NEW YORK — Few women will argue that Manhattan salons, on a whole, are cramped for space. Even some of the more prestigious ones, which dot 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, perform waxing services in rooms no bigger than a closet. Others tuck manicure and pedicure services in rooms that, due to their lack of windows and air circulation, couldn’t have been anything but former storage areas.
Enter Butterfly Studio, a name chosen to serve as a metaphor for the change its clients will undergo after experiencing any number of its myriad services. But, since today’s Butterfly boasts a roomy 4,000 square feet and loft-like ceilings, its name could easily be correlated with a place to simply spread one’s wings. An earlier version wasn’t quite as roomy.
Butterfly’s owner, Kattia Solano, was born in Costa Rica and moved to the U.S. when she was five years old. After training in New Jersey, and subsequently working at the DePasquale salon there for six years, Solano landed an assistant job at Frédéric Fekkai. After earning a stylist position, Solano jumped to John Barrett for the next fours years. It was there where she met a client who would reshape her professional career: Frédérique Besson.
Besson serves as general manager for Kerastase, the luxury hair care brand under the L’Oréal Professionnel umbrella. The contact came in handy when in 2001, Solano was ready to open her own place located on 15 East 39th Street and make it a Kerastase-only salon, meaning all products used and sold there would be under the Kerastase brand.
Three years profits from that salon, in part due to sales of Kerastase and a very loyal client base, helped Solano finance the new, two-month old space on 149 Fifth Avenue.
Solano wanted a boutique-lounge feel for the loft space, quite a change from the cozy, at-home feel of her former locale. To achieve this she hired architect Robert D. Henry of New York to craft much of Butterfly’s interior, which combines stainless-steel countertops with wenge-wood furniture and cabinetry, and features a modern retail area, cylinder-shaped dressing rooms made of orange suede, and a Koi pond and reflective pool along one window.
White walls accented by splashes of orange add some color to the concrete floors and muted chocolate ultrasuede chairs, which were chosen by Solano, who forewent a designer to decorate the space herself.
“That was fun. I just brought a lot of my ideas to the table and just played.”
Butterfly offers hair styling and coloring services, as well as waxing and nail treatments and makeup services. The waxing room may take some clients by surprise, seeing that it’s the size of a small Manhattan bedroom and has a large window to provide natural light for accurate tweezing. A meticulously designed nail station proves it was far from an afterthought, with a raised bench for comfortable pedicures.
A retail area showcases the entire Kerastase line, as well as several items by Japanese brand Magic Move, a soy-based styling line that Solano said gives hair texture. Belts by Below the Belt and jewelry by Lynnette Santin Lerner are also available.
But perhaps the most exciting feature of the salon has yet to open: The L’Oréal Professionnel Color Bar and Kerastase Institute.
By the end of May, Butterfly will host the East Coast’s first Kerastase Institute, a private room designed for hair and scalp analysis and treatments, which will be combined with scalp and shoulder massage. The L’Oréal Color Bar will feature all L’Oréal color products in a consumer-friendly area, complete with color swatches, so clients can better visualize their end color results.
Sales from the Institute, as well as increased overall salon services volume, will help Solano pay her rent, which costs three times that of the previous salon. But Solano warns that Butterfly will never have a factory feel.
“I don’t need to fill up every station. We want each client to get the best service,” Solano said.
Prices at Butterfly range from $100 to $200 for a haircut and from $100 to $300 for highlighting and color.
Aside from Besson, who remains a loyal client, Solano said several influences led to her finally achieving her dream.
She credits her days at Fekkai as a great place to learn how to operate a salon. “He taught me so much about the business,” she said of Fekkai.
Michel Aleman, a Fekkai editorial stylist, was her creative inspiration. “He is the nicest, sweetest man who does the most creative work. Sometimes there are a lot of egos in our industry. He has zero ego.”