Dubai-based studio Brand Creative uses classy palettes and natural materials to provide a five-star pampering environment for Sisters Beauty Lounge in the Dubai Mall.
Sisters Beauty Lounge is a luxury salon with multiple locations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, catering to the modern women of the UAE. Following the tagline “glamour has a new address”, designers from Brand Creative, a Dubai-based design studio, were challenged to create a flagship interior for Sisters’ newest salon in the Dubai Mall.
Founders of Brand Creative, Carla Conte and Mohammed El Hijazi, have already collaborated with the Sisters lounge to design a salon at St Regis, Nation Towers in Abu Dhabi, a location that would epitomise a luxury statement for the brand. Further locations assigned to them included Mirdif City Center and the first international project for Sisters, in Kazakhstan.
“We first met the founder of Sisters, Shirin Abdulrazak, in 2012 when she was searching for a new interior design firm that could take her already successful business to the next level aesthetically,” explains Carla Conte, CEO and founder of Brand Creative. “Shirin created the brand out of what she saw as a gap in the market in 2003. She understood that women were looking for reliable services that were not only in line with international standards but also embraced the specific needs of professional and forward thinking Arab and expat women alike.”
In April of 2015, Sisters received notice from Dubai Mall that all beauty services would be relocated to the ground level and given their own branded destination. Coinciding with this decision was an exciting business development as Sisters was now being supported by Cedar Bridge with ambitious growth plans for the region. Part of this change saw a newly appointed CEO with a background in hospitality, Mona Faraj, working with the Abdulrazak family, who are closely advising as directors.
“Not only were we challenged with a relocation for the brand’s busiest and most popular location, we were also trying to take our relationship with the family to a more corporate “business type” level. Brand Creative was excited to be entrusted will providing an overall aesthetic stamp to the brand but also to become brand ambassadors and guardians – advising strategically on how to introduce new areas and ideas that would solidify the brand’s leadership stance,” says Conte.
With this particular project, the biggest challenge was timing. It was essential that customers did not experience a lapse in service as the existing location was shut down completely while the new one was under construction and opened the next day.
“We were asked to create a flagship look for the brand, based on the aesthetic principles developed for the St Regis location. We were also asked to create new touchpoints within the space that elevated the beauty experience from a service space into one that takes cues from the hospitality industry – a nod to a so-called “beauty hotel”.
The design concept comes from an understanding of the notions of comfort. Each furniture piece was selected from Maletti for its ergonomic properties — from both a customer and a service staff point of view. Understanding how hairstylists and beauty therapists work in order to perform their tasks was fundamental to ensuring that the experience is premium. Work studies, prototyping and body analyse were all part of the design process, on paper and in the factory.
Colour palette and material selection were crucial to achieving a balance between what is visually calming and appealing and what will withstand the daily usage of 150+ customers and chemically staining and harsh products. All walls are protected by durable vinyl wallcoverings and porcelain tiles. Nail units are created from Corian and all horizontal wood joinery is protected with a layer of crystal tempered glass. Chocolate brown fabrics were strategically placed amongst silver greige tones in all zones and offset by ‘pops’ of colour from watercolourist Cate Parr.
“We have been working with Cate Parr since St Regis as a way to introduce colour and art into the brand’s look. Her work is visually stunning, but more importantly, a way for us to deter from having photographs of photoshopped models within the space. For Sisters, it’s important that the experience is inspiring and not “deflating” or unattainable,” explains the designer Conte.
A beverage bar welcomes all guests after the entry experience. Here they can have coffee or small treats. Naturally flavoured water in glass canisters also gives off a fresh and healthy vibe.
The hair salon underwent a fundamental design change that affects the way the stylists work while keeping the floor space free of clutter. Hair trolleys that typically cluttered the floor space were removed and instead all storage is now tucked into the sides of the mirrors.
Stylists keep only their essential tools on a custom designed waist apron, which has also improved their efficiency and speed.
“The nail room saw our favourite new design feature introduced – The Pod. Three circular zones within the nail room are separated by dark silver semi-sheer curtains, allowing clients to receive multiple nail and face treatments at the same time and in the privacy of their own area. A personal TV and phone charging dock make the experience pampering and practical. Stone walls and intricately shaped glass pendants make space feel a bit more ‘residential’,” says Conte.
Eyelash services are one of the brand’s specialties – seeing women from all over the country flock to their locations daily for new applications and top ups. To meet the demands, designers created dedicated lash rooms that are smaller than the regular treatment rooms allowing them to double up on space while still being efficient.
Lighting the overall spaces correctly was essential to ensuring that staff could visibly see what they are doing in detail yet still providing a soft, ambient, spa-like experience.
“We worked closely with specialised Italian suppliers and lighting engineers to achieve this goal. We also worked with local lighting designer, Skylume, to create custom features such as a crystal ‘wave’ at the entry (echoing the brand’s wave in their logo) and modern ‘neon’ like corridor sconces flanking our watercolour artwork. Light Graphics provided soft fabric-covered drum pendants with crystal detailing within each treatment room and the nail area,” says Conte.
She explains that back of house operations were not forgotten and were a part of the design scope.
“Creating efficient rooms for 60+ staff who need a home for their personal belongings, tools and a stock of inventory was considered and accommodated. The placement of these rooms is also important as they need to be interspersed so that clients do not feel as though their therapists are out of reach for long periods of time when preparing treatments or cleaning up afterwards. Integrating storage within each treatment area was, therefore, essential,” says the designer.
As Conte explains, being able to brainstorm with the internal team on how the interiors can assist in creating a premium destination was key to their overall success.
Coming from a luxury hotel background, Mona Faraj, CEO at Sisters Beauty Lounge, is convinced that lessons learned within her previous hospitality focused roles are transferrable to a luxury salon experience.
Faraj says: “From re-thinking treatment room configurations to ensuring highly personalised experiences, the bar has been raised with every design and service point by applying the same principles. The rejuvenated journey for Sisters has just started.
“We also recognise that our customers will want to stay connected throughout their visit to our lounges and have created spaces that lend themselves to exactly that with points to plug in phones, complimentary Wi-Fi and furniture that is comfortable and delivers functionality.”