Outside The Box

Good design can help small salons generate big profits and create a comfortable, organized environment for stylists and clients.

In American Salon, we often feature beautiful, spacious salons that boast luxurious lounges, cafés and color processing areas. While these salons are certainly inspiring, they're not the norm in the United States; most salons are a whole lot smaller. According to the Professional Beauty Association's National Profile of the Salon Industry released in November 2008, there are more than 550,000 beauty salons and spas in the United States, and the average size of these businesses, according to a First Research Industry Profile, is 1,500 square feet. Salon owners with spaces of 1,500 square feet or less face limitations when it comes to having room for furniture like styling stations, which, in turn, affects the number of clients they can schedule each day. With the right furniture selection and design, however, small salons can increase their revenue and compete with larger salons in the area. 

"Organized," "clean" and "creative" are three important principles to keep in mind when designing a small salon space. "The key to designing small spaces is maximizing the square footage and being very, very efficient," says Jason DeSantis, regional sales manager for Takara Belmont. DeSantis suggests combining the color dispensary and shampoo backbar into one unit to make the most of the preparation areas, and utilizing styling chairs with slightly smaller footprints."Two inches may not seem like a lot, but it can make a huge difference when the overall length is added up, and can mean the ability to add one more styling chair," DeSantis says."One more chair equals more revenue."

Takara Belmont, for example, offers wall-mounted mirrors and styling stations such as the Illumination and Kubix that are designed to not only give the appearance of a lighter environment, but actually save valuable square footage for working and passage areas as well. Similarly, Pibbs offers a variety of styling chairs and mobile work stations that provide a clean and simple look without sacrificing storage room for tools and products. The Pibbs EZ System Island Styling Station, for example, is a freestanding back-to-back station. "The best thing to remember is to keep it simple," says Armando Petruccelli, sales manager at Pibbs. "Do not try to cram every styling product, tool or accessory into the styling station. Only bring to the station what is needed for the customer in the chair. By thinking this way, you'll find that in most cases you do not need more space than the work shelf on your station."

Neill Corporation's new Paris Parker Studio in New Orleans utilizes double-sided styling stations from Etopa that feature discreet shelves on the sides for easy access to products and tools while maintaining a clean appearance from the front. The space-saving furniture enabled the 1,000-square-foot salon to add a brow bar, providing the business with an extra source of revenue.

The Freestyle Systems Freestylist, a hairdryer support system, is also helpful for clearing the clutter that can build at styling stations. "The Freestylist is great for small salons because it maximizes space," says Blair Hopper, president and CEO of Freestyle Systems. "The system is suspended from the ceiling, so the eye automatically goes up, enlarging the space. It also clears equipment from the station, making room for other tools and products, and it eliminates cord clutter, which gives the appearance of a clean, open space."

Salon Atelier in Sycamore, IL, created an effective layout for its 800-square-foot salon with space-conscious Belvedere styling chairs, dryer chairs and shampoo chairs from the Arrojo line. It also utilizes the Belvedere Kallista wall mount station with a built-in tool drawer. "Belvedere offers a wide range of products for the smaller salon along with space-planning and floor-space layout design," says Craig Christiansen, marketing manager at Belvedere USA. "Often, the key is to keep equipment on the walls if possible. In addition, slim stations that mount to the wall and include tool drawers are helpful, as are wall-mounted dryers, wall-mounted retail shelves, functional shampoo stations, and multipurpose stations that transform into a manicure table or include wheels to create a portable station."

Davide Torchio Salon in New York City is another example of a small salon that maximizes every inch of its space. Consisting of two floors that are each 350 square feet, the salon features a smart design and Gamma & Bross Sensual styling chairs and Tekno Wash shampoo sinks designed for the company by Karim Rashid. "Small spaces also mean small budgets, so since we couldn't hire an architect, we designed the space ourselves," says manager Fabrizio Grimaud, who co-owns the salon with stylist Davide Torchio. "To keep the salon buzzing at maximum capacity, we wanted to be able to accommodate five clients at once. We went to showrooms in search of the right chairs, looked for easy, clean storage solutions, and laid out the placement of all the furniture and mirrors with chalk to ensure there was the right amount of space in front of and behind the chairs."

While space-saving furniture is key to making a small space work, don't forget to consider how to effectively display retail products. It may be tempting to hide products behind the reception desk to keep them out of the way, but clients won't be able to touch or try them there. Products should be located in front of the reception desk, on shelves above the stations or along the walls to allow clients to browse while they are receiving services. Sharilyn Abbajay, executive vice president of Neill Corporation, offers another useful retail area design tip: "Provide a small community table with four to six seats, rather than several separate seating areas within the space. This way the guests can sit in the retail environment and engage with the retail offerings." Above all, an organized work environment, no matter how small the space is, creates an ideal atmosphere for employees to best serve their clients, and for guests to feel comfortable, pampered and eager to return. With the right design and furniture, even small spaces can create a big impact. Says Abbajay, "Don't try to overdo your offerings in a space—think of your small spaces serving as double-duty experiences." —NICOLE PALMIERI