A Cut Above

April 1, 2005
Paul Harris

The renovation of a family- owned barbershop blends historic form with stylish function.

DESIGN FLASHA Cut AboveThe renovation ot this family-owned barbershop blends historic form with stylish function. By Paul HarrisThe iconic red, white and blue striped barbershop pole outside a storefront harkens most anyone back to an era when men would go to one place for a clean cut, a proper shave and the latest news. Although the barbershop trade is essentially a dying art—overrun by cut-and-style unisex salons—the tradition lives on in many parts of the world.

One such place exists in the Chilean capital of Santiago, where Cristian Lavaud saw a unique opportunity to make his family-owned barbershop a focal point of the historic Yungay area regeneration by turning the shop into a stylish bar/restaurant that transports its customers to another age. The original Peluqueria Frances barbershop was founded in 1868, and Lavaud's grandfather, Emilio, took over in 1900. In 1925, the business moved to its current location, an imposing 19th century building occupying the corner of a block. At the time, Yungay was an area inhabited by intellectuals and government figures—including ministers and the prime minister—many of whom had their hair cut at the Peluqueria Frances barbershop. However, as the area deteriorated, so did the building—which also suffered damage from an earthquake.
The area is now protected as part of the city's cultural heritage and is being regenerated, with buildings being converted into lofts and restaurants as the area repopulates. "The motive was as a salvage project, maintaining the family business and reviving the history of the area," Lavaud says. The project entailed restoring existing features of the building's interior and exterior from decades of deterioration to maintain the atmosphere and tradition of the original business—and extending this feeling into the café/bar area. "We spent a lot of time cleaning the building, the façade, the brickwork and the cornices," Lavaud says. The façade is stunning, from its rejuvenated redbrick and painted stonework, right down to the cleaned-up "blood-and-bandages" barber pole.
Patrons enter the building through a door on the right-hand side of the building and pass into a windowed passage that has the barbershop to the left, a female hair salon to the right and the café/bar ahead. Stepping from the dark passageway into the brightly lit barbershop with its high ceilings and expanse of mirrors is like stepping into another age, as it has been preserved intact with original fixtures and fittings. These include a row of barber chairs detailed with cast iron footplates and white ceramic armrests and handles, with leather strops hanging from their backs. Surfaces are cluttered with the accessories of the barber's trade, and unusual touches include original net-curtain designs painted onto the windows.
The focus of the renovation was the installation of the café/bar space into the central area of the building, which had been damaged by an earthquake. This involved the removal of non-load-bearing walls to create a more open space, but Lavaud was careful to maintain key original features. The most striking element is the cavernous square space occupied by the main café/bar area. Redbrick walls rise without impediment to the top of the two-story building, where they are topped off with a skylight. The subdued lighting in the bar/café combined with artifacts that adorn the walls and are encased in the glass-topped tables create a décor that transports patrons to another time as they sample items from the French-inspired menu. One can easily mistake the whirr of the blender preparing a Pisco Sour for the electric shears of the barber in the next room.
An original broad, wooden staircase leads to a second-floor restaurant and offices that occupy a large gallery that skirts around the space. There, rooms decorated with period pieces and used furniture are places in which customers can look out over the window balustrade at the surrounding area. During the project, recycled materials were used wherever possible; the floor was assembled from broken marble blocks, and the hairdryer head cones were converted into lampshades for the main lights. "Everything is original, from the cornices to the doors," Lavaud says. "Other materials we bought from house sales or scavenged from other buildings in the neighborhood as they have been converted."

In the end, the restoration of the Peluqueria Frances barbershop produced a unique new space that blends the historic form of the old building with a stylish and functional bar/café certain to appeal to the latest generation of patrons seeking a clean cut and fine cuisine.

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