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Down to the Roots

by Lesley McKenzie | Angeleno magazine | February 22, 2012

Shin An is all too familiar with the devil in the details. Her trained eye for perfection, plus her renowned dry-cutting technique and knack for sculpting styles to match face and body shapes, earned her a cult following in top New York salons like Mark Garrison and Paul Labrecque. But now that she’s opened her own space in Santa Monica, An’s obsession with visuals has manifested itself directly in the design of her eponymous flagship salon.

The project is a realization of an epiphany An had on a trip to L.A.’s beaches 10 years ago, when she says she felt drawn to “the mountains, the wind and the waves.” She decided then that one day she’d set up shop here. So in summer 2011, she and her family moved west, where An immediately found the perfect spot on Montana Avenue.

Once the location was nailed down, An called upon her friend and architect Suhail Butt of Suhail Design Studio to create the 1,160-square-foot, bungalow-style space. His task included creating a luxury salon experience and honoring both An’s Korean heritage and her love of nature. The result is turning more than a few heads.

“Everyone thinks [we’re] a restaurant, which is great. I want people to be curious,” says An, referring to the constant stream of passersby drawn in by the ambiguous wooden façade and mysterious side entrance, presided over by an arresting wood carving of a koi fish. “When we first opened, there were traffic jams outside. There’s nothing like this on Montana.”

The intrigue continues throughout the space, which is filled with iconic Korean cultural symbols like a serpentine dragon etched in lacquer prancing across a wall and a sprawling cherry blossom carving that greets guests at the entrance. Retractable screens between the six cutting stations emphasize client comfort, as do smaller details such as on-hand iPads and rollaway workbenches that maximize space. And out back there’s a garden lounge. “If I’m going to live in California, I’m going to do hair outside,” says An, who uses the deck for cuts and Keratin treatments. Come spring, she’ll offer outdoor massages and mini facials, too.

“A true luxury experience to me is about how you’re feeling,” says An. “I couldn’t wait to fine-tune everything I’ve learned in 18 years of doing hair and do it the way I wanted.”

1025 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, 310.310.3128,