WHEN OSCAR EOND left an executive post at Aveda to start his own beauty salon in Manhattan, he knew he wanted to distinguish his place with something other than the uptown-ladies-who-lunch look. So when Jordan Parnass and Eric Liftin –friends from Columbia University’s School of Architecture, each of whom is the principal of his own design firm–pitched Bond a high-concept scheme, he was receptive. “They came up with one sentence: ‘The Jetsons meets Barbarella,'” says Bond. “That sold me.”

Within a drum-tight $200,000 budget, Bond remained open to whatever the young team wanted to try in his basement-level, 3,500-square-foot space in Soho. “It was really good that they’d never done a hair salon,” says Bond, “or it would have looked like a hair salon.”

To dispel the former storage space’s dank, dark feel, Liftin and Parnass installed a long processional staircase that deposits customers in the middle of the room — a feature that’s evocative, appropriately enough, of a fashion runway. The space around the steps accommodates the salon’s merchandising of Aveda products, which can bring in as much revenue as its styling services.

Along the walls, the team draped nylon parachute material, backlighting it slightly so that it glows. Compared to drywall, notes Parnass, the nylon “feels a little more generous and makes the whole space read less subterranean.” The fabric was also cheaper than drywall and is more easily replaceable; it also affords Bond storage space behind the curtains.

The network of exposed ducts and pipes overhead, which at first glance didn’t exactly bespeak the elegance associated with a high-end salon, became another case in which virtue was made of necessity. With neither the budget nor the inclination to conceal the space’s infrastructure, Parnass and Liftin incorporated the tube and wires into their design. Liftin used plumbing materials to build what look like mutant chandeliers. The fixtures encapsulate the Bond salon’s core aesthetic: a mix of heavy, industrial materials (plumbing, exposed concrete) and sleek, light, colorful ones (vinyl upholstery, backlit Panelite walls).

Parnass and Liftin saved their most unusual move for the waiting area, turning what’s often a salon’s dead-zone into its centerpiece. They created an elevated stage with inviting orange benches set smack in the middle of the salon, which offers views of the entire space. The architects also installed two tangerine-colored iMacs, complete with high-bandwidth Internet connections. Here, tiny video cameras panning the salon send images to the Bond homepage, and waiting customers can surf, check email, or just admire the setting. According to Liftin, “The idea is to expand the space beyond its physical confines.” And, as it turns out, the orange vinyl benches make good mouse pads.

Parnass and Liftin’s work proves that, given the right client, even confined parameters can leave plenty of room for creativity; that cheap, inventive solutions are often the best ones; and that unconventional thinking can provide a lot of marketing value. As Bond says, “We’ve got more press for those two iMacs than any good haircut.”

Steve Bodow is a New York-based freelance writer. His feature on a dotcom office designed by award-winner Jordan Parnass appeared in the October 2000 Interiors.


What’s your favorite part of the space? The lights, and this whole cutting area.

Why do you like the lights so much? They’re a different design and I’ve never seen anything like it. Unfortunately it’s not really ideal for seeing lines and what-have-you in a haircut, but it’s just the mood that it sets; it’s very nice.

What about this design makes doing your job easier? It’s very open. You can see the whole space from every angle and you can get inspiration from everyone and everything around you. I like that there’s nothing closed off.

If you could change anything about the salon, what would you change? I wouldn’t change a thing.

That’s a diplomatic answer. No, when I first walked in here to apply for a job, I was like, “This is it.”

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