Right surfaces are critical to creating the right environment

It all started more than a decade ago in an 1,800-square-foot space in the small city of Fitchburg, Wisconsin, a quiet suburb south of Madison. Eager to start their new venture, small business owners Sarah and Trent Lange swiftly renovated their new space into a high-end hair salon called ECCO Salon. Their doors opened in March 2007 just as the housing market took a turn for the worse.

Sarah, an experienced stylist, recalled the mixed emotions she felt at the onset of the recession. “It wasn’t easy staying positive when the economy was crumbling and we felt the weight of the world knowing we had families counting on us to pull through.”

Despite an uncertain future, ECCO Salon continued to welcome clients into a bright and cheerful space that provided a clean and comfortable escape from the worries of the world.

Fast forward 10 years, and the Langes have undergone a second remodel of their original Fitchburg location, in addition to building and opening a 1,600-square-foot salon in the northern suburb of Waunakee. To top it off, ECCO Salon has made Salon Today magazine’s Top 200 list seven years in a row and the Top 3 of Best of Madison for the last four years.

In an economy that’s still returning to pre-recession levels, one might wonder what kind of decisions the Langes made to help shape the success of their salons.

Of course, the ECCO Salon’s achievements can be attributed to a number of factors—quality customer service, good relationships, expert styling, so on and so forth. But when you look a little closer, what also keeps customers coming in, and coming back, is the right kind of environment. The kind of environment that isn’t possible without the right kind of surfaces.

 “Aesthetics play a big role in the feel of a hair salon,” Sarah said, “and having a space that is current, comforting and easy to maintain allows our stylists to be more productive and our guests to feel like they are receiving the quality of service they expect.”

To create a space that matched Sarah’s vision, she hand-selected and tested many of the materials infused into the design. She also partnered with experienced Forbair Group, the general contractor for the remodel of the original ECCO Salon, and Angus-Young Associates, which remained her go-to architectural and interior design firm for both the Fitchburg and Waunakee locations.

From the moment clients enter ECCO Salon, they get a sense that the space was tailored for them. Defining features and surfaces throughout each space serve a functional purpose but also make the salons feel sophisticated, “which allows our guests to feel pampered,” Sarah said.

Jeff Davis, vice president and principal architect of Angus-Young, knew the importance of selecting materials and finishes that would provide guests with the experience that Sarah envisioned for ECCO Salon. “As designers, we consider ourselves the link between an owner’s undocumented vision and the opportunity to make it a reality. Specific to each location, we wanted to make sure that there was a unique style while also tying in common elements, like light and airy countertops paired with dramatic and refined accents, which would fit seamlessly within the overall brand,” he said.

As with most small business owners, success can also be attributed to selecting the right suppliers that offer cost-effective, quality products paired with reliable service. Wilsonart, the multi-product engineered surfaces company, filled that role for the materials used in ECCO Salon.

“Once we discovered that Wilsonart was more cost-effective and provided an equally attractive look, we knew we had to use their surfaces. We also knew they [Wilsonart] had a reputation for engineering beautiful surfaces that are easy to maintain,” Sarah said.

Nick McDonald, president of Forbair Group, shared his insights on the project and Wilsonart’s role: “While one of the biggest challenges we faced was an aggressive timeline for completion, our expertise in commercial buildouts coupled with outstanding sub-contractors, vendors and suppliers helped us meet our deadlines. On this particular project, we were really able to see the versatility in the products and finishes chosen. Many times, Wilsonart went out of their way to help facilitate product delivery for a tight timeline.”

At the Waunakee location, a large custom desk showcases Wilsonart Quartz countertops in Sangda Falls, which Sarah said “makes a great first impression when you walk in the front door.” The face of the desk features high pressure laminate in Cafelle with a fine velvet finish. This design is repeated on the double-sided styling station cabinets. Where the pampering begins, Wilsonart SOLICOR laminate in Designer White was used for the shampoo cabinets to provide a sleek and modern look.

In pursuit of durability and a clean design, ECCO’s Fitchburg location also incorporated Wilsonart® laminate in Designer White for the shampoo stations. Wilsonart laminate in Light Oak Ply and Phantom Ecru specified in a gloss finish, and accompanied by AEON Enhanced Scratch & Scuff-Resistant Technology, introduces both performance and brightness to the reception desk, branded wall panel and styling stations.

Commenting on the experience Angus-Young had designing with Wilsonart, interior designer Carly Davis said: “Any experience we’ve had working with Wilsonart, whether it was here or on another project, has been a great one. Personally, I love Wilsonart’s Light Oak Ply and Phantom Ecru because gray wood tones are so popular right now. Light Oak Ply is incredibly unique, and the design of ECCO Salon was actually inspired by the pattern because it was the first material Sarah liked when we began looking at finishes.”

From an empty building to two premier salons, hundreds of clients and many collaborative partnerships,  the Langes’ success has been a series of small wins, Sarah said, and “learning to celebrate milestones and choosing to make the right decisions for the business” made all the difference.

“We knew we needed to revamp the space to keep our guests happy and comfortable. We also knew that the surfaces we chose had to stand up to wear and tear over the next decade. Overall, we love all the choices we made for materials.”