It relaxes you the second you walk in the door,” Barnard resident Paul Stephenson said of the newly renovated Stone Dental offices in Woodstock, Vermont.
This might seem a strange description of a dental office, but given the rave reviews the recent renovation conducted by Trumbull-Nelson is receiving, it may be apt. A subtle, soothing color palette of stone, sepia, beige, and black combine with light wood and sparse, almost Oriental fixtures. They work together to create an atmosphere in Stone Dental’s expanded and refurbished offices that is as sophisticated as any modern business suite, as elegant as an urban art gallery, and as calming as a neighborhood yoga studio. It is at once welcoming and surprising—could this really be a dentist’s office, one is tempted to ask?
The answer is “yes,” and the effect is deliberate, a reflection of Dr. Margaret “Peggy” Stone’s concern for her patient’s overall health.
“She understands that dental health doesn’t stop at the neck and that the mouth is connected to the rest of the body. Caring about the environment is part of that. It’s very her. This office reflects her beliefs,” said Stone Dental’s business manager Wittie Lynn.
When Peggy first said she was going to be doing this I thought ‘great,’ but this is way beyond what I envisioned.”
Stone’s interest in providing a comforting environment for her clients has always been evident in her décor, but the aesthetic difference following the redesign has been striking. Lynn categorizes the previous look as “friendly” and “country,” while today’s Stone Dental definitely attempts to establish a Zen-like space.
“When Peggy first said she was going to be doing this I thought ‘great,’ but this is way beyond what I envisioned,” said Stephenson, a long-time client.
Stone has been practicing dentistry in Woodstock for over 17 years, having moved to the area from Michigan because of a love of Vermont. Her practice grew from one dentist with one assistant, one front desk person and one hygienist to her present staff of eight women including three hygienists, two assistants, two front desk people and a business manager, located on the fourth floor of the Sunset Farm building. One of the disadvantages of this growth has been the subsequent cramped quarters, which led to the recent expansion and purchase of a second condo unit across the hall. The resulting expansion now gives the practice approximately 2,000 square feet of space, a little less than double its previous amount.
Stone Dental’s quarters prior to the renovation by Trumbull-Nelson consisted of four operatories, as well as a doctor’s office, conference room, waiting room, front desk, and small staff room with standing room only for eating.
“We had so outgrown the space that we had no room for anything and there was no privacy for the patients,” said Lynn.
As a result, Stone purchased the condo across the hall and began a construction process that had every potential to be a nightmare, but turned into what Lynn describes as “a really amazing” renovation, noting that Trumbull-Nelson “did it all without us having to shut down.”
“I don’t know about you, but I could use a couple of Valium when I go to the dentist,” joked Trumbull-Nelson’s Rob Campbell, who served as the superintendent on the job, referring to the fear that many people feel in visiting the dentist’s office.
Imagine this stress compounded by pounding hammers and construction debris. This was the concern the staff at Stone Dental had going into the renovation, but it proved an unnecessary one as Trumbull-Nelson coordinated with staff to work around patient appointments and make the construction process as low key as possible. Lynn estimated that during the eight-month construction period, the practice only had to be closed for three days, most of these because they were working on plumbing and the water had to be shut off.
To avoid disturbing patients, Trumbull-Nelson would do its nosiest work during off hours. The practice only operated four days a week and patients would frequently not arrive until 9:00 a.m. or 9:30 a.m., providing some wiggle room. Stone Dental’s staff was also helpful in letting the crew know when a particularly nervous patient was on site or a complex procedure was occurring. Trumbull-Nelson also tented everything to control dust and created pathways for patients to walk through that kept construction “behind the scenes.”
“Our clients were curious and would often ask what was going on, but no one ever complained,” said Lynn.
Simplifying the effect on patients was the fact that two office suites were involved, allowing the dentists and hygienists to make use of one suite while another was under construction. Today, this design allows the treatment facility to be housed across the hall from the administrative offices and reception area, offering more privacy for patients and a more calming aesthetic as the everyday sounds of a dental office—such as drills—are kept at bay.
Construction began in April 2008 and was completed in December. The first part of the project involved gutting the new condo and creating a new administrative area, staff room, doctor’s office, consult room, and impressive front desk area, one of the highlights of the renovation.
“I would say one of the main reasons we went with Trumbull-Nelson was because of our front desk design. Other companies suggested that instead of a curve we go with angles, as it would be less expensive or easier to do. Trumbull-Nelson said ‘no problem,’” said Lynn.
Trumbull-Nelson’s carpentry shop oversaw the construction of the reception desk, which includes a matching arched soffit above to house a curved light fixture. The desk consists of maple wood that the carpenters bent to create the curve as well as glass tile and hand-cut marble. “The whole reception desk was quite a feat,” said Campbell. Visitors consider it one of the office’s most stunning fixtures.
“The main reason we went with Trumbull-Nelson was because of our front desk design. Other companies suggested that instead of a curve we go with angles, as it would be less expensive or easier to do. Trumbull-Nelson said ‘no problem.’”
“The curve was important to us. We wanted patients to come in and to feel welcomed and peaceful. A curve creates this feeling better than angles,” said Lynn.
Lynn praises Campbell and the Project Manager, Jay Hoag for being able to come up with design solutions, helping install fixtures that were not part of the original design such as a waterfall sculpture in the reception area and a panel system to close off an area of the doctor’s office. Campbell noted that one of the major challenges with the project involved mechanical and plumbing. “People don’t realize how mechanical a dentist’s office is with all the sinks, x-rays, air, etc,” he said.
The fact that the practice was located on the top floor of an older building also posed a challenge, as the plumbing and mechanical had to be redone to Code. Trumbull-Nelson ended up adding an attic room for mechanical and storage. Trumbull-Nelson also incorporated other extra spaces throughout the facility, such as cabinets for office products and a tech closet to hold the server, music, and telephone systems. As part of the renovation, Stone Dental went digital, eliminating paper charts. The practice not only relies on digital x-rays, but also provides an array of electronic conveniences for patients from flat screen televisions and ipods in the treatment rooms to free wi-fi in the waiting rooms.
“The care there has always been excellent, the office redesign only makes it better. You feel like you are being nurtured and pampered in a way I have never experienced at a dentist’s office before,” concluded Stephenson.