Next Stop, Beauty

Six steps to a salon experience at home
By Ellen Sturm Niz
April 09, 2010

Many women wish they could treat themselves to a professional blow-out and makeup job every day, but it’s not in the schedule or budget for most. Ladies can get some of the star treatment, however, without even having to leave the comfort of their master baths. A few key elements can transform a standard vanity area into a complete beauty station with all the tools, storage space, mirrors and more to style hair and apply make-up easily.

“It doesn’t take a lot to really transform your house into something more spa-inspired,” said interior designer Michele Pelafas, ASID, IIDA, of Michele Pelafas, Inc. in Oak Brook, IL, who has more than 14 years of experience working with spa and salon owners to create their interiors. Her company also retails spa and salon furniture, and equipment and decor, including hot towel cabinets, salon chairs, massage tables, beverage dispensers, lighting, artwork, throws and lounge chairs. “It’s all spa-inspired,” she said. “You can get everything you need to furnish your space.”

While Pelafas has designed several home projects in her career, she has begun branching into the residential market more aggressively. “Recently we have seen a trend toward creating a home sanctuary,” she said. “With our experience designing spas, we understand the intricate details to make it right. We truly believe the home is the ultimate spa destination, a perfect place for a comfortable retreat or a relaxing escape.” As a result, she just launched the Spa Style at Home website for consumers to purchase spa-inspired furniture, accessories and decor for their homes, and a blog, HouseBliss, which features inspiration and ideas for infusing a spa feel throughout the home.

So how can you translate a salon or spa design for hair styling or makeup application into something appropriate for a home’s master bath? “The key elements are the same, but the biggest difference is that in a salon or spa, the service provider is doing all the work,” said Pelafas. “At home, you’re doing all the tasks, so it becomes much more personal. There is no right or wrong way necessarily, just address the key elements and design it for your routine and lifestyle.”

A salon’s design might be based on business concerns, like quick turnover, and to accommodate many different stylists at the same workstation, but at home, it’s just for you. “The space can be customized to her specific needs,” said Pelafas. “It can be much more detailed, organized and personal.”


1. Layout and Space Requirements
Every home has different options in terms of space, plumbing and electric, but Pelafas said layout can be simplified by placing items into two categories: “Very Easy Access” and “Within Arms Reach.” Items that must be within “Very Easy Access” include tools and appliances; a makeup drawer and brushes; a makeup mirror; and shears, combs and brushes. “Within Arms Reach” items include a towel bar; garbage container; possibly a hamper; and any additional storage.

The layout should also include adequate knee space—30 in. left to right, whether sitting or standing, said Pelafas. “In my opinion, the counter height should be 36 in. so you can sit on a counter-height stool or stand,” she said. “Also, a sink doesn’t need to be right there. Makeup application and hair styling are a different type of routine than when you are at the sink.” If you have space limitations and can’t install a complete hair and makeup station in your bath, Pelafas recommends mobile workstations. “There are storage carts with built-in blowdry holders,” she said.

2. Lighting and Electric
“Makeup lighting should be directly on the face to prevent shadows,” advised Pelafas. “Ideally, you need two light sources on either side of the mirror to prevent shadows, and it’s important that lighting be flattering on your complexion, but also be a true reflection.” She suggests a 21W slim-line fluorescent tube, with a medium Kelvin temperature of 3500 and a high color-rendering index, on either side of the mirror. “Be true to color as much as possible,” she said.

To add a bit of sparkle on top of the head and to jewelry, install two 50W halogen fixtures in the ceiling to the left and right above the head. “Halogens are always flattering and warm,” she said.

In terms of electrical, the outlets should be located as close to appliances as possible. Pelafas also suggests a 120V, 15-amp outlet on a separate circuit to plug the appliances into.

3. Mirrors
“Mirrors should be positioned so the face and chest are visible and centered while sitting or standing,” said Pelafas. Mirrors should be a minimum size of 24 in. wide by 36 in. tall. A hand-held mirror can be used to look at the back of the hair when styling.

“If the counter depth is a standard 21 in., the mirror is too far away for close-up applications,” said Pelafas. “In that case you would need a makeup mirror on the counter. Or go with a shallower depth for the vanity—the mirror should only be, at most, 18 in. from the front of the vanity.”

4. Appliances and Tools
Blow dryers, flat irons and curling irons should almost always be positioned directly to the right of where you are sitting or standing. “Some left-handed people prefer the left side, but it depends on which hand they use for styling,” said Pelafas. Appliances and tools can be recessed in a counter, wall-mounted with special hardware or enclosed in special appliance drawers that have holes and electric built into the drawer. “Tools should be easy to get out and put away,” said Pelafas.

Another concern is cord management. “You should have no tangling of and no tripping over cords,” said Pelafas. “Plus, you want to hide the unsightly look of cords, which can ruin the feel of the space.”

5. Storage
“In a perfect world, you would need a drawer for shears, combs and brushes, a large drawer for appliances, a drawer for makeup—ideally directly to the right of where you are sitting—enclosed storage for hair-care products and a drawer for cotton swabs, makeup applicators and brushes,” said Pelafas. Bins of skincare products and other supplies can be set on the counter when in use and then stored in cabinets.

6. Extras
For more luxury or functionality, Pelafas suggests adding some inexpensive extras to complete the beauty station. “A small hot towel cabinet, which typically holds 20 hand or face towels, is a nice little luxury,” she said. “When you’re done with makeup or before hitting the pillow, being able to grab a hot towel is really nice.” A beverage center with lemon water and an undercounter refrigerator with fresh fruit can also be convenient. Or complete the spa look with simple decorative touches like fresh flowers, a tray of rolled up towels and candles, music or fragrance, a chic bath mat, or a small water feature. “If you have the space, add a lounge chair or a chaise,” said Pelafas. “It invites you in and slows the pace of life.”

There are elaborate luxuries you can add as well. “A traditional spa is based on water elements, so it would not be complete without furniture and fixtures that provide therapeutic benefits,” she said. Consider adding a steam or rain shower or an overflow tub with chromotherapy. “Enhance every day water rituals,” Pelafas said. “Everyone has to take a shower, why not make that a nice daily experience?”
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