Looking to restaurants and hotels for interior inspiration is nothing new, but now a Dublin hair salon is turning heads as one of the most beautiful spaces in the city.
Warm and inviting, this light-filled corner of Wicklow Street is everything a typical hair salon is not. No inspirational hair portraits adorn the wall, there’s a distinct lack of industry trophies on display and, perhaps most welcomingly, no harsh light bouncing off high polish surfaces.
Husband-and-wife team Carlin Doran and Aoife Power have created a comfortable space that’s inspired by time spent in New York, Tokyo, Melbourne and San Francisco (to name a few), which marries custom-made features from Irish designers with beautiful heritage pieces.
We approach how we design our projects with reference to bars, restaurants and retail – places we would like to spend time in,” explains interior designer Aoife. “We don’t want it to look like a salon.” Carlin agrees, “I’ve never been a fan of salons; the traditional use of cold surfaces; glass, chrome, tiles and poorly chosen colour palettes.”
“‘Personalism’ is the word we’ve chosen to describe how we do it at Flatiron. It’s about how we treat our clients as an individual, it’s about us understanding how you want to express yourself,” says Carlin. “We’ve created and curated a space where we think folks would like to take a beat, put the city on pause and spend some time in.”
With carefully considered choices in materials and finishes, the creative pair have achieved a laid-back look and feel. At its base is a primary colour not to be found easily.
“Carlin originally spotted it on the exterior cornicing of a building on Crosby Street in New York, which led to a pretty extensive search,” says Aoife. “In the end, we found it in the form of a RAL colour (Umbra Grey), whose earthiness and richness is key to the overall feel of the space. We needed something that could support great high ceilings and very large windows, that also didn’t impose.”
This was then paired with a combination of warm neutrals – Farrow & Ball Wimborne White and Little Greene Fescue and Grey Moss – as supporting tones. It’s difficult to imagine the space as the couple originally found it. “It had been unused for some time and was badly damaged in parts,” Carlin recalls. “It had been a beauty therapy business for some years and then our main floor had been used by a telecoms company as a meeting room – resplendent with nineties carpet tiles. Awful. It took a great deal of faith and imagination, and wild optimism, to see it as it is now.”
Renovations were carefully managed. “Coving, architraves, skirting and the stained-glass windows all stayed,” says Carlin. “It’s a listed building so we were more protective and restorative in our approach. Healing as opposed to transforming, if you will.”
The salon’s counters were designed by Aoife and made by Steven Jones at Engima. As most of a client’s time is spent at these units, it was important that counters were functional, but also beautiful.
“They have a wonderful matte and slightly rough feeling to the touch,” says Aoife. “They started out their life a more golden colour and over time we have watched them deepen to a richer chestnut tone, which sits perfectly with the timber floor and deep earthy grey that runs through the salon.” Statement pieces in themselves, combined with large mirrors, they add extra height and draw the eye up to the high ceilings, while bouncing natural light in from the large bay window. Simple LED strips add a gentle glow.
Pops of green are dotted throughout the salon. “I love the use of plants in interiors,” explains Aoife. “It literally brings a burst of life, colour and nature into the space. Ordinarily, I am a botanical terrorist. I’ve let numerous plants and even cacti slip through to the other side. This time I’m on it though.” With two floral artists as clients, help is close at at hand and a schedule is in place. “I water them, feed them and play them some tunes. I haven’t started talking to them. Yet.”
Hung above foliage in the waiting area is a wall-mounted studio roller holder, with an ever-changing message. On the day of our shoot, it hosted a simple statement; ‘Inspirational Quote’. Carlin says, “We did that as bit as an antidote to the stream of ‘inspirational’ social media posts that appear these days. We do use it though, when we feel there’s something to say. Currently it has a ‘Repeal the 8th’ message on it.” It seems to sum the salon’s very being: fiercely independent and incredibly relevant.
Photography: Doreen Kilfeather