Flow, function, light and color: Ullika Pankratz on interior design.

Interior design: positioning + word of mouth.

Interior design may not be an obvious marketing topic, but it is one of those subtle, everyday areas where positioning and word-of-mouth come together.

The look and feel you create in your office or practice space is quite powerful when it comes to positioning you and your business. Consciously created, it communicates your vision, your style, and your personality.

It can also set you apart from the crowd, offer pleasant surprises, invite conversations, and elevate the experience your clients have during their time with you. All great fuel for word of mouth.

The key term here of course is “consciously created.” You want your space to send the right message, and inspire the right emotions. So, how do you get that alignment, especially if you are on a budget, renting space, or have never as much as held up a can of paint?

Introducing the expert: Ullika Pankratz

I thought I’d bring in an expert here: Ullika Pankratz, owner of UP Design Lounge, an interior design consultancy in Portland, Oregon. Here is how she defines her work:

Ullika PankratzI have been in visual merchandising for over twenty years now. And I have also always had a passion for interior design. While I was working for IKEA, I had the chance to combine the two. My work is all about creating spaces that meet people’s needs, and that allow them to surround themselves with things that inspire them and make them feel good. I think this is especially important for the spaces in which we work, since we spend so much time there. I believe there is a lot of unhappiness in the workplace because cubicles are so uninspiring!

Have you ever experienced holistic health care yourself? 

Oh yes, many times!

What elements do you think have the strongest impact on the client’s experience in the space?

There are four elements I usually look at: flow, function, lighting and color. Flow means, how do you and your clients move around in the space? For example, if you have a massage table in the room, how will you walk around it without it being awkward or ineffective? An example of a functionality question would be, where do you keep your supplies and tools? Lighting is huge, too. I recommend you have a way to adjust the lighting, so that it supports the different phases of the treatment. And colors of course have a big impact on the energy of the space.

Can you share any basic design guidelines for holistic practitioners?

Pick a theme and stick with it. Make it feel light. And choose design elements that not only work for your clients, but also for you. We all have very individual preferences and reactions to colors and other design elements, so it is important that you really get to know yours. What colors energize you? Which ones calm you? This is where a vision board can be a great tool. In my workshops, I always encourage people to just have fun with it, let go of any norms, and allow themselves to like the unexpected. I often get comments from people along the lines of “Wow, I didn’t think I would like these colors but I absolutely do!”

When it comes to choosing a theme, it can really help to bring in an expert to guide you, offer advice and inspiration, and make sure you are taking all aspects of the space into account.

I’d also say that it is important to carefully select your space. Before you sign a lease, ask if you can just be in it for a while and feel what that’s like. Pay attention to your first impression when you walk in.

If you have any goods available for sale, maybe supplements or massage oils, display them nicely! Maybe have some cute tags or signage on them, or let people sample, touch, and test them. That way they contribute to the design, and you don’t have to do much active selling – people will be drawn to them.

What are some ways practitioners can make their space unique and infuse it with personality without breaking the bank?

Photos and artwork work great here. Use your own photos of nature and calming themes, and artwork that really speaks to you. The images don’t have to show you, but when you surround yourself with things that are meaningful to you, it will inspire you, and it can also strengthen the connection with your clients. For example, if you are a massage therapist, photos of your hands could be great.

Another awesome low-budget design element is fabric. I often recommend this to people who are renting their space and can’t paint the walls. Fabrics are a great way to bring color into a room, and you can even change it with the seasons.

And plants! They are beautiful, calming, and they produce oxygen!

What resources do you recommend for practitioners looking for inspiration?

Well, there’s Pinterest! You can learn so much there. I also like to browse Houzz, and I love Remodelista. There’s a sense of quality and attention to detail in there work that’s just lovely.

More inspiration from Ullika.

Go ahead, browse Ullika’s boards on Pinterest, see what inspires her on Houzz, or check out the UP Design Lounge website. You’ll find the dates for her next vision board workshops there, too.


  • Nguyet Howard on Jun 30, 2013 Reply

    Thank you for this topic about interior design.

    I truly think working in a beautiful space enhances my and that of my client’s massage experiences, even if the session is more in aligned with orthopedic massage, not a relaxation massage. Does Ullika provide consultations via skype or pictures. I do not live in Portland, OR. Thank you.

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