On Montana Avenue in Santa Monica sits a curious little cottage with a wooden faĂ§ade front. Decorative paneling featuring geometric cutouts and a stadium seating bench area adorned by a delicate row of sprouting stalks offer a welcome break from the standard storefronts lining the busy street. Three large glass panels offer a precursory glimpse inside to a row each of shampoo and cutting stations solving the riddle of the unusual wooden structure â€“ the recently opened SHIN salon.
The petite, smiling master dry cutter herself, Shin An, warmly greets me, a glass of wine at the ready. Suhail, SHINâ€™s designer, is standing to the side, arms dusty to the elbow from working on the soon-to-be completed outdoor patio which will offer clients an opportunity enjoy SHINâ€™s services â€“ hair, makeup, facials, manicures and pedicures â€“ beneath Santa Monica sun.
â€śWeâ€™ve been causing mini-traffic jams all week,â€ť Shin laughs, well aware of the unconventional look of her salon, â€śpeople are stopping to look and stare.â€ť
After spending the better part of the past 14 years working in some of New Yorkâ€™s premiere salons, Shinâ€™s long-awaited dream has finally been realized. She points out the finer details of the 1,160 square foot salon, including intricately carved ceilings and hand-painted privacy screens. The interiors are primarily wood, accented by splashes of bright red, with Asian design notes that reference her heritage, adding, â€śIt has a soul.â€ť â€śI just want people to come in here, relax, leave all their shit out there. Have a glass of wine, or whiskey, whatever.â€ť
Shin sits me down to begin the Four Step Philip B. Rejuvenating Oil Treatment, but first convinces me into a trim. She circles a finger around my head. â€śThis is deeper than you know, for most people, because this is it. Itâ€™s all about this.â€ť It becomes a halfway therapy session, dragging out the horrible haircuts of the past. These mini-consultations are routine for each client as Shin works to find the best option, or, if theyâ€™re ready and willing, a more dramatic change.
Massaging Philip B Rejuvenating Oil into my scalp, she discusses the beginning of SHIN. Ten years ago in Chicago, a light bulb went off when she met her friend, Suhail, for a drink. She wanted her own salon, and Suhail to design it. In 2001, a visit to Santa Monica reaffirmed her epiphany. â€śI had this gut moment of, if you could imagine what peace feels like, thatâ€™s how I felt,â€ť Shin explains.
The friendship and faith behind the business relationship is apparent between Shin and Suhail, whose eponymous design studio champions innovation and has created unique interiors for a range of projects. She gave him minimal guidelines, trusting his creative mind to deliver her vision. â€śI donâ€™t like being told what to do,â€ť Suhail jokes, tossing a smile to Shin. â€śAt the end of the day, it was all about delivering the feel,â€ť Suhail emphasizes, â€świth other salons, thereâ€™s a disconnect. Here, weâ€™ve eliminated as much of the barriers as possible.â€ť True to form, everything is accessible, allowing customers to touch and smell products, or peruse at their leisure.
SHIN Salon is located at 1025 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica.
Written by Caroline Pham