: “We wanted an office that looked as good as the care we’re committed to bringing to our patients.” To help accomplish this he turned to Eye Designs, who quickly determined that their new Milan style would fit the bill perfectly.
For Dr. Wolf, Eye Design was a natural choice, “I met Alan Winig [of Eye Design] at Vision Expo West a couple of years ago and knew he was on the cutting edge. He is always truly excited about his company and asked me to trust him to bring a design to my office that would exceed my expectations. I love this office,” says the OD.
“The design needed to be open, with great displays and modern finishes,” adds Dr. Wolf. “The flow of the office needed to be both doctor and patient friendly.”
As always, Eye Designs focused on bringing a one-of-a-kind feel to the dispensary. “Our initial idea was to create a unique environment for this space,” notes Tracy Winig, the designer. “The client followed our direction on carpet selection, paint colors, lighting and seating, which helped the project turn out exactly how it was designed.”
With the help of Eye Design, Dr. Wolf’s latest location has really caught the attention of his patients. “Patients love the design. The colors and the layout have garnered a lot of attention from patients who have been coming to us for years. And the displays hold a lot of different styles and are very accessible.”
With a 600-square-foot dispensary and 3,500- square-foot office space to fill out, Eye Designs had no constraints in achieving the upscale feel Dr. Wolf was going for. “Eye Designs picked out all the furniture, colors and carpet to complement the Milan design.”
“There was a problem with the lead time for the carpet we wanted to use,” Winig says. “We almost weren’t able to get the order put through in time, but in the end we made it in the nick of time. This was really important, because the way the carpet integrates with the rest of the colors and design elements in the office is one of the reasons this space works so well.”
Ultimately, the final product was very close to the original concepts. Eye Designs was able to bring a sophisticated, contemporary and international feel to the dispensary that really fit the practice and the patients. One element that the staff is particularly fond of is the lighted frame displays. “The frame boards add a lot of depth and versatility to the display cases and they do a great job of accenting the wonderful selection of frames we’ve put together.”
In the end, both the designers and owners are thrilled with the way the office and the dispensary turned out. After 27 years in practice, many optometrists might be happy to maintain the status quo, but Dr. Wolf and his staff have challenged themselves to grow and to stay contemporary. With the help of Eye Design and their designer Tracy Winig, they’ve exceeded their goals.