• Dennis Bartolomei's eponymous salon
  • A glance at Dennis Bartolomei's artwork
  • 'We take complete care of our clients,' says Dennis.
  • Dennis' goal: making salon visits a 'real experience'
  • One bathroom feature: 24-karat gold fixtures
  • 'This is my first salon, and I wanted something intimate and homey,' Dennis says.

Dennis Bartolomei

For more than two decades, Dennis Bartolomei has made premium hair care his focus. Born into a family of hairdressers, Dennis rose through the beauty ranks by training in prominent salons – but still keeps his approach to beautiful hair simple. His motto? Just keep haircuts modern, with classic outlines.

In January 2007, Dennis created his award-winning namesake, the Dennis Bartolomei salon, with a focus on a warm ambiance and personalized service. We asked Dennis how his carefully chosen design elements work together to keep clients coming back.

What was the concept behind your design?

I spent many years working in modern salons and wanted something more comfortable. This is my first salon, and I wanted something intimate and homey. The building we’re in is an 1,800-square-foot 1920s graystone. That in itself suggested a subdued glamour, which we took as inspiration.

What was in the space before you moved in?

The building had been empty for five years. It was gutted, demolished…nothing but raw space. So when I took on the lease, we had a full build-out to do. From start to finish, the process only took five or six months.

Did you work with an architect or interior designer?

I hired an architect to do all the drawings and help with the layout. All the interior decoration, everything from the flooring to the color direction, was done by myself. I had previously refurbished a couple of homes, so I had that experience.

Everything in the salon was custom ordered. For example, all the banquet seating was created in Michigan according to my drawings, and our shampoo chairs were all custom made from a company called Collins.

How did you decide on the layout of the salon?

You enter through two 11-foot doors into the reception room. The styling area consists of seven chairs. I have my own smaller area with a couple of chairs. There’s a shampoo room and our own back of the house. The layout makes the space feel almost like someone’s apartment.

What is your favorite part of the space?

I like that when you enter the salon, it immediately has a very grand feeling. It’s comfortable, subdued and not pushy. You definitely know you are someplace special. People tell us that all the time. We have great guest areas including a formal bathroom with 24-karat gold fixtures, mirrors and painted wallpaper.

How do you create the right atmosphere in the salon?

We take complete care of our clients. We take their coats, show them to the waiting room, bring them coffee and escort them to their stylist's chair. We are very service-oriented and wait on them hand and foot.

Coming here is a real experience, and we encourage clients to book appointments when they have time to stay and relax. Some of our clients are very busy and try to rush us, but we try to train that out of them. It is hard to do a good job in a very short amount of time, but generally clients love spending time in the salon.

Any other tips?

Choosing the right staff was crucial. For the first five months, I worked alone in the salon with just one assistant and a receptionist in order to figure out how to develop the team. I was very careful before bringing people in to work with me.

We also experiment with music. Before noon, we tend to play instrumental jazz or classics such as Sinatra. After noon, we play a variety of compilations from a Bang & Olufsen application that links us to 700 international radio stations. It is generally groovy, loungy…nothing too clubby.

Any advice for salon owners contemplating a similar project?

Put your ideas and inspirations down on paper! Try to imagine yourself in the finished space. That may involve cardboard models, taping areas on the floor before building and so on. The more planning you do, the better.

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