“You know how when you’re walking around in Paris or London and you turn off a busy high street, you’ll find a cool neighborhood,” starts salon co-owner and stylist Michael Davis. “Well, that’s the feeling we wanted for our place.”
The place is Smith & Davis Salon, located on Wrightwood, a cool neighborhood street between the hip and high traffic areas of Chicago’s Clark and Halsted streets in Lincoln Park.
With his co-owner partner, colorist Stevie Smith, the seasoned professionals began renovating their new salon with the same passion and sense of aesthetics they employ when handling hair.
Borrowing the philosophy of Chicago architect Louis Sullivan, “form follows function” was the credo on which Smith & Davis worked. With the help of contractor Michael Sommerlad, the team did what they do best: enhance an existing beauty.
For more than five months, all hands were on deck to transform the alderman’s old office building into a new sleek salon. To offset its updated chic physique, some of the building’s original assets where cleaned to weather the rehab. From the painted wooden floors to the ceiling tiles circa 1881, the renovation retains a homespun charm especially in the old school, old town screendoor which overlooks the front steps.
“Michael was into the big things,” explains Smith. He orchestrated the installation of the custom-made sound system by Decibel. “While I was more into the details, like making sure there were hooks for women to hang their purses.” Smith also ensured the vintage hotel cups and saucers used to serve patrons herbal teas and fancy cookies matched the alternating retro-tones of the shop.
To strike a balance between modern and antique, eclectic items were found at Restoration Hardware, on e-bay, in flea markets, and from a retiring barber who sold a string of 1950s barber chairs to Smith & Davis. In addition to being comfortable, the pristinely preserved seats are stylish and sturdy, and harken back to the day when American-made merchandise was built to last, even if the ashtrays in the arm are now humorously obsolete.
“Chairs available to salons now don’t look good and they’re not well made,” notes Davis, who points to his shop’s companion chairs from the 1960s. “Everything in here isn’t just from one period, but it all has a unifying feel ’cause design styles overlap.”
While Prairie, Celtic Revival and Art Nouveau influences abound (even the company logo by web designers Shawn Calvert and Alison Mckinzie was tailored after Louis Sullivan’s gates at Chicago’s Board of Trade), the shop juxtaposes the past with present-day art objects as seen in the purposely positioned illuminated sign that boldly spells HAIR.
Adorning the white walls are original, found and refurbished pieces by local artist Miguel Mendez, including part of a billboard from the south side of Chicago. Mendez also helped refinish the 1951 front counter which houses family heirlooms such as a curling iron from the last turn-of-the-century which belonged to Smith’s great grandmother, whose antique photograph perches in an Art Deco frame.
Additional fashion photographs, reflecting the 21st century, grace the shop’s window ledges. Shot by Smith, the images showcase models sporting hair by Smith & Davis. Nearby, a stack of Smith’s personal hardbound photography books stand alongside current fashion magazines.
“Clients I’ve had for 20 years came into the space and said, ‘this is so you,’” states Smith, who mixes color on an old Leo Burnett graphic artist’s table in the center of the salon. “We’re all about hand craftsmanship,” Smith expounds. “I don’t want my clients to think I go off to the backroom to pour color out of a bottle. I want to involve them in the process.”
“Everything we do here goes back to the fundamental techniques and how you put your own personal touches on them,” concludes Smith, whose approach applies as much to hair creations as to a well-designed salon.
Friends, clients and those interested in checking out the new space are invited to an opening party tonight, February 8, 2013. Small bites by Chef Jill Dedinsky and wine and beer will be served from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Smith & Davis on 735 W. Wrightwood. For more information, visit www.smithanddavissalon.com.