Wikoff finds niche in healthcare design | nnbw.com

Wikoff finds niche in healthcare design

In her experiences working as an interior designer, Marie Wikoff has become passionate about healthcare design.

Wikoff, who owns Wikoff Design Studio in Midtown Reno, has developed numerous local projects, including for Renown Health, the Ronald McDonald House, and Carson Dermatology. Abroad, she worked on the Hospital de Cancer de Barretos, Children's Hospital in Barretos, SP Brazil.

She explained she finds healthcare design, an ever-evolving concept with its emphasis on mathematical and scientific concepts, very stimulating.

"It comes so easy to me," Wikoff said in an interview last week at her office. "Some people are scared of it, because it is so technical, but to me I find it so easy to design those spaces. It's much more dynamic and exciting to me.

"The creativity is not just in how pretty it looks, but what it takes to get you there."

Wikoff's design principles often revolve around lean construction, a phrase coined by the International Group for Lean Construction. It emphasizes collaboration and delivering value from a client perspective, while using fewer material resources.

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"It saves a lot of headaches later and it's actually faster in the long run with a happier outcome for everyone," Wikoff said.

For example, when she designs a medical facility, she'll pay attention to minute details, down to the type of drawers practitioners are going to need.

"I'll do all the layout and figure out where all the exam rooms are, all medical space, administration spaces and the architect builds a shell around it," Wikoff said.

Wikoff's desire to pursue interior design was fostered while growing up on a small farm in the Midwest. Her mother studied architecture in college and encouraged her daughter to follow a similiar career path.

After high school, Wikoff initially attended Iowa State University, but left to head west where she graduating from the Design Institute of San Diego.

Wikoff and her husband eventually moved to Reno where she landed a job with HMC Architects in 2003.

It was at HMC where Wikoff was first introduced to commercial interior design, particularly healthcare, which really appealed to her.

Wikoff since earned accreditations in healthcare design including the American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designers certificate of Healthcare Interior Designers (AAHID CHID). Last year she also acquired her Evidence-Based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC).

She is one of only two interior designers in Nevada to earn the EDAC credential and one of only two in Nevada and California with both AAHID CHID and EDAC credentials.

She worked for HMC for several years until she was one of several layoffs from the firm as a result of the recession. But the company helped her go out on her own.

"My employer (at HMC) was so cool to me," Wikoff said. "He said you were ready to go on your own."

Fortunately, HMC allowed Wikoff to take a few of her clients with her to the new venture while she also marketed herself to those in thecommercial interior industry.

She began in an office space at 201 W. Liberty St., before moving to a space next to Sports West Athletic Club in Reno. Wikoff put her design skills to use at the new office.

"The space was really drab, so we gutted it," Wikoff said with a laugh. "At first, the owner said they could make some changes like ripping up the carpet, but I insisted 'We're changing some things.'"

While her heart lies in designing healthcare spaces, Wikoff indicated it is still a small niche, so she also branches out to other mainstream projects such as restaurants, law office spaces and even churches.

"Reno is a different market, you have to be diverse," she said. "At the same time, healthcare is my bread and butter."

With the local economy improving, Wikoff anticipates there will be plenty more projects down the road that may pique her interest, although she admitted as she gains even more experience she can be more selective.

She added she works with industry organization such as the American Institute of Architects to further promote herself.

"I always keep my ear to the train tracks to see what's coming down the line," Wikoff said. "I do a lot of AIA events because our market is turning around again, and as the construction industry improves, I try to keep my face in front of them."