A Sydney dental clinic that looks like a day spa, or perhaps the lobby of a chic boutique hotel? What happened to the de rigueur mouthwash blue and hard plastic waiting room chairs?
A trendy Brisbane barbershop that looks like a nightclub? What happened to the usual steampunk styling and dark leathers so lavishly laid in you can smell them – even in pictures?
Anna Trefely, the designer who took on the brief for the Double Bay cosmetic dental practise, FY Smile, says the upending of expectations on how particular business premises should present themselves “is kind of where we are going now”.
“You don’t have to fit a cookie-cutter typology,” says the director of Esoteriko Interiors, “because people are looking for experiences.”
Borhan Ghofrani, who specified the presentation of the third and CBD-sited outlet of Langanis Barber studios, says he “wanted to create a different aesthetic for a long narrow space – especially one that comes in from a hard concrete street”.
This is how Langanis spruiks its latest Edward Street venue: “Cold textures of concrete, glass and metal surround you and you no longer feel confined within the walls of the city. Grey and black edges form optical prisms in a layout that’s not only surreal, it’s psychedelic.”
The lighting, which morphs from yellows and ambers to purples and blues depending on the time of day, is perhaps the most forward aspect of Ghofrani’s very different barbershop design.
With “a powerful angularity that reflects the shape of scissors and blades – and how cut hair falls on the floor” it’s very immersive, says Ghofrani, an Iranian-born brand and interiors designer who has been in Brisbane for three years. “The lighting is in your face, completely!”
The absolute Dulux White Polar opposite is the case with the dentistry clinic FY Smile, which announces on its website that it’s “not cold and clinical, but warm and welcoming”.
“We purposely chose an earthy feel and serene atmosphere to put you at ease and get rid of any lingering anxieties before treatment begins.”
In the luxurious calm, which is how Trefely interpreted a brief “to be different to anywhere else; to explore a positive experience”, there is, she points out, also degrees of “playfulness”.
The shapes of the reception area and waiting room tables are referencing the forms of teeth, she says. So is the material out of which they are made. Man-made Marblo “is very enamel; very tooth-like”.
The other subliminal message conveyed by the space, says the designer, “reinforces an ultra-cleanliness”. That’s seen as essential in a business like this in this age of COVID.
Both these projects are shortlisted in different categories in this year’s IDEA or Interior Design Excellence Awards that will be announced in November. Both reflect not only an original savvy but display the increasing importance of brand character being embedded in the very bones of a commercial space.
The new story is that brands are about a lot more than a logo. For Ghofrani, “a brand is also about how it makes you feel, but [spatial] designs can also reflect their neighbourhoods”. Same-brand outlets in different locations “don’t have to be carbon copies”.
Catering for men and women, Langanis in the CBD was never going to be very generic, like so many barbershops across the country, he says. “What we’ve done is the opposite to wood, leather chairs, hot towels and the expectation that Al Pacino could walk into a very masculine space.”
Michael Langanis, owner of the businesses, says Ghofrani “really wanted to make this shop an enveloping experience”.
Langanis is quoted on the brand’s website as wanting to create much more than a hair salon: “We’re creating hype and putting on a show.”
The design show has music and lights that pulse with the beats. “Music and darkness,” says the interiors creative. “We go to places for experiences and atmosphere, and there’s no reason why a barber can’t be different.”
The lighting? What’s with those purples, especially? “We’ve selected colours that play amongst one another. They’re also colours that are complementary to a person’s face. Green and red can make you look jaundiced.”