Commercial interior design: refitting a luxury hair salon with Marc Luickx

Living wall in hair salon

One of my Christchurch Creative clients, the co-founder of Bathroom Origins, Sofia Charalambous – mentor, columnist and judge for kbbreview awards – put me in touch with her friend, confidante and hairstylist, Marc at Idol Hair recently. I wanted to discuss his take on commercial interior design in 2021 in the heart of a pandemic and how he has interpreted this in the new re-design of his salon, Idol Hair, in the heart of the East End. Read on to find out what Marc had to say:

Marc at Idol Hair
Marc Luickx, the owner of newly revamped Idol Hair

Why did you set up your salon 20 years ago and who are your clientele?

I founded Idol Hair back in 1993. The original E2 location was in a warehouse called Studio 29, in Vyner Street. Studio 29 was the first of its kind in that area. It was a visionary creative hub that combined a hair salon with art, yoga and even physical and aerial training! I started out as a freelancer in the fashion and photography scene around London. Back then, the East End was particularly up-and-coming.

The concept was great: view some art, get a haircut, and sometimes watch an aerial show. But it didn’t last…The art scene around Vyner Street and Hackney in general was growing fast. Eventually we got priced out by greedy landlords. But it wasn’t all bad news. At the same time I found the shop which is now the current Idol Hair. We opened our doors in 2002. We are located close to lovely Victoria Park, surrounded by a range of other local businesses, including shops, cafés, a butcher and a fishmonger.

As for our clientele, it’s really varied. Our clients are all ages and from all walks of life. Some first came to me when they were three, and have never been anywhere else. We don’t judge. We welcome anyone who appreciates a good haircut and some banter. And it’s not just our customers who keep coming back. This year marks our 20th anniversary. I’m proud to say that most of the stylists who started or came along with us [when we moved] still work for us.

How would you describe the salon’s early commercial interior design?

The shop featured hand-made fixtures and furniture. It was a stylish, cool look. This was complemented by the people: we had five stylists working side-by-side in a relaxed, professional vibe. The staff at Idol are all quirky individuals who work well, and hard, together.

So business was booming, life was good – and then COVID came?

Yes. The way life, as we knew it, suddenly stopped came as a shock to most of us. I realised very early on that we were, never again, going to work they way we used to. This prompted me to think about how I could create a post-COVID salon. One balmy night in May I was listening to a programme about travelling and COVID.The interviewee said they weren’t too concerned about safety issues because they travelled first or business class. They emphasised that they felt safe getting on board and into their pod, which contained everything they needed. They were ‘away’ from everyone else – but not isolated. That word pod stuck in my head. I started to think about hair pods. An individual unit where you walk in, sit down and stay there, which means minimal traffic within the salon. Lots of research and hard work followed. Many months later we now have our hair pods, and people are loving them.

Commercial interior design new hair pods for hair salon
Idol Hair’s new pods are an innovative way to deliver a safe and personalised hairdressing experience that doesn’t compromise on luxury or indulgence

These pods are so innovative. Tell me what what you’ll find in each one?

First we got in touch with bespoke cabinet and wardrobe makers Scott and Jason from Edwards and Bull. Together, we created our lovely units. I am so impressed with the quality of their work, and how smooth the whole process was. Then we worked on the flooring. I wanted it to be sustainable. And I wanted it to be green and black. I am so pleased we found Tarkett. I really love the colour and texture of the flooring we choose.

Each pod has its own personal, adjustable wash basin. And of course there are chargers, leads and power points should you need to do some work.

Colour plays such a crucial role within modern commercial interior design. What shade did you choose, and why, for the salon re-design?

The main colour in the shop is Peignoir by Farrow and Ball. It’s a soft, grey pink. We chose this because it’s a really calm, soothing colour. It also works well with the green on the floor, and with all the plants.

Movable washbasins at hair salon
Each pod incorporates an industrial-style chair, a designer mirror, and an individual, adjustable hair basin, all of which helps to minimise foot traffic within the salon

These adjustable wash basins look very interesting. How exactly do they work?

Most of my clients are also intrigued about how the wash basin will work, without them having to get up and move. But it does! We simply swing their chair, pull out the sink recline and voilà! You are lying down, still in your personal pod, having a very relaxing hair wash. When the hair wash is done, everything moves back in its place. Then we continue with the cut and styling.

Lighting is another key element within successful commercial interior design. I love the industrial style you have chosen. Where is it from?

We have Suna track lights, from 299 Lighting. It’s often used in galleries. It’s made from die-cast aluminium, with a matt black finish. It emits a soft, even light, and incorporates an anti-glare system.

commercial interior design lighting ideas with Suna Trak lighting
A combination of Suna track lights and Bathroom Origins’ Tate Light mirrors provide a blend of practical task and flattering ambient lighting

Tell me about the thought process behind your choice of mirrors, which of course also play a vital role within commercial interior design?

luxury mirror in commercial interior design project
Clean, crisp and contemporary. Bathroom Origins’ Tate Light Rectangular Mirror measures 60cm by 80cm, and you can install it portrait or landscape. It’s priced at £435

The pods have Black Tate Light Rectangular Mirrors from Bathroom Origins. They feature a fabulous 6000K cool white light. This illuminates the face perfectly, and also enhances the track lights. I think these are are simply stunning mirrors.

Sofia Charalmabous of Bathroom Origins
Sofia Charalambous, co-owner of Bathroom Origins

I have known Bathroom Origins co-owner Sofia Charalambous for 27 years. We meet every Saturday, at the same time, for her hair appointment and a chat. When you have known each other for that length of time, you become friends. Our regular Saturday rendezvous is something we both look forward to. After all, life is full of ups and downs. It’s very comforting to share them with someone who knows you so well.

I love your living garden feature. Why did you add this to your luxury commercial interior design scheme, and which plants did you choose?

We have installed around 200 plants across the ceiling, so that the view is nice from all angles. We chose a lot of peace lilies, as they are known for their air-purifying quality.

Living wall in hair salon
The living garden feature adds an instant biophilic touch to the distinctive design in this high-end hair salon

How important is sustainability and ethical business practice?

It’s very important. We use a company called HANDLE which recycles everything from the hair salon, and turns this waste into beauty packaging. We also use Scrummi gowns and towels, which are vegan, fully biodegradable and made from sustainable forestry programmes.

When we opened back in 2002 I wanted to use all organic products. Back then, this was hard. We started with MOP, then moved to Evo. Then we discovered Davines, who are committed to sustainable beauty on every level. We’ve never looked back.

Hair products
Idol Hair stocks Davines organic hair products because Marc says this brand is committed to sustainable beauty. Also note the innovative neon sign, which you can see reflected here in the Bathroom Origins’ luxury mirror

Tell me more about the inspiration behind your neon sign?

The signs says: “Love Is In The Hair”. It’s a phrase we’ve been using for a few years for Valentine’s Day. So I thought, let’s immortalise it.

What do you think sets you apart from your competitors?

Our USP is our innovation – in work and in life. We pride ourselves on keeping fresh, and staying ahead of the game. That’s how we have managed to create a salon that we have adapted so well to the post-COVID world.

But the team at Idol does so much more than cut and colour hair. We are part of people’s lives, always there for them, year after year after year. I’m pleased to say we are there in good times and bad, happy times and sad. We also do home visits for those loyal customers who can no longer come to us.

This year we are celebrating 20 years of living and working within this great business we call hairdressing. But it’s important to remember that there’s so much more going on behind the scenes. I am very proud of our new look. Client safety is paramount. And we too can look forward to many more years of safe, healthy working.

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