Even with society’s renewed sense of appreciation around hair salons and the community that they foster, it’s not exactly the most opportune time to open one. We’re still in the midst of a global pandemic, COVID-19 infection rates are on the rise, and the economy is still in trouble. The list goes on. The irony of the timing isn’t lost on New York City hairstylist Mischa G, but that didn’t stop her from fulfilling a lifelong dream and opening up the East Village hair salon Treehouse Social Club last month.
According to Mischa G, who began her career as a stylist and educator at Bumble and bumble before going freelance, the whole thing began as a happy accident. She and her colorist partner Douglas Cornwall, also known as Discolourist, were planning a safe, socially distanced salon pop up for the summer at a friend’s art gallery, but after designing it out in excruciating detail, the space fell through. “By then I’d already had it in my head: I must have my own space,” she says. After putting out some real estate feelers, an opportunity presented itself in the form of an empty, dilapidated French bistro on First Avenue that had closed pre-COVID-19. “It was dark, messy, and filled with so much stuff, but I knew it would be my space,” says Mischa G. She signed the lease at the end of July and embarked on what she thought would be a cosmetic flip, but turned out to be a full demolition and renovation completed with help from a contractor, family, and friends.
Once it was finished, there were white-painted brick walls, a tin ceiling and crown molding, arched entryways, sustainable bamboo flooring, and an outdoor patio—the latter a key component in navigating a new landscape in the time of COVID-19. At Treehouse Social Club, which offers cuts, styling, and coloring, clients more comfortable with receiving their services al fresco can go outside to the patio underneath a large, lush Japanese maple tree. “I have a backyard at my Brooklyn apartment and the calming relief it gave me and my family during quarantine was invaluable,” she explains. “I would like to provide that feeling to our clients to have a quiet and private outdoor space, even just for a moment.”
But a visit to the East Village alcove goes beyond just procuring a safe, socially distanced haircut and a breath of fresh hair. It’s an immersive experience with a distinct retro tropical feel. “The vision came about out of a need for a vacation during quarantine,” explains Mischa G, who listened to Martin Denny’s lush exotica records while dreaming up a tiki-tinged mise-en-scène. “After working in one of New York City’s biggest salons, having a space that felt like a salon was the last thing I wanted,” explains the pro. “We were very conscious of the colors we picked, the music we played, and the whole environment.” One major guiding principle: No nondescript black furniture and capes. Instead? Rich green harp chairs by Japanese salon manufacturer Takara Belmont, arched vintage mirrors above chrome shelves salvaged from the Waldorf Astoria, lucite bar cars to hold stylist’s various tools and products, and an array of floral-print satin robes for clients to slip into. True to its name, the space houses a surplus of greenery—a mix of ivy, spider plants, pothos, monstera, and majesty palms—made up of adopted plants supplied by clients moving out of town. “We’ve become a plant rescue!” laughs Mischa G.
Deeply entrenched in the LGBTQ+ community, Mischa G also wanted the space to pay homage to gay culture. She enlisted the help of visual artist and nightlife fixture Nicky Ottav to create three different colorful murals inside the space. When you walk in, New York trans icons Amanda Lepore, Candy Darling, and Darian Darling adorn the white-painted brick wall. Then, downstairs in the lower level of the space, there’s one entirely pink bathroom with a tribute to the late, legendary drag queen Divine, and one entirely green and burnt orange with a mural of country star Dolly Parton. Adjacent to the washrooms is a large room that will be home to a future photo and audio studio. “The possibilities for what the space can be used for are endless,” says Mischa G. “When we can safely gather again, I want Treehouse Social Club to become the social club spot of the East Village, a place that people want to come back to for future art shows, backyard performances, film screenings, creative talks, karaoke parties, and mini gay discos.”
Much as she did with Treehouse Social Club, Mischa G bridges the past and the present in her directional, highly individual cuts and styling. Think: Blunt bobs, punk pixies, and feathery shags. “I’ve never been one to follow trends or what’s trendy at the moment, I prefer to take the classics and morph them to work for the person in my chair,” she explains. “It’s about evoking feelings of the past with well-curated vintage looks, and keeping it feeling present for the person’s individuality.” A bright spot in an otherwise dark time, Treehouse Social Club is already helping revitalize the downtown New York scene, giving the city’s nostalgic cool young things choppy mullets and vivid dye jobs for their return on said scene, whenever that may be.