Depending on how much you enjoyed the process of pulling your salon decor together, the idea of being a full-time salon designer might strike you as a joy or a nightmare. For interior designer Michele Pelafas, it’s no less than a dream come true. “It was my calling and is still my passion today as I celebrate over 12 years in business,” says Pelafas, the principal designer and artistic director for Elmhurst, Ill.-based Michele Pelafas, Inc. The company has been involved in many impressive projects — from the Four Seasons Hotel salon and spa in Baltimore and the Whole Foods Market spa in Boston to creating custom spa furniture for the Dior Institut in Paris and the Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Living Center spa in Rochester, Minn. Her company also manufactures high-end salon and spa furniture including a line of oh-so-cool pedicure chairs.
Take a guided tour of some of the company’s loveliest designs.
Milk & Honey Spa at the Whole Foods Market, Boston
Our goal and directive for this new in-store spa was to create an eco-friendly design that fit the Whole Foods Market brand while integrating sustainability, functionality, and style. To accomplish this, we fused a modern mix of bamboo, solid surface, earth-friendly veneers, and faux leathers that could withstand daily wear and tear on all of the custom spa furniture.
NAAVA Salon & Spa, Austin, Texas
We created Naava’s nail department to meet their wish for a lounge atmosphere where groups could gather and easily share in the experience. To accomplish this, we worked closely with the owners to design and develop multi-functional sectional seating that integrates both manicure and pedicure services with sophisticated materials and finishes. The end result is a space that has a sleek modern loft appearance with accents of white and gray stone, bold abstract wall coverings, simply patterned fabrics, and natural walnut millwork. The combination perfectly complements the salon’s downtown Austin location and is both beautiful and functional.
Body & Soul Downtown Spa Salon, Dubuque, Iowa
Every detail of Body & Soul’s manicure and pedicure environment was developed to fit the customer’s specific needs — from the built-in divider arms on the pedicure bench to the fashionable materials and finishes found on the custom manicure banquette. Also, the built-in pedicure bench was a space-saving solution for a small footprint, allowing us to utilize the space to its fullest potential.
Neroli Spa & Apothecary, Charlottesville, Va.
Neroli Spa combines an exceptional shopping experience with a state-of-the-art spa where offerings include skin care and nails. To support the goals of Suzanne Owen, founder of Neroli, we designed the space to be “green,” comfortable, and high style from the rich warm tones, unique built-in niches, and natural bamboo and cork floors to the recycled glass tile and energy-efficient lighting. We also designed all of the custom furnishings and fixtures to support the Neroli brand for style and cleanliness with a retail environment to entice shopping, browsing, and buying.
Luxe Nail & Spa Boutique, Los Angeles
The concept for Luxe Nail & Spa Boutique combined warm neutrals with glam chandeliers, white cabinetry, soft elegant seating, and pops of fresh coral with rustic wood accents, stained concrete, comfortable tufted seating, and ornately framed mirrors. The owners also wanted a multifunctional bench with integrated storage where clients could have manicure and pedicure services in the same place. Our solution combined the comfort and style of our Tiffany pedicure chair with a custom storage cabinet with integrated manicure trays that slide out when in use. The trays can also be used for client beverages and have extra storage below. Luxe has a chic and cozy boutique space with a hint of cottage style in the heart of Beverly Hills.
Prim & Posh Nail Boutique, New Orleans
Owner Nancy Bui was looking for a modern yet tranquil look for her new nail boutique when we began working with her. She has great taste, so pulling together the details was fun. In any space, a beautiful wall covering can make a big statement for little investment, and a fancy chandelier will provide a chic upscale look. For Nancy, we addressed both comfort and privacy with our modern wingback Stella Pedicure Chair that allows for privacy or socializing. In any space, colors should be cohesive and complement the environment. Here we have a sophisticated color palette of warm grays, beige tones, whites, and soothing blues.
A Chat With Michele Pelafas
How did you first get involved in the beauty industry? And what is your background in design?
Pelafas: My first job was working in a showroom for a well-known salon and spa equipment company 20 years ago. At that time, I fell in love with the furniture and design aspect of the beauty industry and that inspired me to become a licensed interior designer, so that I could start and grow my own interior design company and follow my dreams.
What services do you offer salon owners? And how much does a remodel typically run?
Pelafas: We offer a high level of comprehensive design and interior planning for salons and spas in all facets. This includes space and floor plan design, computer renderings, 3-D illustrations, lighting, color, construction details, theme, feasibility, retail and fixture planning, and furniture design with manufacturing. In terms of price, a complete remodel could range anywhere from $50 a square foot up to $125 a square foot.
What is it that excites you about the intersection of the beauty business and interior design?
Pelafas: There are so many complex and unique components within a typical salon interior that both excite and inspire me every day. For one, I am extremely passionate about retail design as it relates to the salon environment. I also love the fragile blend of form and functionality that I think can only be found in the salon interior and solved with great plans and smart ideas. Salon lighting is another element exclusive to the business of beauty that I adore and respect. With every salon project, there is an undeniable interior fashion component that keeps me motivated and excited about the spaces we create.
What achievements are you most proud of?
Pelafas: We have an extensive portfolio including projects both large and small. I am most proud of how my company has grown over the years (we grew 35% two years in a row) and how my fabulous design team continues to pioneer the beauty industry with innovative and stylish designs.
For a salon owner designing on a limited budget, where would you recommend she focus her energies? Where will she get the most bang for her buck?
Pelafas: For a salon owner on a limited budget, I would recommend that she focus her energies on the small and special details that ultimately lead to enhanced customer experiences. While good lighting is essential for the salon environment, it can add up quickly! Be cost-conscious in every phase of the project and focus on the simple yet important details — for example, flattering and color-corrective lighting. The same goes for furniture and equipment. Make sure that the purchases are worthwhile and will produce a good return on investment. In some cases, start with a few key pieces and add as the business grows. Make sure retail is at the front and center of the business, but use inexpensive yet decorative tables and shelving that are merchandised well. Add graphics and signage in strategic areas for big impact on a small investment. Many times we look outside of the beauty industry for creative yet budget-conscious interior details. It is all about careful planning.
Collaborating With Katie Cazorla
The clean lines of Michele Pelafas’ unique pedicure furniture caught the eye of Katie Cazorla, owner of The Painted Nail and star of the reality TV show Nail Files. When Cazorla opened her beauty supply and furniture showroom, Everything Nailz in Studio City, Calif., she was quick to highlight the Stella Pedicure Chair and Footspa, the designer’s best seller.
“I found Michele online,” says Cazorla. “I hopped on a plane to Chicago and we had instant chemistry. She is super creative and amazing to work with. She thinks outside the box and merges fabulous and function into every piece.”
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