Rethinking the 4 Design Imperatives in the Post-Pandemic Salon
Rethinking the 4 Design Imperatives in the Post-Pandemic Salon

As an interior designer, deeply rooted in the world of beauty design, I have a unique perspective.  From my point of view, the shelter-in-place has taught us a lot about space and what matters.  It has taught us a lot about luxury and priority.  The new luxury is health, wellness and safe space.  You must respond to this with a meaningful, thoughtful and safe client experience.  This will determine how your customers respond to you when you re-open.  It will also determine how you succeed in the future.

Re-entry to your business will most likely be gradual and vary state by state.  Government mandates and your State Board will play a significant role in that process.  It is essential that these requirements be adhered to.  In the meantime, be careful not to throw dollars at “fixes” that may or may not make a difference in the long run.

For now, take a breath and educate yourself.  This is an opportunity to re-define your brand.  It is also a chance to plan for the future.  Please use these 4 design imperatives for creating the foundation.  They will deliver results for the betterment of your employees, clients and business.

Rethinking the 4 Design Imperatives in the Post-Pandemic Salon
Rethinking the 4 Design Imperatives in the Post-Pandemic Salon

"Space, comfort, wellness and quality--four imperatives for creating a safe space and the salon of the future."--Michele Pelafas


Social distancing has taught us that “extra space is safe.”  Today, six foot center-lines are comfortable.  Let that sink in.  What does the salon of the future look like?  Spacious. What is the new luxury?  Safe space.  The two go hand in hand.

Although six foot centers are the new norm, we cannot under-estimate the benefit of utilizing every inch of space.  But dollars are not built on space alone.  Revenue can be cultivated by positive client experiences, results and retail sales to name a few.  Once the mandates for social distancing are removed, and when it is safe, you can create a sense of distance.  Even if your styling stations are set up on 54″ centers, there are ways to create an open feeling.

First, consider implementing a minimalist design to create a salon that feels clean and not over-crowded.   Minimalism is in.  At the least, unclutter your space by removing décor off the reception desk, styling stations and other areas.  This will allow for easy cleaning and provide a feeling of space.  You can open up your salon with lighter neutral hues on the walls.  You can also use cleanable commercial-grade wall coverings and reflective materials that create depth.

Before you start adding partitions in between chairs, consider that this might close the customer in.  The result could be counter-intuitive.  Your instinct may be to “do something,” but don’t make the mistake of investing in something that won’t pay off.  Invest in space planning ideas that do not compromise your brand or the guest experience.

Rethinking the 4 Design Imperatives in the Post-Pandemic Salon
Rethinking the 4 Design Imperatives in the Post-Pandemic Salon

“Drawing inspiration from residential spaces makes perfect sense now. But we can't lose sight that materials and finishes must be, dare I say, sterile-ish. We have to find that balance."--Michele Pelafas



Now more than ever, we think of home as the safest place on earth.  Your guests will be looking for that same feeling at your salon.  Comfort is a feeling and a state-of-mind.  Drawing inspiration from residential spaces makes perfect sense.  Safe equals secure and secure equals comfort.  Everything and anything that you can do to make your guest feel comfortable is essential.

Consider updating your space with elements that engage the senses.  Think about soft but cleanable textures.  Integrate relaxing scents, soothing music, comfortable commercial grade seating, and warm lighting.  This will promote a sense calm, relaxation and the feeling of home.  The salon of the future is ramping up to be a sanctuary.  It is warm, friendly, inviting and personal.  At the same time, future salons will be built with state-of-the-art materials that are productive and promote cleanliness.  The new salon must balance these, dare I say, “sterile-ish” applications with the feeling of tranquility.

Although, comfort is a feeling and a state of mind; perception and reality are different things.  For example, a “sneeze” guard in between a guest and nail technician can be a reminder for good hygiene.  It can also help prevent the transmission of airborne germs.  But they do not, for instance, prevent an infected patron from transferring germs to a door handle.  Deep cleaning every moment of every day is essential.  If you do not follow the basic guidelines for sanitation and cleanliness, the sense of security will be short-lived.  This could be detrimental to the guest, the worker and your business.   Add a sneeze guard if you must, but don’t let it be a barrier between what matters.

Rethinking the 4 Design Imperatives in the Post-Pandemic Salon
Rethinking the 4 Design Imperatives in the Post-Pandemic Salon

"Because of COVID-19, we are hyper-focused on prevention and preparedness. But shouldn't it be like that anyway? It's called great design."--Michele Pelafas



Most of us understand wellness as eating right, exercising and practicing meditation.  But wellness plays a role in our surroundings and it is very important.  You need well-built interiors for the well-being of your guests and employees.  Because of COVID-10, we are hyper-focused on prevention and preparedness.  This will continue to play out in the salon.

Research shows a correlation between our health and interior.  The links between art, aesthetics and well-being are well-known.  Other factors such as adequate daylight and views to nature play a role.  So do colors, acoustics, indoor air quality, ergonomics, scents and more.  Consider everything, from ventilation to lighting.  The well-built environment is multi-faceted and a movement.

As part of the well-interior, there should be honest dialogue.  You should ask customers how they physically feel.  Staff should have protective gear such as masks and gloves.  Without question, you must clean and disinfect.  Well-focused interiors includes policies, procedures and training.  All of these initiatives are driven by mandates that you should follow.  This will help prevent the spread of any virus.  And it will provide you with a safe, healthy environment.

Rethinking the 4 Design Imperatives in the Post-Pandemic Salon
Rethinking the 4 Design Imperatives in the Post-Pandemic Salon

"We finally have a huge case for quality over quantity. Today, it has more implications than ever in the salon environment."--Michle Pelafas


I practice the art of quality over quantity, and always have.  Quality has more meaning.  Quality saves you time, money and energy.  Quality has more depth.  Quality also typically brings you better results.  When planning for the future you must consider why quality matters.  Because of COVID-19, I think there is a case for quality over quantity.  It has more implications than ever before in the salon environment.

When you open your doors, quality first impressions are important.  You have a short window to establish trust and communicate your value.  You must establish a sense of order, beauty, calm and efficiency.  You can accomplish this with harmony and balance.  Repetition of color, shapes and brand image will also help.  Consistency is connected to reliability.  All of this builds confidence and integrity.

Quality design matters.  It will strengthen your brand and set the tone for a safe salon experience.  Through design you can create a caring and orderly structure.  This leads to a sense of safety, responsibility and loyalty.  It gives the impression that your business knows what they are doing.  Quality design includes touch-less faucets and wipe-able surfaces.  Access to hand-wash stations instill confidence, peace and calm.

Quality surfaces are non-porous and easy to clean.  Consider quartz, stainless steel, porcelain and plastic laminate.  Some of these materials are inherently antimicrobial.   Antimicrobial protection helps to kill microorganisms or stop their growth.  Copper is another natural antimicrobial surface.  It offers a beautiful patina over time.  Semiprecious stone (think agate, tiger-eye, and petrified wood) is stain and scratch-resistant.  They are resistant to bacteria.  Semiprecious stone surfaces are beautiful, though pricey. Bamboo has an antifungal agent living in it.  Cork stops bacteria and microorganisms from growing.  Consider flooring that has very little joints such as luxury vinyl, epoxy or terrazzo.  This makes the floor very easy to clean.

On a final note, quality doesn’t have to be expensive.  You can do more with less, which is the whole point.  Less is truly more.  I cannot emphasize enough about utilizing your budget dollars wisely.  Invest in ideas that will yield the biggest returns.  You cannot go wrong with investing in these imperatives.  Space, comfort, wellness and quality all lend themselves to a safe and secure environment.  They will set the foundation for your successful business.

I will launch a series of separate blogs focused on each of these imperatives in detail.  In the meantime, as you are planning, make this time about your own inner cleansing and purifying of thoughts.

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