Salon Design

Custom-Made Workstations Fit Salon to a “T”

Custom-built nail stations can be tailored to the nail technician's needs -- and at a price that's more comfortable than you think.

Every nail station is not created equal – variations in dimensions, components, and color, are some of the features that set one nail station apart from the next. And just as nail stations vary, so do the needs of nail technicians – one may want more storage, another may want a more stylist appearance, and yet another might need a little both at an affordable price. If a standard workstation doesn’t suit your needs, don’t despair. You can always have a workstation customized to your specifications and style at a reasonable price, depending on the design you choose.

Workstations consist of components such as the work surface, drawers, cabinets, and racks. A custom-made workstation is when the client choose the configuration of the components, says Steven Schweer, a designer with Salon Interiors (Hackensack, N.J.). “We can also customize components, for example, converting a standard three-drawer component into a one-drawer component with a hinged-door storage area.” Then there is the semi-custom workstation, he continues, which is standard components combined with a customized work space.

“Technicians want three things out of a nail station: adequate storage, plenty of work surface, and a reasonable price,” explains Schweer, who says that the majority of request for customized station are from salon owners who don’t necessarily do nails. “If you’re the new salon on the block, you need to be new and different. Having customized tables is more of a marketing and business practice among salon owners rather than the need of the technician. If the salon has eight technicians, and each technician were to pick out her own table, there would be eight different tables.” He says. Décor and style of the salon are two important considerations Salon Interiors keeps in mind when customizing workstations, says Schweer.

Susan Greenman and Vincent Giustini, co-owner of Sanctuary in Elmhurst, Ill., both fit the mold of salon owners who don’t do nails but wanted custom-built stations. “The whole image of our salon is eclectic and we wanted everything custom-made. We didn’t want typical-looking hair and nail stations, but knew they had to be functional,” says Greenman. “Although I’m not a nail technician,” she says, “I’ve had a million and one manicures in my life so I had a very good idea of what to get from a client’s perspective.”

Sanctuary’s color scheme is teal and golden-yellow with mahogany accents. Explains Greenman, “The bases of our two nails stations are metal and the tops are teal and mahogany laminate. Underneath the tabletop is a detachable mahogany laminate cabinet for storage so nothing has to be out in the open.”

According to Chuck Gardner, manager of West Coast Beauty Supply’s Salon Design Center in Benicia, Calif., many technicians place utilitarian needs before aesthetics. “Part of the design process is to get as much information from the customer as possible so we can create the workstation she envisions in her head,” says Gardner.


“More storage space” was the overwhelming response we received from the salon furnishings manufacturers when asked what technicians are looking for in a custom-made workstation. “I wanted a custom nail station because it seemed like there wasn’t enough cabinet space with standards ones,” says Connie Kyle, owner of Show of Hands in Houston, Mo. Though Kyle has only been a nail technician and salon owner since January, she knew right off the bat what she wanted. “I met Brian Padgett [president of Salon Express Mfg. Inc. in Ocala, Fla.] at a tradeshow and he said he could me anything I wanted as long as I gave him the dimension. So I drew a sketch of a white, U-shaped desk with everything at arm’s reach and faxed it over to him,” says Kyle. After seeing her drawing, says Kyle, Padgett jokingly told her that his designers said, “She doesn’t want a workstation; she wants a kitchen,” But they came through with flying colors and built her the workstation of her dreams; it has three separate (but attached) pieces with squared corners and two of the corners have built-in glass retail shelves.

When technicians ask for more storage space, many of them have an unrealistic idea of what they can stuff into a cabinet, says Gardner. “We can take the crudest idea and transform it into an actual one,” he says. “We may need to explain to the nail technician in layman’s terms why something can’t be done the way everything we can’t be done the way they’ve envisioned, but we will do everything we can to give them what they want in a modified version.”

Besides more storage space, another popular request, says Gardner, is a retail display either added to the workstation or next to it. Says Padgett, “Since many technicians are requesting more drawer space, a lot of our standard worktables now have at least four drawers and one cabinet – these are our bestselling tables.” Padgett says his salespeople, who are also nail technicians, and his distributors keep him up-to-date on what technicians are looking for in a workstation.

Probably the most unusual requested feature Schweer has received for a nail station was for a storage cabinet that looked like a spice rack. He says. “It was a rollout cabinet with a lot of little shelves to hold nail polish, and was located on the client’s side of the table so she can pick and choose a color,” he says.

“Besides storage, we’ve receive request for adding a vent or a polish rack or changing the color or having a rollabout instead of storage space,” says Michelle Muellner, sales manager and designer for Belvedere Co. in Elmhurst, Ill. “Everyone wants something different, but cost is a big consideration,” she says.

Standard tables “don’t have enough working space” was the complaint made by Starr Pascale, owner of Nails and Sun in Ocala, Fla. “I think ready-made tables look like go-carts – there is no space to work,” she says. Although she’s owned her salon for 2 ½ years, Pascale didn’t start out with a custom workstation, but had one built about a year ago when business picked up, she says. Her made-to-order Salon Express workstation is over six feet long (the company’s standard tables are 36-42 inches long) and curves around at both ends. “This way, if I’m working on a client and someone comes in for a nail repair, there is enough room for her to sit down at one end of the table so I can repair her nail.” Her workstation which also doubles as an appointment desk, has three drawers, two cabinets, dual polish racks, and two lights.

Padgett says he’s had a lot of request for left-handed nail stations (the working surface is on the left side rather than on the right side rather than on left). “We don’t charge extra for a left-handed station.” Says Padgett, “The only time we will charge a customer extra for a customer extra is when we are using additional materials,” he says.

Connie Apploff, owner of Connie’s Nail in Daytona Beach, Fla. Worked at a standard workstation for 1 year before she met Padgett at an Orlando tradeshow and learned that he could build her a left-handed workstation at no extra charge. Says Apploff, “For years I worked from the client’s side of the table and put her on my side so I would be more comfortable. All these years I’ve been doing nails this way, and now that I’m toward the end of my career, I’m finally working comfortable.” Apploff added a vent, padded armrest, and a lamp to the station. She liked the workstation so much that she bought another one for her home.

For Toi Salter, owner of 10 magnificent Nails in Chicago, Ill., a need ti utilize her salon space in the most efficient ways was her reason for purchasing custom-made workstation. “My first salon was nails only. Then, when we moved locations two years ago, I also offered hair care so I wanted a type of nail station that made good use of space. I didn’t want separate workstation because they take up too much room,” explains Salter, who also wanted the station to match the sleek and neat-looking gray, black, and white salon decor.

“I explained to George Ross [salon design consultant and sales manager for Belvedere] what I wanted and showed him a sketch. He changed the configurations to make it fit, and I was very pleased with the finished product,” says Salter, who had two nail stations made; one seats five technicians and the other seats three.


There is a lot of creativity and energy involved from the inception of the workstation’s design to the completed product. Although the majority of the salon owners we spoke to came up with their own idea, many salon owners choose to modify a manufacturer’s standards workstation.

Says Padgett, “Normally, we custom-design a workstation from several different designs we offer. Then we’ll provide the customer with a line drawing and have her choose a color from our brochure once the customer approves the design and signs the contract, it takes about three weeks before she receive the workstation.”

At Belvedere, says Muellner, customers generally want a modification of one of the company’s standard workstation. Muellner also keeps a book that contains line drawings of custom-designed workstations the company has built as well as pictures of stations she has seen in magazines. “Once the customer decides on what she wants, we’ll make a detailed drawing, have it priced with our pricing department, then have the customer approve it,” says Muellner. “The whole process takes about 6-8 weeks.”

When customers come into Professional Salon Furniture in Santa Clara, Calif., and want a custom-made workstation, they are asked what they are looking for, the size of the salon, the location of the salon. And what nail services they offer. “Unless they bring in their own design, we’ll sit down and show them our models go from there,” says Mike Loung, CEO.

West Coast Beauty Supply’s Salon Design Center has a unique arrangement with their salon furnishings manufacturers for customers who want custom-made workstation and other salon furnishing. First, designers at eh Salon Design Center will draw a sketch of what the customer wants to charge. Then, after the client approves it, the company will send the drawing, which includes the dimensions, type of vinyl, and other specifications, to the manufacturers for bid. “The most important thing for both the nail technician and us is to achieve her vision both visually and functionally,” says Garner.


Depending on the materials used and the intricacy of the design, custom-made workstations aren’t as expensive as you may think. “Our custom workstations run about $500-$1,000,” says Padgett. Keeping that in mind, the spacious nail station he had built for Kyle’s salon was affordable priced at $550. And so were Apploff’s left-handed workstation at $499 each (at show price; regularly they are $549). Gardner says a single customized workstation (stock cabinet with modification) can cost about $750, and go all the way up to $1,500 for a completely one-of-a-kind design.

Although cost is an important factor to consider when customizing a workstation, the money you spend will be well worth it because you are getting exactly what you paid for. A custom-built nail station not only suits your style, personality, and needs, but allows you to work comfortably and more efficiently. After all, though clients may come and go, your workstation will always be at your side.

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