Paul Mitchell Schools in Sandy, UT
Paul Mitchell Schools in Sandy, UT

MODERN SALON Media annually collaborates with the American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS) for MODERN SALON’s Excellence in Education program. The purpose is to help the professional beauty school community gather, share and celebrate examples of great salon education experiences and beauty career development happening across the country. 2017 marks the seventh year of honoring schools through Excellence in Education.

Honorees are determined based on key criteria in each category and grouped according to school size or whether or not they entered as a multi-unit school or single location. Two top honorees are recognized in each category—one individual school location and a chain-school organization—and were announced at the AACS Annual Convention & Expo.

View all the 2017 Excellence in Education finalists here. 

To view top honorees in all eight categories, click here.

Individual location: Avenue Five Institute: Austin, Texas
Chain school (tie): 
Paul Mitchell Schools: Sandy, Utah
Tricoci University of Beauty Culture, Chicago

A school’s first impression is made when a prospective student walks in the door and sees the facility for the first time.

The school might offer a comprehensive curriculum, have top instructors and use cutting-edge technology, but none of that matters if the facility doesn’t reflect that. Dated decor and old equipment aren’t going to impress students or clients.

This year, school owners across the country have been remodeling, making over and adding green initiatives to their buildings. All of these beautiful, modern facilities, from small boutique schools to large powerhouse academies made choosing honorees in this category a challenge—each school was gorgeous in its own way.

Avenue Five Institute in Austin, TX
Avenue Five Institute in Austin, TX

Here are a few of the stand-out décor trends schools are embracing this year:

  • Tech Tools: Technology is playing a bigger and bigger role in school decor. From retractable projector screens to hand readers and touch screens for students to check in and out, high-tech gadgets streamline student life. These sleek tools also add to the contemporary look and let students know right off the bat that the school is not afraid to invest in technology.
  • Customization: Retractable walls allow schools to customize rooms for large groups or smaller, more intimate classrooms. While this technology has been around for a few years, schools are finding new and creative ways to use the walls to customize their space, like adding treatment rooms.

    Many owners are also customizing their space with canvas wall art by their students. From photographs to paintings, schools are devoting hallways, and even entire walls to their students’ work, making the decor one-of-a-kind, and provoking conversation among clients.
  • Light’s the Way: Skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows are the perfect way to flood a school with light, giving budding colorists the best environment to properly see their clients’ and mannequins’ changing hues. The sunlit spaces also bring the outdoors inside to students putting in long days, which is why owners are embracing the trend.
  • Embracing the Space: Schools with multiple locations are thoughtfully examining their various markets and re-designing their spaces to fit their student population. In some cases, this means expanding the footprint of a school, in others, the school size is reduced. This specialization of size makes the school run more efficiently, and can reduce energy waste as well. 

“Our goal is to create an environment that mimics real salons, spas, and barbershops found in the communities our schools are located,” says Krista Smith, VP of communications at Tricoci University of Beauty Culture. “The sizes of our schools vary by market to match the program mix and market demand we see in each location.

“However, the core design elements remain the same: a branded paint palette, copyrighted imagery, and functional work spaces that are also inviting for guests. When you enter any of our schools, it’s unmistakably ‘Tricoci.’

“We are proud to provide a real-world setting for our students to practice and hone their career skills.”

  • Changing the Vibe: The clinic floor, where students practice on both mannequins and real clients no longer resembles an assembly line. Schools are remodeling their clinic floors to look and feel just like a salon. Clients are attracted to the modern new spaces and students feel like they’re already working in a real salon.

At Avenue Five Institute in Austin, Texas, the facility design team included award-winning architects, interior designers and a master educator to help balance form and function. The team paid special attention to one area of the school in particular.

“Our new admissions facility includes a private reception area exclusively for prospective students," Brandon Martin, founder and CEO, says. “By adding this new space, we've reduced wait times and created a much more personalized campus tour experience.”

Tricoci University of Beauty Culture in Chicago
Tricoci University of Beauty Culture in Chicago

Each year, school owners are becoming more conscious of their facility’s impact on the environment. In every detail, they are incorporating ways to be more green. Motion activated faucets and tankless water heaters reduce water waste, and LED lighting technology saves energy.

When remodeling, owners are using paint with low or zero VOC, green furniture companies or even repairing/repurposing old furniture and equipment.

For Paul Mitchell Schools, green is a state of mind.

“We’re very proud of our efforts to go green in Paul Mitchell Schools,” says Winn Claybaugh, dean and co-founder. “We believe strongly in the concept of reduce/re-use/recycle, and we put that into action every single day. Two great examples are our partnership with a dedicated ‘green company’ that designed and manufactures our earth-friendly workstations and barbering chairs, and our student-run Green Teams, who lead and educate our schools and communities about environmental conservation, protection, and beautification.”

For more info on Excellence in Education, visit

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