Walk into Commune Salon & Gift in the artsy, laid-back Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, and it's hard to imagine it was once nothing but a ramshackle room filled with garbage. But that's how Aki Serita found it when she walked by one day and saw a "For Rent" sign outside. Despite the rubbish, Serita instinctively knew it was the ideal spot for the salon she was dreaming about opening.
Not your ordinary salon, Commune is perfectly suited to its neighborhood: It successfully reflects the personality and character of the community and appeals to the sensibilities of the people who live there. Williamsburg is chock-full of like-minded and forward-thinking artists, writers, musicians, photographers and jewelry and fashion designers, and Commune serves as a showplace where they all can come together.
Deck the Halls
"I've always collaborated with other people through art, fashion and music," says Serita, who used to organize fashion shows for local designers in her spare time. "I believe those are important things for society and for people, and I wanted to incorporate them into my salon." While two shampoo bowls and four styling stations are located in the back of the salon, the front half is available for art exhibits, fashion shows and film screenings, and also serves as a retail area for beauty products, clothing, jewelry and accessories made by local designers—many of whom are from Serita's native Japan. Commune also sells its own line of clothing: soft silk camisoles, cozy sweaters and lounge-perfect pants designed by Serita's friend Takako Hirunagi.
Even the design of the salon itself was created through the collaboration of artists from various disciplines. Serita worked with fellow hairstylist Shiho Tanaka, as well as space designer Yoshi Aki, two wood finishers and two carpenters, to convert the once-shabby site into a serene space infused with natural light, fresh air and clean water. Hand-distressed wood abounds throughout the salon, creating an atmosphere that feels both vintage and organic.
Serita wanted clients to be able to relax and feel connected to nature when they visited, so she originally considered placing the shampoo stations outside. She settled instead for a large skylight and put two sinks underneath it. "It works well enough because people can look up at the sky while they are having their hair washed," Serita says. "They can feel as if they are outside." It's no Walden Pond, but for the artists who live in Williamsburg, it may be the next best thing.