Backstage

  • The exterior of the salon
  • Inside Little Axe Salon in Brooklyn's trendy Williamsburg neighborhood
  • The reception stand is inspired by an old-fashioned maître d’ stand
  • Little Axe Salon in Brooklyn's trendy Williamsburg neighborhood
  • The bench in the waiting area is actually a church pew, and Coby's first piece of furniture for the salon
  • A few of the magazines in the waiting area
  • A closeup of Coby's station
  • Coby and the Little Axe team
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Little Axe Salon

Named by Vogue.com as one of its four favorite under-the-radar salons, Little Axe Salon in the heart of Brooklyn's trendy Williamsburg neighborhood has developed a cult following. Oribe Educator Coby Alcantar takes us inside her cozy space and shares the inspiration behind the salon's design, the one thing she's learned in her career that every salon owner should know and what she loves most about being behind the chair.

Where did the salon's name, Little Axe, come from?


I didn’t have a name in mind when I decided to open the salon. Since the space is small, I became obsessed with the word “little.” I pictured it all lowercase, in script, and late at night my husband would say “little” with every word...it drove me crazy! One night he said “little axe,” and I fell in love with it immediately.

How would you describe the design of the salon?


It’s pretty much me—I’m not too much of a girly-girl. I like plain, simple-looking things that are unique. I didn’t want the space to look too old timey, so I went with distressed wood instead of regular wood. I also knew that the distressed wood would age more nicely. Since the space is small, I wanted to keep the decor minimal while still feeling cozy rather than sterile.

Where did you pick up the unique pieces that adorn the salon?


My friend Kimberly Austin had a show in New York 10 years ago and she couldn’t afford to ship the pieces back, so I’ve had them ever since and now they’re hanging on the walls. The bench in our waiting area is actually a church pew, which was the first piece of furniture I acquired. I wanted the reception stand to look like an old-fashioned maître d’ stand, so we had one customized from a place called Brooklyn Reclamation. They also customized our stylist stations and the mirrors, which came from a catholic girls’ school dormitory in Virginia. The photographs above the church pew are from a client, Kirsten Kay Thoen, who’s become a dear friend.

Which three songs are currently on heavy rotation in the salon?


I tend to put on soul music, like Charles Bradley, on in the mornings. We also listen to Lee Scratch Perry and Cherry Blazer. I also let the younger staff members pick the tunes, and lately we’ve been listening to a lot of FKA Twigs.

What's one thing you've learned in your career that you think every salon owner should know?


I’ve been fortunate to have always worked for people who are fair and lead by example, and who are not afraid to get down and dirty even though they’re the boss. That has taught me a lot as both a new salon owner and as a stylist. Helen and Scott Miller of Scott Miller Salon have been a huge influence and great role models for me. Louise and Tracy at Cowboys and Angels were also great mentors when I first started cutting hair. They gracefully balanced having fun with us while maintaining boundaries.

Which books or magazines are you currently reading?


Monocle, Apartamento and The Great Discontent Magazine are on our waiting room table. I’m also reading Ara Gallant, which is an amazing book about the iconic hairdresser.

If you were forced to recommend just one film that all creative should watch, what would it be?


Blade Runner

Williamsburg is an incredibly vibrant neighborhood in New York City. Do you guys ever partner with your neighbors?


When we first opened, I had a party and invited all the local businesses. We’ve really been welcomed with open arms, and I hope to be able to partner more with the talent in our neighborhood. Also, funnily enough, we share a basement with the fantastic restaurant Allswell, which is owned by Nate Smith—editorial hairstylist Holli Smith’s brother. We actually all went to high school together, and I got to know Holli more when we were both working in San Francisco. What a small world!

What do you love most about being behind the chair in the salon?


Being behind the chair really helps you hone your craft. Doing the same thing every day, but doing it differently. I saw this TV show where a prominent chef goes around and interviews other chefs. She interviewed this one guy in London, who was quite a bit older and had been working for quite some time. He said, “I like that I get to do the same thing every day, but every day I do it slightly differently.” I think this is true for the hairdressing profession, as well. I love that we get to work with our hands, and I love that everyone interprets our craft differently.
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