Alright friends! Here we are again! I promise you that this time you’ll get to see how it all turned out though!!!
The last time we were here we were just wrapping up our tiling job and I’d finally gotten the hang of mixing the grout and spreading it on in small patches so it wouldn’t dry too fast.
The next step was to finally start making the shop look pretty! Yay!
I’ve always loved interior design and home decor, so when it came down to figuring out a layout and design for the shop, we decided we’d forgo an fancy pants designer and just do the work ourselves. Based on his experience and expertise, Russell helped me figure all the practical details like the layout, the spacing between the stations, and how high to hang mirrors and fixtures, but for the most part, the pretty-ification of the space was up to me.
I’m sure that I’ve mentioned this before, but I consider Pinterest to be an incredibly useful tool when it comes to organizing thoughts, ideas, and inspirations, as well as a great place to store information on specific products and even DIY projects I want to be able to easily find when I’m ready for them. I used Pinterest in this way when planning my own wedding, and I honestly don’t think it would have gone so smoothly and turned out so beautifully if I hadn’t had such a well organized and easily navigable place to “pin” everything I had floating around in my head. So, when it came time to come up about a modern, cohesive, and inviting concept for Maxwell’s, I knew just where to start.
We already knew we were working with a base of white subway tile, so we decided to go for a kind of classic black and white scheme with lots of warm wood accents. Everything was being done on a tight budget, so I did A LOT of comparison shopping and bargain hunting online, and every time I’d find something I liked, I’d “pin” it and then look around for similar, cheaper options. Sometimes I found them, sometimes I didn’t. If not, we’d talk it out and decide whether it was worth a splurge or not. Our biggest splurges, the barber chairs and the huge round mirrors, ended up being the pieces that have the biggest visual impact in the pace, which is why we decided they were worth the money.
To make up for those splurges though, I tried really hard to find ways of using basic inexpensive items in unexpected ways to make them look more interesting, impressive, and “expensive”.
To that end, I found some basic builder-grade vanity bars online that were available in a matte black finish rather than the standard brass or nickel. To make them look even more “custom” I mounted them vertically to flank the mirrors, rather than horizontally above them. It’s a simple touch, but I think it makes a big impact.
The shop has no closets or storage at all, so we knew we’d need to put in some cabinets or something. Originally we were thinking about buying some kind of second hand armoire or freestanding cabinet, but after a quick trip to Ikea we decided to just put up some inexpensive pine wall cabinets instead. To make them feel a little warmer and a lot less “Ikea-y” we decided to stain them and add some hardware.
Since our mirrors are framed in a rich, warm acacia, we decided to mix two store bought stain colors together to make one that would help make our pine cabinets look like they matched, or at least complimented, the mirrors.
While the shop was still under construction we kept the mirrors in their original boxes, and when we tried matching the stain we only opened the box enough to reveal a section of the frame. After the cabinets and stations were stained and the mirrors were hung, we realized that the mirror’s frames are made up of many smaller pieces of wood all with their own varying tones and colors, most of which aren’t quite as red as the small section we originally used to choose our stain color. The frames overall feel a little warmer and more yellow/brown than the reddish stain we went with, but in the end the stations and cabinets still look amazing and compliment the acacia really well, so who cares?
I mean, I do.
But only a little.
When it came to the stations themselves, we decided that some floating box shelves would add a clean, custom touch with plenty of storage. They were really simple to build, thanks to mom and her handy dandy miter saw, and we used pine again to save a few bucks.
Russell requested that we find a way to add a hole in the stations to hold a hair dryer, and thankfully, there’s a drill bit for that! Easy Peasy!
Next up: Paint!
With an entire wall of bright windows and tons of white tile going so far up the walls, we decided that we could afford to add a touch of bold dark color at the top of the wall without making the space feel cramped or dim.
After testing some colors on the walls and comparing them against the larger pieces in the room, we decided on a rich, deep, dark foresty green to compliment the gold tones in the chandelier and the warm red tones in all the wood. It looks almost black in many of the pictures here, but please just trust me that in person it’s a rich modern forest green.
From the very first day, one of the most confusing areas to design around was the electrical panel door toward the front of the shop. I tossed several ideas around with Russell, but we just couldn’t agree on anything. We talked about hanging his licenses from it, or using it as a service and price list, or mounting a long mirror on it, or even just painting something on it, but nothing really seemed right to either of us.
When the solution finally came to me, it was so simple that I almost felt stupid for not coming up with it sooner.
Chalkboard paint dummy!!!!
Now that we’ve tiled around it and painted the frame white, it actually looks like an intentional design piece rather than an annoying feature we were forced to design around.
Another that thing we knew would be a thorn in our sides from day one was the front wall of the shop.
When we first saw the space we noticed that the entire front wall was strangely slapped together and incredibly poorly insulated. It consisted of little more than wood framing holding up single panes of glass above, with thin single panels of wood covering the facade below.
We eventually decided that the most cost effective option would be to leave the wood panels in place on the outside, and just put in some insulation inside with more wood covering it up on the interior. We didn’t consider exactly how we’d make that happen, but were just taking one thing at a time and figured we’d worry about that when the time came.
Well, the time came, and our plan ended up being much more of a pain in the ass than we anticipated.
We didn’t have a table saw so we weren’t able to cut our own panels of wood to size, our contractor was already finished and long gone, and all the hardware stores we spoke to refused to cut the panels to the exact size we needed. The Home Depot in Brooklyn even has a big sign at the wood cutting station that says “No precision cuts”, which we assumed meant they couldn’t guarantee cuts to an exact 1/16th of an inch measurement, but what it really meant was that all they’re really willing to do is cut a board in half for you so it’ll fit in your car.
I played with a ton of different options in my head, but none of them ever turned out to be plausible. Once the tiling was done and we had no choice but just figure it out, we took a trip to hardware store to see what we could come up with. We were just about at our wit’s end after spending waaaay too much time wandering the aisles and coming up with zilch, when suddenly I spotted these packs of tongue and groove wainscoting panels. They were just about the right height and could easily be fit to the width we needed. Score!
All I had to do was staple-gun them in place, trim them out, and paint them glossy white to match the rest of the woodwork on the facade. I only sliced the tip of my finger off once while installing them too, so that’s good. Right?
Here’s the before, during, & after; all rolled into one!
(sorry the photos don’t exactly match up right, but you get the idea)
With the lower part of the wall well insulated, we planned to just live with the single pane windows above for the first year or so. Unfortunately, a few days into the buildout we noticed that one of them was actually cracked and we hadn’t noticed. The people who had the space before us had so much tape and crud and gunk on the windows that we didn’t even notice that they’d “sealed” the crack in the window with cheap packing tape.
So, we ended up having to replace the windows with fancy dual pane insulated ones, but now it’s done and we won’t have to worry about it again.
With work beginning to wrap up on the interior of the shop, I figured it was finally about time to go ahead and paint the exterior too.
After caulking and sanding the facade, I opted for some matte black paint for a simple, understated look that would let the interior view really pop through the oversized windows.
We also added some wood panels to the little awning above the shop in the photo below, and painted that all black as well. Eventually we’ll be mounting our logo to the the panel, but that’s a work in progress so for now the entire exterior is just a simple flat black.
With all that out of the way we were almost ready to open, but it was still really warm out and we still hadn’t sorted out the whole issue with the weird electrical work and the non-functional AC.
We had called in a work order with the utility company, but these things take time…
A lot of time…
So much time…
With the finish line drawing nearer and nearer, Russell decided to put in another call to see if there was anything we could do to speed things along. Long story short, Russell used his ability to make people fall in love with him to his advantage, and forged a friendship with someone in the customer service department.
I won’t go into all the details about everything that had to happen, but it took several appointments to figure out what was wrong, and even more to fix it. They actually ended up having to bring in a crew to dig a hole in the street outside to run new wires in to our electrical panel, and believe me, the whole process could have (and would have) taken several months if Russell hadn’t made that friend.
Lucky for us, because the source of the problem wasn’t inside the building, it was the utility company’s responsibility to fix it and pay for it, and not ours! Finally, something worked out in our favor! Imagine that!
You can’t imagine what a relief it was when it was finally fixed, but it also felt kind of weird and anticlimactic, like oh, it’s just working like normal #NBD.
But then, when the shop was suddenly cool and comfortable after so many months of being stiflingly sweaty and unbearable, we definitely did plenty of jumping up and down with joy. And we didn’t even break a sweat!
Around that same time, I suddenly looked around the shop and realized that after months and months of hard work and countless to-do lists, there wasn’t really much of anything left for me to do!
The only problem with all of our sparkly white tile was that even with the warm wood tones and custom accents the space ultimately ended up feeling a little cold and sterile.
We’d always known that we wanted to bring in a couple of plants to add some life and color and texture to the room, but once we were about ready to open, it quickly became clear that we needed more than just a couple. The next thing we knew we were amassing a small jungle, and the bright greens and mix of tones and textures instantly brought a welcome warmth and vibrance to the space! We’ve actually added even more since these photos were taken, and I still have my eye out for more yet!
So, there you have it folks! After months and months of hard work and gallons of sweat, Maxwell’s is open for business!
If you live in Brooklyn, or ever find yourself in Bushwick in need of a haircut and some sparkling conversation, please stop by Maxwell’s at 274 Troutman St. Russell specializes in barbering and short hair, but his staff can do short hair, long hair, straight hair, curly hair, men’s hair, women’s hair, you name it! This place is the total package folks, so come check it out!!!