Holly O’Driscoll, 2/27/2012
Marie Wikoff of Wikoff Design Studios in Reno is carving out a niche in profitable field of medical facility design — and she’s becoming a part of Nevada’s growing community of exporters in the process.
Along with northern Nevada projects, she’s handling work in Brazil. That’s bringing fresh dollars into the region’s economy and helping to support local suppliers who are waiting out the long downturn in construction.
“(Studies show) color and design can help with the healing process,” said Wikoff, a graduate of the Design Institute of San Diego.
Designing spaces for children is a specialty within the specialty. “A lot of modern design has sharp edges (strong defined lines). Well that doesn’t work for children. They bump into things and could get hurt,” Wikoff said.
And when it comes to design, age matters a lot. “Designing for children means (considering) a range of sizes. Not everything for little ones will work for teenagers, and you need to take that into account,” she said.
Two current projects highlight her talents. Carson Medical Group selected architect Jeff Frame, contractor Shaheen Beauchamp and designer Wikoff to build a 20,000-square-foot office. They chose this team in large part because Frame brought Wikoff to meet the physicians.
“Marie really listened to us. She really understood what we wanted,” said Dr. Sandra Koch.
When completed in March, the building at 1470 Medical Parkway will house 16 physicians and two nurse practitioners for two types of practices: OB/GYN and pediatrics. The design has separate offices and a common break and meeting areas. The flooring and wall colors coordinate, yet have distinctive differences.
The pediatric office has two waiting areas: one for sick children, one for well-visits. A glass wall decorated with an underwater sea-life scene separates the two. Bright colors accent the sandy-toned walls.
The OB/GYN office has soft, warm feminine tones accented with tans and pastels.
“It’s even more impressive and appealing now that it’s nearly done than we imagined,” said Michael Lollich, the group’s administrator. “Marie brought an artistic view to the entire project. She was influential in all the details, right down to the furnishings,” he said.
Wikoff’s other current project is the Hospital de Cancer de Barretos in Brazil. The hospital hired her to do the complete interior design work for a 90,000-square-foot children’s cancer center in the state of Sao Paulo. The first phase of about 20,000-square-feet is scheduled to open March 24.
The firm’s Web site opened the door to the Brazilian project.
“Brazilians love American design,” Wikoff said. Her Web site intrigued one of the project’s local architects, who recommended her to the hospital’s director Henrique Prata, a member of the family that built the 50-acre, 20-building non-profit hospital.
Though far from the ocean, her design for the center features cheery beach colors, portholes, coral and sea scenes to entertain children. Every area is color-coded.
Working with an international client poses challenges, Wikoff said. The language (Brazilians speak Portuguese) was big. “Thank goodness for translate.google.com,” Wikoff said. The time difference (six hours), initially meant 4 a.m. phone calls. Brazil uses the metric system, so every measurement is converted.
Brazil’s love of America is helping the northern Nevada economy. Wikoff has shipped more than $500,000 worth of design products for the first phase of the project — much of it from local businesses.
“I am creating, or helping companies maintain, local jobs,” Wikoff said. Companies she uses include VIA Inc., Reno Business Interiors, SI Legacy Floor Finishing, Nevada Lighting Representatives and Graybar Services. She also contracts with five former co-workers on various phases of the design work.
Wikoff moved to Reno in 2003 to work with HMC Architects. When the housing market crashed in 2009, she struck out on her own. “It was an opportunity to reinvent myself,” she said.
She started with a tiny budget of about $5,000, which she invested in the Web site and top-notch photos of her work. It’s paid off.