Business Management

Salon Facelifts

To stay up-to-date and to keep clients and staff interested and excited, many salon owners have opted to redesign their businesses. Is it time for your salon to go under the hammer and nails for a whole new look?

A strong believer in changing with the times, Gerald Kriegisch, who has owned GK Salon and Spa in Tarzana, Calif., for 26 years, normally redecorates every five to six years. “People get tired of the same decor, and even the best- looking salon can get boring after a while,” he says. “Besides, about every five years fashions and hair styles change, so you need to have an up-to-date salon look to match.”

It was the January 1994 North- ridge earthquake that got the ball rolling for Kriegisch s latest redesign, which involved adding on 4,600 square feet. “We got hit pretty bad from the quake and had to replace all the minors and shelves. This got me thinking about redesigning the salon and adding on because the space next door was available,” he says. About six months later, Kriegisch added at lay spa, which consists of five esthetician rooms and six nail stations. He also changed the decor of the salon from gray marble to mustard yellow, burgundy, and purple, with lots of brushed aluminium. 

“The previous decor was elegant. This time we wanted it to be more trendy and youth-oriented It’s very artsy yet still has a comfortable feel,” says Kriegisch. 

Banking on the profitability of day saps, many salon owners have converted their salons. Philip Cirruzzo, manager of La Carezza In South Hampton, N.Y., says day spas have become part and parcel of full-service salons. They allow clients the luxury of getting additional beauty services under one roof, he explains. It was for this reason, and the fact that the salon needed to become more efficient, that the 2,000 square-foot day sap was added to the five-year old salon.

In keeping with the decor of the rest of the salon, the spa inclusive nail stations, two waking rooms, three European pedicure chairs, a wet room for body treatments and massage that has a Swedish shower and steam rooms, two facial rooms, and two massage rooms. To update the look of the salon area, the desk in the reception area was replaced, a European pedicure station and a hair station were added, and a new cosmetics center was built.

Some redesigns involve converting unused space into a useful area, as was the case for Leona Fye, owner of Classic Touch Hair Design in Portland, Ore After 14 years in business, Fye was ready to finish converting the rest of the rooms of the private-residence- turned-salon. “From the time I bought the property, I knew 1 wanted to eventually convert the entire building into a salon,” she says.

The process involved converting one room into a pedicure room, which includes a manicure sink separated by a partition for nail care clients. The room next door was converted into a nail room, a sunken room with sliding glass doors that open up to a patio with a pond It has three workstations, which stand on oak parquet floors with mauve-colored carpeting surrounding each table. Shelves were built for each technician, and their own phones were installed. In addition, the facial room was moved to a quieter area of the salon and a wall was built to split the room m half to accommodate a massage area. The kitchen was also converted into a break room for the staff.

The winter before Fye redesigned the salon, she painted the hairstyling area and put m new hydraulic chairs and shampoo chairs.

I knew I would be redesigning other areas of the salon, so I didn’t want this area to look old and dingy,” she says.

Even chain salon owners feel the need to change the look of their salons every now and then. Pam McNair, owner of four Gadabout Salons in Tucson, Ariz., recently redesigned her first salon in the chain, which opened in 1979.

Ninety-eight percent of the salon’s recent redesign involved changing decor, says McNair. “The salon business changes so rapidly that you need to update the look to keep clients and staff excited. I like to redo the decor of my salons every five to seven years,” she says.

Previously Southwestern with natural wicker, the salon is now more sophisticated with a touch of European charm. “It still has the warm, intimate feeling it had before, which I think is important to keep,” says McNair. The new decor was based on the look of one of the other salons in the chain, although, as a rule, McNair prefers to keep the decor of each of her salons different. “The ages of the technicians work­ing at each salon are different as are the working status of the clients, so we try to reflect the personalities of both in the decor,” explains McNair.


Sometimes just a simple redecoration can make a big difference in the appearance of a salon. At The Country Club Salon in London, England, owner Electra Sawbridge redecorates every two or three years because she believes that improving the premises and making it look good and clean helps business in the long run.

Though she has kept the basic color of the salon the same (a light, creamy magnolia), she had the alcoves and baseboards painted a Robin’s egg blue and the large window in the rear of the salon framed in wood and stained in reddish-brown (this will eventually be done to all of the wood in the salon). Sawbridge also replaced the salon’s wicker chairs and couch with a three-piece settee and matching chairs that she and nail technician Suzan Marsh reupholstered in a terra-cotta Ganges fabric.


One salon owner we spoke to, Carmen DePasquale of The Spa at DePasquale in Morris Plains, N.J., recently completed phase one of his salon renovation, adding a skin spa with nine treatment rooms. Since the salon opened in 1985, he has renovated just once before, adding on 2,000 square feet. Now he’s in the process of adding 8,000 more square feet, which will include a skin spa and nail spa area. Currently, the salon has 11 nail technicians, but after the 2,000 square-foot nail spa is done, there will be room for 16.

Like many salon owners, DePasquales decision to redesign was to maximize available space. “Since we have such a busy salon, we needed room for growth. We have to refuse 20-30 callers a day because we don’t have enough staff to accommodate them. Also, my son wants to get in the business and I want him to have a nice place to take over one day,” he says.

The Spa at DePasquale will consist of five entities — a nail spa, a skin care spa, a color and design salon for hair, a retail boutique, and a seminar area complete with a sofa and fireplace. There will also be a Cuts for Kids area, which will be separate from the salon area. Says DePasquale, “Every room will have a different decor. Each one will look like a work of art and carry a different theme such as Italian mosaic or a rain forest scene. The floors will be a combination of slate and ceramics, and all of the furniture will be made from natural pear wood.” A far cry from the salon s previous decor, which was seven shades and textures of white.

“When we first sat down to discuss the redesign, we wanted to create something that dealt with the senses — sight, touch, and sound. We didn’t go after a particular look, but we wanted to invoke a special feeling in every room. We wanted to create a lot of effects,” explains DePasquale, who is a firm believer that what makes a business grow is how you treat a person, the quality of the workmanship, and the visual quality of the salon.


The redesign of The Spa at DePasquale began on January 2, 1996, and should be completed by September 2. Luckily, the completion of phase one did not affect any of the salon’s clients because the construction was going on in the rear of the salon. But, says DePasquale, they may be inconvenienced later, so the salon staff will be giving out free beauty products to clients just to say thanks for their patience. “It will cost us some money but it’s worth it if it means keeping the client,” says DePasquale. To get clients excited about the changes, a model of the completed salon is on display. Also, pictures of the redesign process are available so clients can actually follow the transformation of the salon. 

Gadabout’s redesign took about six months, with most of the construction done in the afterhours. The salon was only closed for two business days to redo the floor.

The 11-month redesign of GK Salon was also done at night and on Sundays and Mondays, when the salon is closed. Only one business day was needed to do the floors. 

To redecorate her salon, Sawbridge took advantage of the four- day Easter weekend. Since Friday and Monday were holidays, she only had to close the shop on Saturday. 

Since Fye remodeled areas that weren’t in use, the only person it affected was herself, she says with a laugh. From last fall to December, she spent many long hours after work and on the two days each week the salon is closed doing much of the redecorating work herself.


The cost of redesigning a salon depends on how much work is done and the quality of the new equipment and furnishings. McNair spent nearly $300,000 to make her salon the toast of the town. “There has been tremendous word of mouth referrals from our clients to their friends about the salon since the redesign,” she says.

“Anytime you get customized work done its going to be expensive,” says Cirruzzo. “New plumbing, wiring, equipment—it all adds up.” La Carezza’s redesign was just completed in March but Cirruzzo says there is no doubt in his mind that business will improve. “We upgraded for our clients,” he says.

Kriegisch says his salon’s redesign was expensive to a certain extent. “You shouldn’t have to pay a fortune to get a certain look,” he says. “If you buy the most expensive wallpaper, for example, you won’t ever want to change it.” Since the redesign, business has improved, says Kriegisch, because passers-by think it’s a new salon. The salon s window decoration also attracts a lot of attention, he says. On display are nude silver man­nequins who have avant-garde hair fashions “Every two months we change their hairstyle and set them up differently,” says Kriegisch.

“Let’s just say our redesign is very expensive,” says DePasquale, who anticipates future profits. “We service about 1,600 clients a week, but we estimate that within 12 months of completion we can service 3,000 clients a week,” he says.

Sawbridge only spent around $1,800, and has received many comments from clients about how good it looks.

Between her latest remodel and previous design, Fye spent approximately $35,000 to complete her salon. “It seemed every time I added something it was $200 here $200 there,” she says. In the long-term, though, Fye knows that she will get a great return on her investment because of the new business and rent income being brought to by the extra booth renters she hired.

Redesigning a salon can give an entirely new look to your existing salon without costing a fortune. You’ll be happy, staff will be happy, and most important, clients will be happy. In talking with the five salon owners all one salon manager for this article, one common belief shines through: If you improve it, they will come.

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