Come into my parlour

For Tara Marshall, an intern architect and designer with Calgary’s McKinley Burkart, working with well-known salon owners Jereme Bokitch and Michelle Mayne to bring their concept of Calgary’s first ever blow-dry bar to life was a welcome challenge.

Though pleased with the architectural and minimal designs of their full-service Hedkandi salons, Bokitch and Mayne wanted Butter Beauty Parlour – devoted to blowouts, conditioning and styling – to have a lusher, more feminine feel that would speak to its target demographic: a well-rounded woman whose interests include beauty, fashion, entertainment and travel. “One of the main driving factors was the concept of the parlour itself,” explains Marshall. “We thought back to beauty parlours of the past and what they meant to the women who frequented them: a place where women would go and sit for a long time with their rollers in, and where they could talk to each other about what was going on. But we didn’t want it to feel so much as a hair salon as we wanted it to feel like a beautiful apartment that they might go to: a friend’s apartment where they could go and step outside of their life for a little bit to just focus on themselves.” 

Elements Marshall incorporated to achieve this vision include an eclectic assortment of artwork and accessories scattered throughout the space, along with freestanding floor lamps, big chandeliers and hanging pendant lights that could meet the needs of stylists. She also incorporated Bokitch’s own idea of using round tables adorned with low tabletop mirrors, which would allow clients to see one another, have their hair done and still engage in conversations – as at a dining-room table. 

Other key conversational areas were created without the use of “typical” salon furnishings – from pedicure stations where clients could sit on luxurious looking vinyl sofas (accented with lush textured throw cushions) inspired by fashion, to custom marble footbaths and hair-washing stations far removed from the sterility of traditional salon equipment. “Trying to avoid using actual salon furniture was probably the biggest challenge for me,” says Marshall. “Salon furniture has very specific mechanical characteristics and there’s not a broad option out there, especially when you’re trying to find things that have cultural, historical or eclectic characteristics. That is why we ended up having to design and custom make almost 90 per cent of the furnishings” (from the salon’s soft-seating areas to all of the larger table pieces, station chairs and foot baths).  

 Inspired by its predominantly female clientele, the style of Butter Beauty Parlour is as active, vibrant and diverse as its Mission District neighbourhood, with a wide-ranging eclecticism specifically incorporated to appeal to an equally wide range of women. “We’re very influenced by lifestyle,” says Marshall. “So for me a big part of the design process was to really focus in on who the clientele would be and to appeal to their interests by creating a space they would aspire to go to.” A place, says Marshall, where women can disconnect from their lives and reconnect with other women. Just like the beauty parlours of old.  cI