Chatting with Claudette Lewington of Meiko, winner of Best Salon Design

What made you decide to redesign your salon?

“Due to a Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, we spent several weeks away from the salon. Coming back to our space where we would normally spend hours each day, I saw it in a different light. I saw our salon with fresh eyes.

“Nova was looking tired and needed a makeover. We initially had plans to start a new salon build on our commercial site. But with the uncertainty of a pandemic this was put on hold.

“Fresh paint and new mirrors was what it was going to be for Nova. Just a freshen up. That definitely changed and once we got started it became so much more than that.

“The original layout was very cluttered and stations were very close to each other. The salon didn’t flow very well. However, when you’re in a space every day you don’t know any different.

“The redesign was to reignite our excitement and give us something to look forward to post lockdown. We were grateful to be back at work again but I wanted to make the space more inviting, somewhere clients and staff could come to and feel a sense of escape. I also wanted to lift the team’s spirits and motivate them, making them feel proud of the space they were in each day.

“The redesign really needed to align with what we did for clients. I had a vision that visiting Nova should be about the experience as well as the space.”

Meiko Salon; before and after

What was the inspiration behind the design?

“I wanted everything to be softer and more flowing. In its former state Nova was very hard, with a lot of black and white and a lot of strong lines. The space felt closed in and messy. I wanted to open it up and give the illusion of more room even though we were in the same space.

“I was inspired by the idea of curved edges — hair is all soft curves and flow, why would a hair salon be so linear and hard? I’d seen some great examples of curved, soft edges and wanted to bring that into our space, and get away from the dominating black to make everything lighter and brighter.

“I wanted soft, tranquil, bright and modern. It needed to be simple but elegant, and not too feminine. With many male clients, I wanted to be sure it was a space they would enjoy too.

“After spending hours on Pinterest collecting images of spaces I liked, I realised the project was slowly growing into more than what I had Initially planned. A lick of fresh paint and new mirrors were not going to deliver our vision, we were inspired to go further. We engaged Spaceworks Interior Architecture to guide us on this journey and help us put together a plan that would work.

“We wanted a clean, fresh and functional space that flowed well. With Spaceworks based in Auckland, there were lots of emails, Zoom meetings and phone calls back and forth. We took lots of measurements at our end, and plans were tweaked at their end to give more space to work with. With professional help behind us, the inspiration was finally starting to come alive on paper.”

Meiko Salon; before and after

What was the vision for your salon?

“After owning the salon for 10 years, I had the knowledge and confidence to create a new space — and the vision came to me quickly. We needed better functionality, more space without making things uncomfortably sparse, and we needed to add storage. Our space wasn’t huge but I knew it could be utilised better.

“We were very cluttered, stylists were back to back and the furniture was very chunky. Our high ceilings add a great sense of volume to the space, but they also made the space feel overwhelming. To make the space feel more intimate, we split the walls with a two-toned paint effect to visually cut the ceiling off at a much lower height.

“Softness led our design choices for furniture and tone. We chose warm, soft and subtle colours. We opted for mirrors with curves and custom LED lighting placed in behind. We framed the mirrors with dado boards to give definition and placement, and to add a soft texture to the walls.

“As the changes took place and the excitement grew, I knew the time was right for another part of my vision: rebranding Nova, finding a new name and visual identity that better reflected who we were and what we wanted to be. This was something that had been discussed in the past but the timing hadn’t been right. We were ready to become Meiko.

“Many elements went into devising a new name. I’d always wanted to have ‘Co’ in the name (spelled Ko), to support our vision as a collaborative salon, built on the co-operation between us as a team and between us and the client. I wanted two syllables and five letters, because it felt balanced and simple. I didn’t want my name attached to the brand (Claudette) but I did want a part of ME there.

“After playing around with letters I thought of Me, Meiko was to be our new name, but was it an existing word? A Google search showed some possible meanings, including ‘strength’ and ‘beautiful flower’, which aligned with my vision of who we could be as a salon brand.

“It also felt like a name that could grow our clientele and bring in a younger generation. So Meiko it was. We took the name to brand design agency Design Dairy to begin the next phase and develop our logo and visual branding.”

How did you achieve your vision?

“This is a great question. We had it all on paper, we knew what we wanted to achieve but how was it going to happen? With tradesmen under hot demand, it was quite a wait to get people aligned to achieve our vision.

“We took the plunge. My husband, who works full time in his own job as a commercial printer, was about to become a builder, a plumber, and everything in between. The challenge was about to really begin.

“We didn’t have a blank canvas to work with, this was a refit of an existing salon that had clients booked for the next 10 months.

“Being unable to close the doors—and needing more than a long weekend to complete the refit—Sundays became our day to work on the salon. We had to tag team as parents, and clean up at the end of each Sunday, ready for Monday morning. We built false walls to hold the new mirrors. Power was to be run behind them for the custom LED lighting, and so much more. We gained time with long weekends, and lost time with shipping delays. This was a hard stressful time.

“With each week we would see the progress of our salon coming together as a new space. Clients were on the journey too, loving each change as it happened. They saw something new and different with each appointment.

“All up, it took nearly 12 months to achieve our vision, and we love the end result.”

Meiko Salon

What results, benefits, or other outcomes have you experienced because of your new or refurbished design?

“The benefits from our changes have been huge. Clients have enjoyed being involved in the journey and seeing it come to life. They have given us feedback along the way about how it feels fresh, bright and loved.

“We have noticed a significant uptake of new, younger clients. Our modern client focused approach has increased our opportunities in the local market and provided a hum of excitement in the community. Our social media following has grown hugely, with new followers daily.

“From a team perspective, our staff love coming to work. Now when you walk through the door, you’re in a space that we love. We have all grown a new pride in our workplace and our work. The outcome has had a direct reflection on productivity and quality of work. Functionally, the space operates far better than before. We can work comfortably without climbing over each other. The stations are designed in such a way they don’t look cluttered with equipment. Our retail displays are purpose built, our stock is now displayed better and this has increased our sales and conversions around retail.

“We are so incredibly proud of what we have accomplished with our new fit-out and our new Meiko brand. It speaks about who we are as amazing hair stylists and it mirrors the exceptional service we deliver.

“The last 12 months have been a huge undertaking. Looking back at photos and putting this all together I have realised the work it has taken to get here. Just fresh paint and new mirrors became so much more than that. Endless Sundays, sore bodies, and a lot of blood sweat and tears. My husband Ben and I put everything into this design and it has definitely all been worth it.

“We still plan to build our new salon on our commercial site but this is our home for now. We love what we have created and we’re so proud. It’s given the team a new lease on life and created such a new fun environment. We have said goodbye to Nova. It served us well for 10 years but it was time to say a warm welcome to Meiko.”

Meiko Salon

What would you say to other salons considering entering this award in the future? Would you recommend entering The Industry Awards to other salon owners and why?

“I would definitely recommend entering The Industry awards. It takes a lot of work to refurbish a salon as well as work daily. Putting this entry together gives you the opportunity to reflect on this. Seeing the before and after photos makes you realise how much has changed and how much you can achieve if you put your mind to it. Being recognised for these achievements by others is so rewarding.”

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