Green DesignersOn a recent trip to Rome, Italy, my husband and I braved the Sunday morning crowds to tour the Colosseum.  As our guide Dino toured us through the ruins of what was once the largest amphitheater of the Roman empire, he explained how it was used for grand-scale public entertainment for events such as gladiatorial combats, chariot races, hunts, wild animal fights and even executions.  I was surprised to learn that after its heyday, the Colosseum became a public quarry, where the architects and builders of the time raided its beautiful marble, columns and statues to construct and decorate some of Rome’s wealthy homes, cathedrals, palazzos and even parts of the Vatican.

While this quarrying was partially responsible for shaping Colosseum into the ruins we know today, it’s a wonderful example of how long builders and architects have puzzled over how to reuse existing materials in their new construction.  As I toured the Colosseum, I started thinking about all the stories from the 2013 SALONS OF THE YEAR finalists, which I had just edited.

Of all the recent years we’ve judged this competition, I can’t remember a time when we’ve witnessed such a diversity of non-traditional building materials in the creation of these salon masterpieces. Perusing through this issue, you’ll find stations, front desks, retail shelves and color processing tables created from virtually everything, including customized carved wood, concrete, steel I-beams, airplane wings, artist easels, leather belts, railroad carts and reclaimed barn wood.

And, while their quarrying of materials was much friendlier than Rome’s ancient builders, two the salons found green ways to reuse existing materials in their designs:

To create Matthew Morris Salon and Skincare in Denver, Colorado, Owners Matthew Morris and Marvin Gutierrez hired FinArt, a local company that specializes in restoration hardware-style, custom-made furnishings. Working together, they repurposed old railroad carts with vintage railroad wheels to create the mobile styling stations throughout the salon. The front desk, as well as two bars that flank the salon’s color bar, were fashioned out of Cessna airplane wings, which still have the old paint and lights on them. These totally unique pieces not only intrigue guests, they contribute to the space’s rustic, chic elegance.

In Owosso, Michigan, at the Hair Peace Salon and Spa, Jamie Smith and her salon partners Casey and Adam Voss, salvaged local barn wood to create the hanging mirrors at each station, as well as the salon’s unique color bar.  The counter of the bar is covered with old leather belts that the owners collected from family, friend and salon clients. Oversized, sepia-toned historic photographs of the salon’s home town are printed onto etched glass to form dividing walls between different spaces in the salon. When I interviewed Casey Voss, I asked her where in the world they got the idea to use the leather belts to cover the color bar, and I couldn’t help but chuckle at her response. “Oh, it was an idea I found on Pinterest!”

While Rome’s architects may have shared similarities with some of our SOTY salon honorees when it comes to reusing unique materials in their designs, they certainly didn’t have the advantages of social media inspiration.