Nice curves

Nice curves

A circling hallway and nice-to-touch materials bond clients to the upscale Rolling Hills Pet Hospital in Chula Vista, Calif.
Oct 22, 2008

Hallway: The "backbone" of the hospital is this curved hallway (left), which features arched doorways, skylights, two-tone walls, and views into all working areas of the hospital.
After practicing in a 1,700-square-foot strip mall facility for nine years, Dr.?Keith Hilinski made a huge leap when he moved to his new 6,500-square-foot space. But boosting square footage by almost 300 percent wasn't enough for this owner of Rolling Hills Pet Hospital in Chula Vista, Calif. He also wanted a eye-catching look, so he turned to his human medicine counterparts for inspiration.

Reception area: Stained concrete floors, exposed ­concrete walls, a curved reception desk with curved ceiling baffles, travertine tiles on the desk and columns, and amber pendant lighting complete the refined ­waiting area décor. The ceiling is painted black with recessed lights to mimic an "endless starry night."
"A plastic surgeon's office evokes quality and beauty," Dr. Hilinski says. "It shows that a doctor is dedicated to his practice." So that's what he aimed for. And the 2008 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition judges agreed that Dr. Hilinski's new practice evokes the high-end atmosphere he desired, earning him a Merit Award in the competition.

Hometown boy makes good

Born and raised in San Diego, leaving only to attend veterinary school at UC Davis, Dr. Hilinski felt a strong pull to practice in or near his hometown. But California real estate isn't exactly cheap, so he purchased a strip mall practice in 1998 and practiced there until he ran out of space. "We were literally bumping elbows trying to get in and out of exam rooms," he says.

After two years of looking for property at the height of the real estate market, Dr. Hilinski decided to lease a building five miles away from his original practice. In a mixed-use industrial park, his new neighbors include factories, carpet cleaners, mortgage brokers, and real estate agents—and rent was the same as it had been at the previous facility. That gave Dr. Hilinski money to spend on design and décor. Still, he had to employ a little creativity to get the practice he always wanted.

Caviar design on a burger budget

Dr. Hilinski wanted just one first impression from clients: "Wow." That's not easy without plenty of cash, but architect Melvin McGee and builder Fred Babuscio made it happen.

For the hospital layout, Dr. Hilinski chose a curved "backbone" hallway to give the practice an upscale look. "A regular straight hallway looks too cramped and plain," he says. "We worried we were wasting space with the curve, but when the architect resketched the design without it, it just didn't have the same feel." He dressed up the area further with two-tone paint, skylights, and doorway arches, again reminiscent of a sophisticated human-medicine practice. The architect wife's, an interior designer of human-medicine hospitals, collaborated on the color and texture schemes.