In bustling Austin, Texas, a married duo of doctors created a home for their periodontic practice that just feels right: bright, open, welcoming and precisely attuned to patients and team alike.
IF YOU’RE A SPECIALIST who’s busy, perhaps even overextended, you already know how it feels. If not, picture this: You’re booked out months in advance. The office you built eight years back exceeded your expectations long ago, and your attempt to expand into a second, existing space didn’t work out due to space constraints and a general lack of suitability. So here you are, amid the massive urban sprawl of Austin, Texas, with its exploding population, and you need somewhere to go. Not just anywhere, though.
Facing this not insignificant challenge, the owners of Texas Periodontists, husband-and-wife team Dr. Sid Gupta and Dr. Sree Bodapati, decided it was time to build from scratch once again as they had done in northern Austin, but this time on the city’s south end. “Austin is more expensive than the suburbs, but it’s central, and that’s what patients prefer. They don’t mind traveling for the right fit,” Dr. Bodapati explains. “As specialists, people see us once. We really have to get everything exactly right.”
The doctors’ previous South Austin location had three ops, and they quickly outgrew it. “It didn’t have closed treatment rooms, which I consider a must for patient privacy,” Dr. Bodapati says. In addition to privacy concerns, the rooms were too small for patients, not to mention the significant amount of technology needing accommodation. “It’s really a simple test. If I feel claustrophobic, then I know patients do too. That was one of the important criteria for the new office. We wanted ops larger than what’s considered standard.”
Those weren’t the only important considerations facing the couple. “We already knew what our space requirements would be, especially having outgrown the last location. That didn’t concern us because we were clear about that. What we really wanted this time was to own the space,” Dr. Bodapati says. “We leased the last two, and this time, we were adamant about having the control that comes with ownership.”
If I feel claustrophobic, then I know patients do too. That was important: We wanted ops larger than standard.”
In practical terms, their laser focus on patient experiences dictated where they could—and could not—buy. “It was essentially nonnegotiable that the office needed to be on the first floor. A lot of our patients are older, and they’re coming for surgery,
so that was vital in terms of comfort and accessibility.”
Luckily, they were able to satisfy all major requirements in a modern, recently constructed multi-unit building that’s welcoming and set among a swath of pretty landscaping. That last part was hardly an afterthought, given that Dr. Bodapati is a big proponent of using natural light wherever possible, and of letting the outside in. Their corner office had all the potential in the world, so the next step was finding the right design partner.
After a previous bad experience (which they chalked up as “probably once in a lifetime, but still bad”), the doctors were open to proposals from multiple designers. They settled on Benco Dental and designer Angèle Hashoul. “We simply liked Angèle’s plan and presentation.”
“The design inspiration was based on Dr. Bodapati and Dr. Gupta’s love of nature and curvilinear interior elements,” Hashoul says. “So their design followed this concept through the office by using curved surfaces, plus glass to transmit lighting into the corridors and wood slats for warmth and a friendly feel.”
It turned out to be a perfect expression of the partners’ current design sensibilities, as well as an evolution from their original North Austin location. “When it comes to natural light and organic shapes and colors, that has always been a personal preference,” Dr. Bodapati says. “In our first office, we employed more vibrant colors, whereas we think the new office is more subtle and contemporary.”
While the space itself is relatively tidy, those design elements are cleverly deployed to make it look and feel much more spacious and open than it might otherwise seem. Take the reception area: Its soft colors and gentle mix of textures conspire to create a soothing effect that flows seamlessly down the hall and into the operatories. It invites patients in, carefully avoiding any psychological barriers that might contribute to anxiety. At the same time, it’s clean, organized and clearly home to cutting-edge care without feeling like a hospital.
When it comes to practice planning, Dr. Bodapati more often tackles the aesthetic aspects, while Dr. Gupta is the equipment and technology guru. His passion for innovation came in handy, since the duo mostly needed all-new equipment, bringing almost nothing over from the previous space. On the bright side, they credit their Benco Equipment Specialist, Paul Thompson, with being a great collaborator. “I was happy to leave the equipment selection up to my husband and Paul,” Dr. Bodapati says.
Overall sacrifices were few, but the doctors didn’t quite get everything they’d hoped for. “We always had tiny offices, and this time I really wanted something bigger,” Dr. Bodapati says. “Anytime we needed room, we gave up space in our office. It’s now the tiniest area here, which is fine. We don’t want to sit in our office, anyway; we want to be seeing patients. Maybe next time.”
And there will be a next time, according to the doctors, with luck sooner rather than later. When Incisal Edge spoke with Dr. Bodapati in October, the practice was already booked out through the end of the year. “We would love to expand to a third office,” she says, “but we need to find the right associate. We can’t rush that, but it’s something we’re actively working on.”
While she loves how their South Austin office came to fruition, she’s also not rigidly attached to a certain lifespan for the space. “I’m not a planner. It would be nice if we got 10 years out of this office, but if we need to renovate, we’ll renovate. It’s not something I worry about. I’m an optimist and I just have faith that things will work out if I really focus on patients. I had seven years of experience when I built my first practice, and patients liked me, so I was busy from the time I opened.”
Her advice to others planning a practice? “You don’t need to spend millions of dollars. You can have a patient-centric environment, great flow and pleasing decor. We didn’t spend a ton of money on any of our offices. However, we never skimped on anything patient-related—ever. We allocated our budget with that in mind, and everything worked out fine.”
If Dr. Bodapati had to pick one piece of advice for those just hanging out a shingle? “Patients are the most important part of everything you do,” she says. “If you always remember that, I feel like you’ll be OK.”
The Design Team
Photography: Shaleen Wallace, Aerophoto America
Interior Design: Angèle Hashoul, Benco Dental
Equipment Specialist: Paul Thompson, Benco Dental
Friendly Benco Rep: Cary Barrs