Back by popular demand, our industry panel of experts tackles salon today readers' biggest design dilemmas.

Designers' Challenge (Part 1)

Lucky is the salon owner who completes a renovation or build-out project without facing a major challenge. When it comes to construction, problems, ranging from small headaches to budget-exhausting catastrophes, seem to be standard. SALON TODAY recently invited its readers to share their most pressing questions and we divvied them up amongst some of the industry top design experts. This year's panel includes: Leon Alexander, Ph.D., president of Eurisko; Andrea Egan, senior designer for Takara Belmont; Jill Espinosa, salon consultant and designer for Belvedere; Blair Hopper, president and CEO of Freestyle Systems; Steve Hughes, regional sales manager of Takara Belmont; Beth Minardi, co-owner of Minardi Salon in NYC and one of the founders of Eco Lite; Julia Stone, salon consultant/designer for Belvedere; and Lauren Summers, designer for Etopa.

Perhaps their expertise and willingness to answer the tough questions will help you with your next design challenge:

I am building a salon in one of the historic storefronts in our town's charming central square. How can I pay tribute to the history of the building while still creating a space that is modern and inviting?

Designers' Challenge (Part 1)Andrea Egan: Besides respecting the historical exterior façade, I would suggest you retain and/or restore the historical elements of the space such as interior architectural features, period moldings, ceiling and window styles and fireplaces if they are appropriate to the building style and period. If important architectural features have been removed, I would suggest restoring them where practical using modern materials and systems.

An example would be restoring the look of a wood floor with one of the excellent commercial floating floor systems. They are economical, beautiful, comfortable underfoot and need minimal maintenance. They resist fading and staining due to chemicals and hair color while being available in a wide variety of wood species, styles and colors. I would suggest a traditional plank style in a very contemporary color.

Within this historical envelope I would suggest the contrast of welldesigned, comfortable and modern furnishing with clean simple lines incorporating the latest in equipment and utilizing the latest in easy-to-maintain materials. The space should be uncluttered with a light, airy feeling. This can be accomplished by keeping the colors of the space and all architectural elements very light. Keep accessories with clean modern lines or with modern interpretations of classical styles to a minimum. Adding the contrast of dark salon furnishing will create drama, lend a modern inviting look and be low maintenance. Lighting fixtures and all hardware should be modern and contemporary.

Approximately one third of our salon's available space is on a mezzanine level and we'd like to utilize this, but the cost of installing an elevator is both cost- and space-prohibitive. How can we incorporate that space while still complying with ADA laws?

Designers' Challenge (Part 1)Julia Stone: City and state ADA laws vary greatly from area to area, however, generally speaking, if you are utilizing the space and have a similar area on the ground floor available for ADA clients and employees, you should be fine. ADA law requires that no one be denied a service due to inaccessibility. If you have styling stations on the accessible floor you will be in compliance. It is always wise to consult an architect in your area.

I would like to departmentalize my new salon. What are some things I should keep in mind when designing an area specific to hair color?
Designers' Challenge (Part 1)Beth Minardi: Lighting is everything when you are coloring hair! That is why Carmine and I created Minardi Color Perfect Lighting w i t h E c o L i t e Products. Our new custommade LED lights reveal precise hair color, only using 27 Watts and providing an astonishing 50,000 hours without maintenance. Our LED lights won the International Beauty Industry Innovator Award at America's Beauty Show in both 2009 and 2010!

To supplement excellent lighting, white walls and a white ceiling are essential. The shade of white is also very important: be sure to use a "Decorator's White" or "Painter's White" rather than a "Hospital White," which is too blue. A semi-matte or matte finish is best when selecting a paint. If possible, place your colorists near a window so that the daylight also makes its way into the room.

I am dedicating 1,000 square feet in my new salon to retail. How can I create an exciting shopping experience, similar to a high-end department store?

Designers' Challenge (Part 1)Leon Alexander, Ph.D.: Merchandising is only one important component to creating a strategic retail blueprint and emulates the best retail practices of retailers outside our industry. There are a number of other foundations that collectively maximize the potential of retail area. For example, graphics, furniture, shelf talkers and lighting are all equally important. The design of the space plan should direct and expose the consumer to the greatest amount of inventory for the longest period of time. In the states, we are time poor, not cash poor. The longer the consumer is in the retail area, the higher the retail ticket will be.

An accent color at the rear of the area will lure the consumer to the back. Additionally, back-illuminated wall units will catch the consumer's eye and focus them on the product. Experiential areas will contribute to a consumer purchasing. As a result, it will create an environment that is conducive to buying.

While I am catering to an upscale, female demographic with my new salon, budget is a definite factor in my design. How can I communicate an upscale feel, without necessarily using high-end materials?

Designers' Challenge (Part 1)Lauren Summers: Incorporating natural materials into the design is a budget- friendly way to create an upscale feel. Wood, especially in rich, dark stains, can really add to the overall ambiance. Stonework, applied in small doses, like an accent wall, will definitely go a long way in providing a high-end atmosphere. The color palette for the space is definitely an inexpensive way to achieve that "expensive" vibe. A monochromatic color scheme using various shades of neutrals will give any location a chic appearance. Mix this with the dark-stained furniture for a polished look.

The best areas to splurge are the retail and styling area. The retail is typically visible to people from the streets. If it looks upscale, it is going to attract that certain demographic. This is a very effective way to increase clientele, especially if the space is within a shopping center with a lot of foot traffic. The styling area is also essential because women are in the chair staring at themselves for an hour or more. Use furniture and lighting fixtures that are higher-end. Make sure the lighting is not only suitable for the stylist to work but also flattering on the complexion. Women are more likely to revisit a salon where they feel good because they look good.

Open color bars are definitely a growing trend. It's great because of the visual interest it creates and because it holds the colorist accountable for his/her own mixing habits. Just by having it out in the open, employees are almost forced to keep a neat area. This open dispensary works best when set up like a typical restaurant bar. Have a freestanding counter with the storage hidden from guest view. Along with this, you would want a back bar set up approximately three feet from the freestanding portion, leaving space for the colorist to work. The back bar would include cabinetry for storage and a sink for rinsing. Having specific places for each of the various supplies will help keep everything in place, creating a clean workspace.

Read Part 2 of Designers' Challenge >

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