Cosmetic surgery practices benefit from a luxurious brand identity but describing these offices as “spa-like” is only a skin-deep comparison. Plastic surgery clinics involve a range of design considerations and goals, including improving the patient and family experience, attending to the morale and efficiency of staff, and improving the marketability of the practice.

The design of these offices should flow from a shared understanding of the practice’s mission, brand, and specialty. The key is to know the practice’s niche, who its patients are, and what they require from the built environment.

Clinical areas

Space planning requirements for cosmetic surgery clinics include the waiting, lobby, registration, and discharge areas; offices for administrators, doctors, aesthetician, and nutritionist; clinical work areas; exam rooms; medication room; clean supply and soiled utility rooms; staff and patient toilets; and equipment and general storage. Specialty centers will often include a clinical lab, medical gas and oxygen storage, patient holding areas for prep and recovery, instrument prep and processing area, and areas for donning and doffing of personal protective equipment.

The design of clinical areas in plastic surgery clinics leans more on the functional side. When planning adjacencies for a plastic surgery office, one major consideration is the proximity of the clinical lab to the exam/procedure rooms to minimize staff travel distances. The layout should avoid the patient having to cross paths with staff while maintaining an uninterrupted circulation flow.

To accommodate medical equipment, ceiling heights should be no less than 9 feet 6 inches, with infrastructure designed to supporting the weight of procedure lights. Lighting controls and mechanical controls should be placed in easy-to-access areas near the procedure table for the surgeon or staff to use during a procedure.

In selecting finishes for clinical areas, the focus should be on materials that support infection prevention without contributing to a sterile design. While more luxurious finishes for seating, casework, and flooring aren’t an option due to cleanability issues, new products with durable wear-layers, including wood-look plank or sheet flooring, can be used in clinical spaces to add a sense of warmth as well as a reference to nature.

Because many procedures are done with the patient lying on the table looking up, the ceiling is another opportunity to improve the patient experience, using large-scale pictures of nature scenes or back-lit panels that give the effect of a skylight.

Patient and family support

Plastic surgery procedures can last a long time or require multiple visits, so it’s important for designers to consider the patient’s logistical and emotional needs throughout treatment. Secondary waiting areas can be a thoughtful design element so that patients can take breaks between procedures in a more private area than the main waiting area.

Family support is helpful for patients, so the area should be sized to accommodate guests and include a host of amenities, such as wi-fi, a television, and snack vending machines or a café.

Views of nature and access to daylight in patient areas can ease frayed nerves. To create access to natural light without introducing harmful UV rays, designers should consider light shelves or light reflected off an exterior wall.

Setting the mood

The waiting room can create an important first impression. Because plastic surgery can be nerve-racking for patients, the primary design goal should be to set the patient at ease. Interior design features such as color, texture, light, natural materials, comfortable seating, and the perception of privacy can set the right tone.

A family-room type setting allows waiting areas to act as an extension of home, bringing a sense of comfort to patients and waiting family members. Furniture arrangements such as sofas, love seats, lounge chairs, and accent tables should be arranged in a manner that provides flexibility of seating or gathering options. Accent rugs can be used to anchor furniture settings and create perceived sub-zones within the waiting area.

Lighting plays a big part in creating the mood, with soft, indirect lighting being the most flattering. Wall washes can be used to highlight specific volumes or elements within the space and emphasize points of interest. Adding pendant lights can create a hospitality-like feel. Lighting can also be used in conjunction with other finishes, such as translucent panels, to add visual interest.

The waiting area can also be a branding opportunity. A simple accent wall, for example, can bring a splash of color into the space while directly relating to the external branding of the clinic. Simple coordination of colors between furniture fabrics, accent paint, and art work will not only create an intentionally organized environment but can also reflect the unique identity of the clinic’s brand.

Finding balance

Plastic surgery clinics are a challenge to design partly because they require balancing different acuity levels and patient needs. Planning is critical to creating a highly efficient staff work environment that meets the current standards of care delivery while considering the human experience. Family and staff are ultimately there to support the patient, so it’s important that designers and planners keep them in mind for a successful plastic surgery clinic design.

Anindita Mukherjee, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, is an architect and senior healthcare planner with LEO A DALY. She can be contacted at Jennifer Ankerson is a senior interior designer with LEO A DALY, specializing in healthcare. She can be contacted at