Not far from Johnny Carson’s old Tonight Show studio, an inventive pediatric practice—whose construction was delayed by the pandemic—has taken root as the professional home of a gifted husband-and-wife team offering sterling care to SoCal kids. Heeeeeeere’s dentistry!

ALTHOUGH IT WAS first made famous by Johnny Carson and is home to an airport named for Bob Hope, Burbank, California, offers something of a small-town vibe despite its proximity to starry Los Angeles. East Valley Children’s Dentistry in Burbank might be the other way around: Located a dozen miles north of Downtown L.A., this 1,760-square-foot practice feels thoroughly expansive in both concept and presentation.

Hand-painted murals, textured walls and floor-to-ceiling windows set the tone, but the visionary thinking of husband-and-wife dental team Dr. Norman Chen, 33, and Dr. Catherine Pham, 31—both members of the 2021 Incisal Edge 40 Under 40—is what truly energizes the space.

Six appeal: Hexagons are a recurring motif throughout the entry and reception area, and the color palette, Dr. Chen says, is intended “to bring feelings of nature and growth.”

The city maintains its roots in its deep history and is set in front of beautiful rolling hills,” Dr. Chen says, referring to the Verdugo Mountains, “and we wanted to incorporate these elements inside the office. We wanted light green, to bring feelings of nature and growth, to be a key component of the design. From there, the subtle blues, pastel yellows and wood textures easily came together. Ultimately, we wanted to create a kid-friendly environment that was still calming and not overstimulating.”

The doctors even dedicated prime real estate in the entry to honor one consequential clinician: the city’s namesake, Dr. David Burbank. In the 1850s, his pioneering spirit drew him from his New Hampshire dental practice to California. The spot where he later erected the Burbank Villa Hotel is significant to East Valley Children’s Dentistry. “Our office building resides where the property used to be,” Dr. Chen says. “We created a small section above our coffee bar in the reception area to honor this piece of history of the city.”

“Ultimately, we wanted to create a kid-friendly environment that was still calming and not overstimulating.”

rs. Chen and Pham were courageous adventurers in their own right, facing pandemic delays as they sought to get the practice up and running. “We signed the lease at the end of 2019,” Dr. Chen says. “The original time frame was six months, with an expec­ted opening in June 2020.” They wouldn’t open their doors until May 2021. “The shutdown was particularly difficult. We spent a large initial investment and were already committed to the project.” Rumors of potential new regulations vexed them. “At one point, we questioned if we were allowed an open bay or if we needed negative-pressure air systems.”

Permitting took what Dr. Chen calls “a horrendous nine months” to complete, and a further six-month construction delay slowed things further. “We count our blessings, however. We were lucky enough to finish the project before there were supply shortages.” The total cost, inclusive of construction, equipment, IT, legal fees and much else, came in just shy of $558,000, roughly $317 per square foot.

Nice curves: The subtle undulation of the central lighting panel is echoed in the texture of the facing white wall. Note the flat-screens mounted on the ceiling for viewing while prone.

The result certainly makes the wait seem more tolerable in retrospect. Televisions on the ceiling, plus toy and sticker walls next to the welcome door, charm young patients, while the individualized care and support for the kids’ well-being help build lasting relationships with parents. “Aspects of the office are curated to each child,” Dr. Chen says. “Immediately after check-in, families are offered a drink from our complimentary coffee and beverage bar. Right beyond the reception room is a glass door where we write a personalized welcome sign to each of our new patients.”

Design Tip

““My wife and I have just been blessed with the birth of our baby daughter. I have come to learn that creating an office is like raising a child: It takes a village. Surround yourself with good people and rely on their expertise to guide you. However, at the end of the day, this is your office, and you must advocate for what you believe is best. There will be obstacles and unforeseen mishaps, but be flexible. It’s daunting and stressful, but creating an office is entirely fun as well. Make sure to take the time to congratulate yourself and enjoy the process.” —Dr. Norman Chen

Dr. Chen is effusive about Deborah Wiswesser, the interior designer who was, he says, “instrumental in bringing our vision to life.” Likewise one late addition to the open bay area: a showstopping mural by Mikala Taylor, an artist in Orange County.

“We knew the open bay was missing a central point of attention, and we decided a mural would be the best option,” Dr. Chen says. “[Taylor] came up with the idea of the saying, ‘Everyone smiles in the same language,’ which we loved immediately.” As each patient prepares to exit, the last stop is for a family Polaroid picture in front of that serene scene. “The message helps reinforce the feeling of togetherness and belonging.


The Design Team
Photography: Andrew Orozco, Open House VC
Real Estate: RJ Przebinda, Gold Leaf Group
Interior Design: Deborah Wiswesser, Form & Function Interior Design
Contractor: MARB Construction
Architect: Jim O’Brien Architecture & Interiors
MEP: Building Solutions Group MEP
Dental Designer: Deborah Wiswesser, Form & Function Interior Design
Equipment Specialist: Al Galvis, Benco Dental
Territory Rep: Bob Frein, Benco Dental
Muralist: Mikala Taylor