“Grey is requested here a lot,” says Kristen Kattenbraker, the manager, stylist and make-up artist at Cobalt Salon, a new hair salon in Williamsburg. Her own hair, grey-colored (very close to white)— sweeps stylishly across her face.
The interior at Cobalt is crisp and airy, and created with a palette of whites and blacks and highlighted with broad strokes of cobalt. The stairs in the two-story building will be cobalt soon too. Choice artwork, comfortable black leather chairs, white geometric chandeliers, track lighting, and a nod to vintage: hanging antique bulbs and the reception desk made with faux-distressed farmhouse wood, results in an inviting and cool environment.
There is a love of, and clean approach, to color and careful use of space in the salon which held a grand opening party in September.
Seven by nine promotional cards for the salon are a shock of cobalt blue with the rates on the flip side. The shop exterior bears a cobalt-colored neon sign.
In the back, three hair-washing stations are located near a wall of exposed brick which at one time was a kitchen area. I know because the space was once the home of friends of mine in the ’90s, but the gut rehab leaves no hint of the past. The floors are replaced, all the interior walls are torn down, a roof deck is also in the works on the second floor; in warmer months clients will lounge there while their color processes, and wine and coffee will be served to them.
It’s a mild sunny day in early October when I visit. Folding glass doors are pushed open to the street. There’s a casual and opulent feeling to the space, it’s obvious that no expense was spared, and that they’ve covered all their bases, from interior design, to a pretty website, to their elite product line offerings: Kevin Murphy, Biologique Recherche, Olaplex, and RGB.
The owner Edlira Dodi started the business with Kattenbraker whom she met while working at another local Williamsburg salon. It took them about a year to get the space fixed up and running.
And it’s been a long journey for Edlira, originally from Albania. She and her husband came to the States in 2002 after winning a visa lottery when Albania reformed its political system from communism to a democracy, and opened its borders. She’d been working for the police department in her hometown, a beach town in Fieri, Albania, as an administrative police officer. A diminutive woman, with black hair in a bob (which she says she’s phasing in slowly to become a “nice red color”) didn’t see action in the street, but as an administrator was surrounded by the business of crimes every day and was the only woman among an office of men. “It was the kind of stressful job you would take home and in your sleep,” she says.
She had always been doing hair for her friends, and when she thought of what she could do in the States, she realized she could explore the idea of hair styling professionally. She went to school for it, and went on to work for Vidal Sassoon for two years, and Aveda for ten until she decided to start her own business.
By contrast to the policing, doing hair “is about making something beautiful, watching someone change like a flower, you change the color, the cut. We bring out the personality for our client, we see the hair and face and personality of each person, and see their faces as happy; not the same as putting them in prison,” she muses.
Cobalt Salon is a full-service beauty salon hair, nails, and skin with six employees including a Biologique Recherche-certified aesthetician who works on the second floor with state of the art facial equipment. “The skin is tested using a sensitive probe, it’s not just guess work,” says Kristen who also made a long journey to New York. Originally from Las Vegas she moved to New York four years ago, fell in love with the Williamsburg neighborhood where she now lives. Her interest in hair and make up were first nurtured as a volunteer doing make-up and hair for theatre and dance companies, and she realized she could do it professionally.
Edlira and Kristen have the philosophy for their business that they train their stylists to be multi-skilled, in hair cutting, coloring and blow drying, so that “clients have personalized service, and can expect to have consistent haircuts and color, whomever might be styling their hair.”
Their close proximity on Wythe Avenue to ISA restaurant and 12 Chairs Café on South 2nd Street and many new residential buildings is contributing to a rise in their business from foot traffic alone. They’re also styling hair for Vice employees, the global media empire that got its start as a local punk ‘zine, and recently moved more than 500 employees into offices down the street.
As I say my farewells, I notice a product called Color Bugs by Kevin Murphy, neatly and minimally displayed on white shelves.
I ask how it’s used. Kristen explains it’s a “hair shadow” that sticks to product in one’s hair. One can sport colors such as neon green or pink or purple, for just a day. The latest Kevin Murphy’s bug color to become available according to the Kevin Murphy website is white!
For prices and services, check out the Cobalt Salon website at cobaltsalonnyc.com