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Barbara Daley hairdressing salon

Barbara Daley's hairdressing and beauty salon occupies two adjoining units in Liverpool's Lime Street concourse, a wonderfully central but architecturally unpropitious location in the 1960s single-storey crescent which obstructs the view of St George's Hall from Lime Street Station.

'There was nothing inherently beautiful about these spaces, which were formerly the offices of Liverpool City Challenge,' says architect a+u:g. The premises presented classic refurbishment problems - low ceilings, deep plan, lack of natural light and an erratic grid. Added to these inherent difficulties was the clutter that hairdressing would inevitably bring, in the form of stray hair clippings, pyramids of proprietary preparations and specialised equipment. a+u:g's response has been to treat the project as 'background architecture'.

As at ziba, there is a clear distinction between existing structure and new intervention. Existing walls are painted red, but broken up by 'floating' mirror panels at styling points. At the back of the salon, which is painted blue, free-standing white storage arches frame the washbasins and help foreshorten the great depth of the space. A course of dark tiles around the base of the walls disguises hair clippings and emphasises the geometry of the space.

A central dais, one side of which can be used for demonstrations and shows, divides the salon into two useful parts, while the ceiling bulkhead (with concealed overhead lighting), imposes an illusion of regularity on the layout and controls circulation. Other suspended ceilings over styling points are set at slightly different heights to give a subliminal dynamism to the interior and to differentiate between working and circulation space.

Discussions with the fire office enabled a+u:g to remove a cumbersome boxed-in entrance to the fire escape on a lower level; this is now merely a widened stair leading down to beauty-treatment rooms and a lower-level exit from the building.

The front elevation and reception area have been designed to attract passing trade and at the same time give customers the distraction of views out towards St George's Hall and life passing by on the street. The facade has been repainted; signage frames designed by a+u:g stand inside the glazing, and set back between them is a video screen displaying L'Oreal services. The reception desk has a stainless-steel, spun-finished front and glass countertop. 'We wanted to keep everything light and floating,' says the architect. Hairdressing salons tend to be claustrophobic and often tatty places. In contrast, this scheme provides a clean-cut, spacious interior, incorporating a few deft, colourful highlights - appropriate treatment for one of L'Oreal's top uk salons.

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