Taking Shape: Designing Your Salon for Form and Function

Industry • Best Practice

Taking Shape: Designing Your Salon for Form and Function

See how layout, lighting, and decor affect operational efficiency, client satisfaction, and more

So, you’ve found the perfect retail space for your salon. Now what? 

Now it’s time to create the perfect layout and design — one that provides the optimal experience for clients while enabling your staff to be efficient and do quality work. This not only requires an understanding of what your clients are looking for when they come in, but it also means understanding how lighting affects perception or performing a bit of magic to make spaces look larger than they actually are. Here are a few tips to help you maximize your space, optimize revenue, and provide the best experience for your clients from the moment they walk through the door.

Envision the client journey

Before you even plug in the first hair dryer, take stock of your current layout and envision how your clients will move through this space. Ask yourself questions about what type of experience you’re looking to provide. Then, imagine yourself as a client and walk through the onboarding, service, and check-out experiences to optimize the flow of their journey.

For example, if you plan on taking a lot of walk-in clients, you will want to ensure your waiting area is large enough to accommodate them. If you’re going appointment-only, you can shrink this area to allow additional room for retail products or stylist stations.

What are your signature services? If it’s coloring, consider placing the color bar in a prominent location so your clients can watch staff apply their expertise to mixing and matching colors. If you’re running a barber shop, you’ll want the hair trimming stations to remain the primary focus, with additional, less-requested services to take place near the rear of the shop.

Ultimately, your goal should be to ensure your client has a smooth experience while maximizing the efficiency of your stylists. Keep essential tools close by and display signature services while tucking less-used services and custodial supplies in less-trafficked areas of your salon.

Shine a light

Lighting is one of — if not the — most important aspects to consider when planning your layout. Where you decide to hang lights, the fixtures you use, even the bulbs themselves, can dramatically alter your salon’s ambiance and affect the quality of service you provide. 

Choose warm-to-neutral temperature bulbs for your light fixtures. Warm-temperature bulbs are softer and more soothing than other lightbulbs and make great fixtures for waiting rooms. White, neutral light bulbs provide the best light for areas where hair stylists work — they offer ample light while still bringing out natural colors and skin complexions. Avoid cool temperature bulbs, as these tend to mimic broad daylight conditions, which can make color and skin complexion appear washed out.

Speaking of color, certain light bulbs are better suited for bringing out colors than others. Choose bulbs with a Color Rendering Index (CRI) of at least 86 and avoid colored light bulbs wherever possible. That way, the hair colors clients receive when they visit your salon match what they see when they leave.

And where there’s light, there will be shadow. When placing fixtures, ensure that light is placed strategically in spaces where clients are most likely to see their faces. Well-lit stations will bring out the quality of work your stylists have poured their time and energy into.

Offload, combine, optimize

In addition to reception areas, examine other functions typically found within a traditional salon and consider ways to streamline or remove them from your workflow. Chances are you can combine functionality or offload them entirely, allowing you to create more space for additional services.

For example, one salon in Albuquerque, NM, transitioned from non-disposable towels to sustainable and disposable Scrummi Towels. This decision enabled their business to remove one of two on-site laundry rooms and open up an additional waxing room in its space. And if you cannot do without non-disposable laundry, consider hiring a laundry service to handle washing to free up extra space.

Combining multiple stations into a single fixture can also help optimize your available space, especially when those stations share equipment or products. If your space permits, placing double-sided salon stations in the middle of an open area can help you double your intake, especially if you can place stations against the wall.

Think tall and hang it on the wall

When planning your salon layout, it’s easy to put most of your energy into maximizing floor space. But don’t forget about your walls! They can help you get the most out of compact spaces.

Shelving units and mirrors are functional ways to help you reduce clutter and provide utility for stylists and clients while also helping to improve your salon’s overall vibe. Mirrors, in particular, are an interior decoration magic trick, instantly making small rooms feel larger and more spacious than they actually are. They don’t just have to be functional, either — changing up frame styles and mirror sizes will add an extra dimension to your salon’s chosen aesthetic.

Hanging up styling tools can also provide an instant burst of salon decor while providing easy access to the things staff needs to service their clients. Instead of hiding away hair dryers or shears inside drawers or under styling stations, attach hooks and holsters to the wall for easy, visible access.

Be intentional

Whatever path you decide to take with your design, your decisions must be thoughtful and intentional. Too much of a good thing can make a space feel cluttered; not enough, and your salon can feel sad and empty. 

For example, adding plants to your waiting area can liven up an otherwise dull space. Too many, though, and clients might feel like they’ve walked into a jungle. Ask yourself: Will my decisions positively affect the client’s experience? If you cannot answer that question definitively, it might be worth exploring a different approach.

But don’t forget to apply that intention to both form and function. Creating a pleasing space for clients is important, but not at the expense of your staff’s comfort and efficiency. Don’t be afraid to test things out and change whatever isn’t serving your purposes. With a little experimentation — and some feedback from clients and employees alike — you’ll land on the perfect design that makes your heart happy and your business prosperous.

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