A cut above
Jen Renzi -- Interior Design, 9/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Charles Worthington was once a hairbreadth away from becoming an architect. "But after three years of school, I knew it wasn't for me," says London's favorite celebrity hairstylist. "The gestation period was too long. With hair, you can completely transform a person in two hours."
When Worthington decided to open a salon in SoHo, his design background made him an ideal client, says the namesake principal of Joel Sanders, Architect: "He was very clear about mood—bright, sensual, minimal—but respectful about how to achieve that."
Addressing notions of spectatorship and multifunctionality that have long preoccupied Sanders, the lyrical design also responds to a high-traffic program: shoehorning a lounge, a styling area, and offices into 2,500 square feet equally suited to cocktail parties and fashion shoots. "We maximized openness while offering necessary partitions, allowing Charles to have his cake and eat it, too," says the architect.
Sanders painted the loft's refurbished 1897 envelope white for contrast with his primary intervention, a suspended shell coated in high-gloss epoxy tinted Worthington's signature beige. "The shell floats like a room within a room," says Sanders. One epoxy-painted swath backs the shampoo stations, unfurling like a carpet along the oak floor to designate the styling area. A second ribbon anchors the lounge, swooping up behind the cantilevered reception desk, curving along the ceiling, and spiraling around a central column. Edged with dimmable fluorescents, the epoxy treatment is visible from the sidewalk, lending street appeal to the second-floor salon. On a practical note, the suspended shell furthermore creates a pocket to mask infrastructure.
Mobile furnishings, set on castors, redraw boundaries between zones as needed. The lounge's low linen-upholstered seating units—which appear to hover above exposed recessed fluorescents—can be pushed aside for parties. Four white-lacquered styling stations with backlit mirrors can be ganged to form a privacy partition or scattered to counter an assembly-line look. Stylists often position the stations near the salon's wraparound windows to take advantage of sunlight. Meanwhile, clients get to observe the urban spectacle. "You look down onto the crossroads of SoHo, with zillions of people rushing around, and you're part of the craziness but cocooned from it," says Worthington.
Speaking of rushing around, Sanders's team completed the salon in just three months to meet a fashion-week deadline. Not exactly a two-hour transformation, but speedy nonetheless.