Moving on up

After 19 years in the same location, Anthony Marsalese realized his Birmingham, MI, salon had seen better days: Its '80s decor had lost its luster, and the 2,200-square-foot space was struggling to accommodate his ever-growing clientele. So when space became available two doors down, Marsalese immediately signed a lease. "I knew it was time for me to put money into expansion so the salon could survive for another 19 years," he says.

 The custom-designed L'Oréal Professionnel color consultation center is the focal point of the Antonino Salon.
The custom-designed L'Oréal Professionnel color consultation center is the focal point of the Antonino Salon.

Using Marsalese's wish list as inspiration, an architect and an interior decorator spent the next 11 months designing and building the 4,000-square-foot, 24-chair Antonino Salon and Spa. The result of their labors is a feast for the eyes: Except for the spa area, there are steel beads and translucent fabric in place of walls, which gives the salon an airy but intimate feel. A scrim hangs in front of the corner window so clients can have services done there but still maintain their privacy; at night, the area turns theatrical thanks to a kinetic light that gently fades from red to pink to lavender. Metal styling stations are custom-made by Box Furniture Design, and each has a lightbox to banish unflattering shadows. The furniture is from Italian designers Gamma and MG Broff and helps give the salon its modern feel. Nearly everything in the salon is moveable, including the fixtures and mirrors.

The only stationary item is the L'Oréal Professionnel Haircolor Center, squarely in the center of the salon. This custom-designed consultation center has swatch pens and long strands of colored hair that clients can try before committing to a shade.

That the salon has the room to accommodate the haircolor center is one of the many benefits of its new location, but the move did present its share of challenges. For starters, although the salon is 40 percent larger, there is less storage space. Marsalese and his staff overcame this by sharing product-laden towers located throughout the salon. "We don't have a lot of product all over the place," he explains. "With this setup, the salon stays cleaner and is more linear looking."

Clients also had to adjust to the change in environment, even though the salon was only two doors down from the original location. To help ease the transition, Marsalese and his staff stepped up their customer service efforts. "When I decided to do a new, modern salon, I realized it could be intimidating or cold," he says. "So at a staff meeting, I told everyone that since we're twice as big, we have to try twice as hard to make sure we greet people and smile at them even if they're not your client, to make sure they feel welcomed and not overwhelmed. We're still the same people they're used to coming to see and we need to show them that. We're in a new salon, but we still want to make sure our clients feel comfortable." —BONNIE GIBBS