When Christine Zilinski first stepped foot into Bell Works, she knew she had finally found the perfect place. For several years, the owner and leader of Red Bank’s Salon Concrete had scoured the state looking for a space to open a second location, but she had yet to find the right spot. After three clients came into her salon raving about Bell Works in a week’s time, she felt compelled to see the building for herself.
“The moment I pulled up and first saw the building, I got goosebumps,” said Zilinski, “I just felt like this was where we were meant to be.”
Zilinski founded Salon Concrete’s first location in Red Bank 18 years ago, focusing on community, entrepreneurship, and leadership as the foundation for both her business and her professional life. She knew that opening a location at Bell Works meant joining an inspiring community of entrepreneurs and visionaries.
Salon Concrete’s new location at Bell is a 2,400-square-foot space located on the ground floor of the building 1 nearby the west atrium. When it came to finding an architect to execute her vision, Zilinski said she couldn’t imagine anyone better for the project than Mike Pond, an award-winning architect and owner of Solid & Void Design.
Pond and the Solid & Void team work on commissioned spaces in the central New Jersey area, delivering custom design and building expertise to each of their clients. Coincidentally, Zilinski named her first location “Salon Concrete” long before meeting Pond, and Pond and his business are particularly well recognized for their creative work in concrete. This made the opportunity to work together on Salon Concrete’s second location all the more exciting for them both.
The two met when Pond was working on a project in Red Bank near the salon. After a conversation about the relationship between haircutting and architecture, Zilinski and Pond quickly realized that their design philosophies, though expressed through different mediums, were one in the same.
“I believe it’s the simplicity of things that makes them beautiful. Mike had the same philosophy,” said Zilinski. “I could feel his passion for architecture and design through my conversations with him. I felt that if I ever opened another location, I would want to work with him to build it.”
“We had a great symbiosis before we even started working together,” agreed Pond. “That rapport is what made the difference. We have a different approach to some things, but at our core, we’re very similar.”
Perhaps most importantly, Pond understood Zilinski’s mission to bring back the principles of simplicity in design favored by stylists like Vidal Sassoon and build a community of hairstylists who understand the craft. His passion for the project only grew stronger when he discovered that the Bell Works building was designed by one of his favorite architects, Eero Saarinen.
Despite the fact that Pond was entirely new to the salon industry, his expertise and passion for the project made his fresh perspective a strength instead of a weakness. He immersed himself in the industry, from traveling to New York to study the architecture of a famous salon to observing the entire process of a haircut at Salon Concrete, start to finish, so he could examine a stylist’s needs every step of the way.
By approaching the project from an angle of design and simplicity instead of convention, Pond made suggestions to Zilinski that blatantly opposed the industry standard. But Zilinski’s trust in Pond’s expertise led her to embrace his suggestions with an open mind.
The result of their collaboration will be a space unlike any salon you’ve seen before: A wall will cover most of the outside entrance, giving passersby only a glimpse into the transformations unfolding inside. Students and visitors will flow into the salon’s multi-use area for classes and art shows. A curving concrete wall—an architectural feat—will stretch through the center of the salon. And, perhaps most importantly, employees and clients alike will enjoy a beautiful space custom-designed for Zilinski and Salon Concrete.
Pond’s experience in concrete work, coupled with his passion for working with the material, resulted in a beautiful translation of the name “Salon Concrete” into a physical space designed around the use of concrete as a material element.
“Concrete is possibly the only commonly used material that has a naturalistic quality to it, but whose existence is fully dependent on the intervention of humans… It's a fusion of raw materials, but is often held in the same regard as those naturally occurring materials,” Pond said. “It's this concept that I was exploring a bit, with the cavernous openings in the concrete (walls) being treated the way they are. This idea that this wall can be ‘reenacted’…, but never duplicated. This concept is remarkably similar to how Christine approaches hair.”
As the leader of her salon, Zilinski’s passion and dedication to helping people transform sets her business apart from others. “The transformation can come from me educating my team, pushing them to be better hair stylists and better people. It’s about understanding what’s underneath the hair, and it’s about serving people.”
In designing and building a space that reflects these values, Zilinski and Pond have created an environment that elevates a routine haircut into an immersive and transformative experience that is much more than the sum of its parts.
In Pond’s words, “People won’t see this, they’ll feel it. Some details aren’t meant to be seen. They’re meant to be felt.”
Salon Concrete’s Bell Works location is scheduled to open this Spring. Stay tuned for updates on the Salon Concrete’s website and Instagram, and learn more about Mike Pond and Solid & Void via their website or Instagram.