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

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I see so many of those dryer systems that are suspended from the ceiling. Could you tell me more about them?

Designers' Challenge (Part 2)Blair Hopper:

The system is called The Freestylist Free-Floating Dryer Support System and salon owners are installing it to eliminate cord clutter and reduce the weight and stress of blow-drying. It's the first and only dryer support system that yields the lightest blow dryers in the world and gives stylists the freedom to fi nish hair without having to maneuver cords around a head. It's very liberating for stylists to have increased mobility and it enhances the salon experience for clients too. The lack of cords also contribute to a cleaner, more uniform salon. Not to mention, some salon owners have mentioned that they like the fact that their dryers stay put-they don't constantly have to replace them.

Installing the Freestylist during a renovation makes a huge impact on the salon's décor-its state-of-the-art design instantly transforms any space and adds a high-tech minimalistic vibe that's innovative and a huge "wow" factor for both clients and prospective staff. Salon owners also like the system because it maximizes space, which is a very important attribute for smaller salons. It's also eco friendly-dryers run less on the system, so it saves up to 7 percent in electrical consumption and reduces landfill. And, probably the most important attribute is the ergonomically correct design, which reduces muscle fatigue in the neck, arms, back, and wrist, which can actually prolong the career of a hairdresser suffering from repetitive stress injuries.

We are establishing a second location closer to the thriving university in town. Since we will be targeting the student market, I want this location to have an edgy, hip, cool factor, but one that doesn't get dated too quickly. What should I be considering in my design?

Designers' Challenge (Part 2)Steve Hughes: When considering a location targeted to the Gen Xers & Yers, the brand of the salon should be stated from the outdoor sign to the back door. Reinforce the brand identity through every aspect of the salon: the logo, color palette, interior furnishings and accessories, services offered, staff hired, retail products, marketing, website, etc. When attracting a university- age audience you need to keep in mind all these things while keeping a timeless look. This can be done by using a color palette which will stand the test of time. Try white and rich cocoa brown, with a stainless steel accent, and add a bright color for accent which can be changed every few years. Clean lines and colors work best and stay fresh longest for a timeless interior. Furniture and equipment should be minimalist while keeping function in mind. Less is more! Try an open color bar which can work very well in this type of setting. Select a few statement pieces like great looking light fixtures, and artwork for the reception area which appeals to a younger, hip market. Plan to update these pieces every few years to maintain a fresh look. Design an interactive retail area where seating is limited, so your clients are forced to shop. Gen X and Y types love to buy products, so select a product line which brand matches your brand, and is geared to your target market, with great marketing and sales tools. Strong brand identity through every aspect of the salon will insure its success for many years to come.

The spa part of my business simply is not as profitable as the salon side. While I want to continue offering spa services, I want to convert the space of two of the treatment areas back into the styling area. Is there a way I can do this and create something exciting and new?

Designers' Challenge (Part 2)Jill Espinosa: Today, many salons are adding a chemical processing area which can easily be integrated with your styling area. While processing, clients can relax by enjoying amenities such as a complimentary Wi-Fi, or sipping on a favorite beverage. A specialty color area is another great thought to add as this concept is still making headway into salon design. Belvedere's color dispensary is an example of a functional unit to utilize in a color area as it saves space and holds up to 600 color boxes. Sometimes color areas and processing areas can be combined together. Most importantly, make sure you hire a professional to assess your existing spaces to ensure they transition seamlessly.

In the next year, we are planning on doing some significant renovation to our existing space, but we can't afford to close throughout the entire process. What is the typical amount of time that we would need to close and how can we best continue to operate through some of the construction without it being too big of an inconvenience to our guests or our employees?
Designers' Challenge (Part 2)Lauren Summers: Remodeling can definitely cause disruption to the day-to-day balance of your business. I'm not sure how extensive the renovation project is, but I would suggest doing the work in phases to avoid closing completely. Maybe reduce bookings in order to work on half of the spa rooms at a time. Try to schedule noisy construction after hours or on Sundays and Mondays when salons are typically closed. Painting can be done at this time as well. If the project is extremely widespread, you may need to pick a day during the week to close temporarily for a couple of months in order for a crew to come in and get the work done. To help maintain some sanity through the process, have yourself and staff pitch in to keep the place as clean as possible. Keep the dust from sheet rock installation wiped off of furniture and fixtures. Conceal the rooms currently under construction with a curtain or a screen so guests don't feel like they are right in the middle of the work. Just keep telling yourself it will be worth it in the end and don't forget to breathe!

Our current floor plan is congested in some areas, while others are under-utilized. As I begin looking for a new location, what are some rules to keep in mind when considering the flow of the salon?

Designers' Challenge (Part 2)Leon Alexander, Ph.D.: If the flow of the salon has never been right for you, it probably never felt right for your customers as well. The design should be focused on creating experiences for the consumer, as well as great functionality for the staff. S a l o n design influences your customer 's behavior. The primary design objective is to create and implement a design that combines the physical rejuvenation with an emotional space. Achieving a powerful experience. As a result, it creates an environment that is conducive to both buying and service and maximizes the potential of the salon business.

I want to keep down maintenance costs in my new salon. Could you suggest materials I can consider which resist color stains, as well as wear and tear?

Steve Hughes: When considering highpressure laminated cabinetry, most of the big manufacturers have a fairly tough surface protection. For countertops, which take the most abuse, specify horizontal grade laminate. You can ask for laminates that offer coated finishes such as LaminArt's Oyster Shield or Wilsonart's AEON protected laminates or, if a solid surface is chosen, DuPont's Corian. Most brand-specific materials are engineered to provide durable and maintainable finishes to give the user "worry free" work place counter tops.

When considering shampoo bowls, porcelain is a very durable product. Never use abrasive or coarse cleaners. Get rid of stubborn stains with environmentally friendly oxygen bleach instead of using harsh surface-eroding chlorine bleach. You also can use a manmade cultured marble shampoo bowl which has a high-quality gel coated surface to protect against staining. For maintenance, use a good grade of paste wax such as Kit auto wax on a monthly basis. Use it like you would with your car, rub on and buff off. This will preserve the luster, as well as protect the bowl.

When considering styling or barber chairs, make sure you are purchasing a vinyl that has some kind of "advanced vinyl protection" like Permablok. Cleaning the vinyl is much easier. 1:1 mix of Ivory liquid soap and water will clean up most marks and smudges. It's also best to follow the manufacturer's recommended care and cleaning guidelines when maintaining the furniture is your salon.

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