In the first of a series on the new generation of work-home spaces, Chloe Grimshaw meets the colourful Dawoods of Wimpole Street, husband- and-wife dentists. Photographs by Josh Pulman
Going to the dentists is normally pretty nerve-wracking, if not downright terrifying. Imagine then, what it would be like if it was no more intimidating than sitting in your front room, with gingham curtains hanging in the window, a cosy sofa and your favourite pictures on the wall. This is the environment that Susan and Andrew Dawood, a husband and wife dental team, have created. "We wanted to make an environment that was an absolute pleasure to work in," says Susan. "I think if we are happy where we are working, we are going to make our patients happy."

Just upstairs from the Dawood's practice is the old servants' quarters in the two uppermost floors of the house, including a beamed attic: they have now converted these upper storeys into a home for themselves and their two young children. From a fairly compact space, they have carved out four bedrooms, three bathrooms and ample living area. It is a riot of colour, only just kept in check in the workplace, but which explodes into the home, from the staircase, painted orange, red and yellow, with matching red carpet, to the kitchen, which is bright blue.

Downstairs in the dental practice the Dawoods each have their own surgery, with an interconnecting nurse's station, where they have been known to steal the odd kiss between patients. Each surgery has a vibrant colour scheme and is decorated with striking, modern pieces of furniture set next to giant plants. Susan feels that the colour scheme and bold design help patients to relax and feel less nervous. "People say again and again how happy it is in the practice," she says, "and when you go to the dentist, you don't necessarily feel like that. "

The Dawoods are as serious about their work as they are about design. Andrew Dawood holds a number of patents in the medical and dental fields, and has a passion for technology. "We like to think that our attention to detail and the design of our environment is reflected in our work. All dentists are interested in aesthetics, and our work exposes us to a vast range of materials and processes." Each surgery is equipped with the most advanced technology, cleverly hidden from view. All of the wiring, suction equipment, compressed air and computer equipment has been installed beneath the 1927 parquet floor.

They often work together, particularly in reconstructive surgery. "We'll often treat people with extensive problems as a team," says Andrew, "each of us contributing the elements we most enjoy. If I place dental implants, Susan will often make the final bridge on top of the implants." Susan "really, really enjoys" working with 98 per cent of her patients. Her only complaint is that "sometimes it's frustrating not being able to enjoy the patient's conversation because you have to get into their mouth."

Not many dental practices have an operating theatre on their premises, especially one that is painted aqua, with a bright green dental chair and candy-striped blinds. Susan says the very non-medical design - no grey dental chairs and magnolia-white walls here - helps put clients at their ease. But at the same time the surgery has to fulfil certain sterile, clinical requirements. This means no soft furnishings or hanging pictures - they have to be screwed to the wall instead, to prevent dust from getting behind.

I asked the Dawoods how easy they found living and working in the same building. Susan says that it is sometimes hard to balance being a respected Wimpole Street dentist with being a mum with kids, but she admits that there are some benefits. "There aren't many mothers who can work and lay down her tools at half past five and be giving her children a bath at 5.35pm. I feel really lucky in that way." Andrew absolutely loves living and working at home. His favourite time of day is when he hears the kids running upstairs, when they come home from school. He says that "the patients quite like it too".

As dentists, the Dawoods have decided that their home wouldn't be quite complete, however, without an element of Grand Guignol. Some of the cornices in the hallway have ox skulls on them and are really quite gory, while Andrew has a collection of old dental drills and equipment displayed up the stairs. In his opinion, "By having those archaic bits and pieces lying around, it emphasises the modern, clean lines of the things that we do use" - unless you're a patient, in which case it might well scare the life out of you ...

Next week: Chloe Grimshaw talks to the couple behind the Cyberdog clothing store about designing for home and work

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