Design: Tonal contrast

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design300Sometimes what you are looking for is right under your nose—as Dr Simon Wake of Wellpets Kallangur found out last year. The vet had been running a small-animal practice in Brisbane’s northern suburb of Kallangur since 2008 but was ready to take it up a notch. His lease was about to expire and, due to the success of the practice, he was keen to purchase the property outright. The thought of updating and renovating the surgery, however, was rather daunting, so Wake turned to Elite, the construction and fit-out specialists, for advice.

And this is where it starts to get interesting… Rather than renovating the compact building, Elite’s managing director Rod Phillips came up with a more spectacular solution. Just down the road was a 1980s-built red double-brick two-storey edifice that once operated as a National Australia bank. It had been vacant for the past 12 months. Although Wake’s original practice was just 900 metres away, he’d never contemplated buying and converting the old bank into a fully equipped vet practice. “To be honest, it was never on my radar,” he says. “But the more I looked at it, the more appealing it became.” For this veterinarian, the decider was the chance to design his ultimate high-tech practice. “Now I have 1200 square metres of land, with 250 square metres of floor space, in the centre of Kallangur so there’s plenty of space. Overall, we want to show our clients we’re moving in the right direction and giving them a nice professional place to bring their pets. It’s also been a massive motivator for the staff,” he says. Once Wake bought the property, he listed all the requirements to create an efficient, modern practice.

After working with Rod Phillips and Elite’s design team, the layout included three consult rooms, a dedicated surgery, separate cat and dog wards, an isolation area, a reception counter, separate manager’s office, kitchen facilities, bathrooms and a storage area. “Since there’s so much space, we made sure Simon could expand down the track, adding extra consult and surgery rooms in the future,” says Phillips. Elite managed the whole project, which included planning and full design, as well as construction.

From the get-go, Phillips guaranteed that the demolition and fit-out would take a mere six weeks. “All we kept was the ceiling-mounted air-conditioning casing,” says Phillips. “If you look up, this ducting is the only reminder of when the building was a bank. We also kept the original painted bricks. A simple paint job gave these elements a contemporary edge.” The short timeframe suited Wake as he could open the new practice the day after his old lease finished. “We only closed for one day for the move,” he explains. “It was all handled really well.” During the build, Elite’s Tim Lockhart and team worked on every element, including sound insulation, roof repairs, lighting, electrical outlets, plumbing, workstations, specific materials, flooring, cabinetry and even wifi connections. “The internet wiring was all done right from the beginning with growth in mind,” says Wake. “It means we won’t have to be drilling through walls in the future.” Since the property was built around 30 years ago, Phillips hired a specialist to remove any asbestos. “I wouldn’t have thought of something like that,” admits Wake.

As Phillips points out, small but crucial details, such as the certifications for plumbing and for car parking ratios, needed to be factored in during the early stages. “For example, you’re required to have a certain number of parking spaces for the number of consultation rooms,” he explains. While the original exterior has stood the test of time, some landscaping was needed to freshen up the front area. Here, Wake stepped in as a DIY landscaper and continues to add a few hedges. While he worked closely with Elite’s team getting the functionality right, he let them take over when it came to the interior design aspect. “The last thing that was going to concern me was the colour scheme and what kind of splashbacks we have,” says the vet, laughing. “I just wanted something modern.” Lockhart’s team took this on board and designed a clean, contemporary interior in tones of white and charcoal, topped off by stainless steel trims.

Medical lighting and energy-efficient downlights add a professional, clinical feel, while the dark grey vinyl flooring is slip resistant and easy to clean. An array of cupboard drawers and open shelves minimise mess while instruments are easy to access. White cupboard panels, white benchtops and charcoal splashbacks in the surgery room are fabricated from durable, easy-to-clean, well-priced materials. Warm and inviting, the main waiting area showcases a V-shaped reception office in soft white, while the original air-conditioning duct and painted brick walls are a nod to the former bank. Wake admits that after seeing the sophisticated interior, he was a little overwhelmed. “I used to walk around looking at it,” he recalls. “I want to keep the minimalist look—I don’t want posters everywhere. We’ve just started getting clients to send in photos of their pets and we’ll display them on the painted brick wall, but I’ll make sure it never gets messy.”

The whole project was completed on time and on budget. And business is booming—Wake recently hired a second full-time veterinarian, Sian Ferrier-Watson, to work alongside three vet nurses and a receptionist. And he is already looking at future plans, such as opening a branch practice. “It’s in the back of my mind,” he says. There was just one important element that Wake had to solve early on. He took the opportunity to change the practice’s original name, Anzac Avenue Veterinary Surgery, to Wellpets Kallangur. “It was too much of a mouthful and there are six veterinary surgeries on Anzac Avenue, stretching from Petrie to Redcliffe which is a 20-minute drive away,” he explains. “I was looking for a friendlier name that was more local.” The new name is now proudly positioned right outside the beautifully renovated property.

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