October 2, 2007

Q & A - Customized Storage

Someone asked me a question recently about customizing a cabinet design for storing stock lenses in the lab. It prompted me to think about how many different items need customized storage in a typical optometric office. How can you be sure that the things you want to store will fit in your new cabinets? Here's the original question and my answer.

In designing our new lab we have the idea to utilize a cabinet as the stock lens drawer. We are wondering if there is already a concept design for this? We are thinking of have the shelves on an incline for easy viewing, and the shelves slide out.

I usually recommend buying an all metal stock lens cabinet from your lab equipment supplier that's designed to hold a lot of lenses. You can eliminate a base cabinet and put that unit in its place.

It is possible to custom design drawers for lenses if you work directly with the cabinetmaker on the detail. You'll need to give him a lens sample in the largest size you would be using, discuss your ideas with him and have him do a "shop drawing" of it.

The cabinetmaker's shop drawing is a very detailed technical drawing that shows how he will build the cabinet. He starts with the designer's cabinet elevations, then draws up each cabinet design after he has taken field measurements.

He may have to adjust some of the original dimensions to fit the actual space available. The designer and you as the owner or tenant should both review these drawings to insure that all the colors and materials are correct and that any changes made still reflect the intent of the design.

Once the shop drawing is done and appears to be correct, you may want to have a sample of one drawer made so you can try it out with the lens blanks and see if it needs to be further modified. These drawers would need extra heavy-duty glides and extra-strong joinery to be able to stand up to years of heavy use.

Anytime you want to put any special item or piece of equipment (like a computer tower or trial lens tray) inside a cabinet, do not assume that there will be enough room for it. Your designer and cabinetmaker will do their best to interpret your needs. However, unless you give them the exact dimensions you want or a sample of the item you want to store, you might be disappointed in the end result.

The more specific your cabinets need to be, the closer you must work with your cabinetmaker. If you provide samples to him, and then the item doesn't fit when he delivers the cabinets, you can make him re-do it to get it right.If you do not provide a sample of the item to him and require that he create a mock-up for you to approve before going ahead, you will have to just take what you get, whether it fits or not.

Your designer should note on the plans where specific items must fit and state that the cabinetmaker must obtain a sample of the item and provide shop drawings (and mock-up if needed) for your approval before he starts fabricating the cabinet. That's the best way to protect yourself from being disappointed in any of your cabinets.

Accessory and Lens Display

At GW Eye Associates in Carlsbad, CA this passage from clinic area to dispensary provides a convenient and quick stop for lens brochures, samples, products and accessories. Although my general rule for frame display is to have a white background, we can break the rule in secondary display areas like this.

The shallow adjustable glass shelves hold mostly items with a lot of color and mass, like the literature holders, lens cleaner bottles and such. Here a dark background makes those colors pop. Showing only a few frames on this rich purple background works fine here.

However if this display was showing only frames, the dark background would make many of them almost disappear. If you have a situation like this where your frames are displayed, there’s a fast and easy cure. Just paint the back wall of the display white or install a fabric-covered panel on it. Now you’ll be able to see all the frames in that display, even rimless and delicate metals.

One other design feature to notice is the “radiused” (rounded) corners around the open doorways. In this case the walls are entirely wrapped with wall covering, but a painted finish would look good too. This detail adds a lot to the overall atmosphere of the office design. It’s softer and more contemporary.

Little touches like this can make your office feel special and inviting. Patients may never comment on the rounded corners. All they know is that they love being in your office.