PHOTOGRAPHY BY JESS BLACKWELL
Year Completed: 2020
Location: 3857 Steele Street, Denver, CO 80205
This project consists of retrofitting an industrial World War II era warehouse into a flagship boutique hair salon. The client desired a space that was open and collaborative, but also requested an environment where employees could maintain privacy and intimacy with their clients.
The program for the project consists of a welcoming and waiting area, a formal salon area, with eight styling stations and four washing stations, and a break room for employees. A design strategy of “separation without enclosure” was adopted to promote visual connection, while simultaneously, a condition of curving overhead forms and visually light thresholds introduce a concept of “implied space”. With the exception of the exterior and parti walls, there are no traditionally framed walls in the project. Instead, a series of partitions, constructed of steel tube and welded wire mesh divide the space. In areas of higher sensitivity to privacy, a layer of frosted glass was incorporated to conceal activity, while maintaining light transference.
The design team researched the brands’ ethos, unearthing values of commitment to craft, appreciation of tradition and a dedication to authenticity. The proposal attempts to represent those values by developing an architectural language rooted in nostalgia, but repositions itself in a unique application of objects and matter. Curvilinear lines, inspired by windblown hair, conjured ideas of art nouveau railings and soft organic forms. This led to the introduction of the steel dividers as architectural device. Curved motifs can also be found in other elements within the space, such as the drawer pulls, the waiting bench and reception desk. A material palette of warm white oak and terrazzo counters sit juxtaposed to the tactile brick interior, which was painted white to institute a backdrop for all other elements in the design.
Due to limited width, styling stations were organized along the perimeter and faced the walls, leaving all interstitial space to become an active catwalk of activity, conversation and collaboration. Each styling station retains its openness to the main floor, while the steel awnings create halos of demarcation. Under the halos, conversations are private, whereas outside of those boundaries, the collective community exists. At the entry, an arched opening suggests a portal between the welcoming area to the open salon plan, which is then mirrored on the other end. A symmetrical composition along the corridor axis and light-filled volume invokes classical arrangements of space, not too dissimilar to familiar spiritual architectural archetypes.