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Set In Stone

A beauty salon in Kiev, Ukraine, eschews the traditional gendered salon aesthetic in favor of thick concrete, crudely welded metal, and a monotone palette accented with gold.

By Lauren Mang

Originally published in GRAY magazine Issue 55.

The two-story Balbek Bureau-designed salon Say No Mo veers toward the unexpected with a tonal color scheme and tons of concrete, including this poured-concrete reception desk. Image by Yevhenii Avramenko.

In Kiev, Ukraine, the recently opened salon Say No Mo says “no” to gendered design. The two-level space, imagined by Ukrainian architecture and interior design firm Balbek Bureau, instead veers toward the unexpected with a tonal color scheme and tons of concrete, including a formidable cast-in-situ archway in the entry area. A column clad with gold-hued, polished-stainless-steel panels (a material used on walls throughout the salon to hide imperfections and aesthetically unite different treatment areas) bisects the opening, providing a bright contrast to a poured-concrete reception desk that resembles a stone block. All of the concrete elements sport a broken and chipped surface, which, according to the design team, represents the breaking of gender stereotypes in the beauty industry. “Beauty is most often associated with glamour, gloss, and blush,” says Slava Balbek, lead architect and founder. “Together with the client, we wanted to suggest another image of beauty that is original, non-perfect, and truly unique.”

Sleek yet plush furnishings in the lounge area. Image by Yevhenii Avramenko.

The main floor’s black-metal-plated bar offers clients a spot to get a manicure and unwind with a cocktail (the salon pours everything from specialty drinks and bubbly to tea), and lends a raw, industrial look to the space with its prominently welded seams. The nearby pedicure zone is light and bright, with gold accents from details including a freestanding washbasin crafted from two Soviet-era baby bathtubs. During construction of the nail art area, the designers unearthed another basin and preserved it, filling the 6-and-a-half-foot-deep tub with blue-colored balls.

A chipped concrete archway symbolizes the breaking of gender stereotypes in the beauty industry. Image by Yevhenii Avramenko.


LEFT: Clients can belly up to the metal bar for a cocktail or manicure (or both). RIGHT: The subterranean salon area features white walls and lots of mirrors, which give the space a bright, airy feeling. Images by Yevhenii Avramenko.

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