Salon of the Year

Grand-Prizer Winner: Blo

July 10, 2011 | 5:29 PM
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Raleigh, North Carolina

Owner: Bryan Nunes

Salon style: Uplifting, inspirational, sensual

Square footage: 4,600

Styling stations: 38

Equipment: AGV Group, Custom

Furniture: Pietranera, SalonCentric, Proto Tool

Total design investment: $275,000

Top retail lines: Redken, Pureology

Design: Andrew Stillwell, Bryan Nunes

Architect: Andrew Stillwell, Centerpoint Architecture

Photography: Bert McLendon of McLendon Photography

Judges comments:

“The warehouse ceiling gives Blo extra character and is a nice juxtaposition to the warm artwork and light fixtures.”


“Fantastic natural lighting makes this a great space for hair color services! The recessed design of the styling stations keeps the circulation area clean and open—a must for a salon with a high number of chairs.”


“This salon captures your attention from the outside as well as inside. It has a clean, art gallery style.”

—Sansevero and Cronk


OWNER BRYAN NUNES frequently tells his staff that space is Blo’s most valuable team member, and this was his guiding design principle when it came to doubling the Raleigh, North Carolina, salon’s square footage in its latest expansion. “I am a hairdresser deep down, and I firmly believe in creating a space that is conducive to a creative, stimulating, clean and ergonomically responsible work environment, which ultimately will lead to happy designers and lower turnover.”

From day one, the mission for Nunes and his architect Andrew Stillwell was to pull off the expansion in a way that existing clients didn’t feel their experience had changed and new guests would never know the salon wasn’t built all at one time. “We did this by creating pockets of intimacy throughout the salon without compromising the openness and magic of the original space,” says Nunes.

For example, a total of 96 windows run from the 20 ft. ceiling all the way to the salon floor. “Dividing up the space into separate rooms, or putting in a drop ceiling would have taken away from the magic of the empty canvas we started with,” he says. Instead, they suspended ceiling “clouds” over the styling galleries which created the intimacy while allowing clients to view around them to see the entire space.

Drop pendant lighting at different heights over the color tables and shampoo chairs creates a community and a calming atmosphere. Twenty-six speakers positioned throughout the space allow for music, from Blo’s playlist of 15,000 songs, to be controlled in 11 different sound zones. Lampes Bergers, hidden throughout the salon, subconsciously envelop clients in welcoming fragrance.

Once a quarter, an art director swaps out the works by local artists that hang on the 20 ft. walls, so clients always have something new to see, and stylists move stations monthly to keep things fresh and interestingfor clients and stylists alike.

“Although the state requires five feet of space from center to center of each styling station, we allowed for seven feet, and we created huge walking spaces so that stylists were not back-to-back, feeling crowded,” explains Nunes. “You will never see stations littered with products at Blo, because all the stations are recessed into the half walls, and we have no hooded dryers or processing lamps. This keeps the space looking and feeling more like a gallery than a hair salon.”

The expansion allowed Blo to add a second color bar at the other end of the space from the original bar. This gives the salon the ability to serve 16 guests at once for chemical services, but only eight at each bar, which maintains client intimacy. “One forward thinking idea for us was to include the retail area and the color area in the same place, so the captive color crowd has products within site and can take advantage of marketing opportunitites,” says Nunes. “We also wanted reception to be in full view of the chemical area. While this seems like it wouldn’t make sense, in fact only about 40 percent of salon clients get color. We felt if more clients saw guests enjoying the service, they’d be more likely to enter in a dialogue with their stylist about color.”

Two new profit centers are a waxing room and the make-up area. Since Blo only performs facial waxing, Nunes created a beautiful glass room with no door, which invites guests to inquire about the service. For the make-up area, the retail display for the line is department-store quality and the application stations resemble that of a guests’ bathroom vanity. A 19-inch monitor that separates the two stations educates the guests on application techniques as well as cosmetics promotions. “This has increased our retail sales by 25 percent in the first quarter.”

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