Check Out This Laid-back Barbershop in Peckham

Published 02nd Jul 2024 by Sian Jones

Who: Strong Arm Steady
Where: 43A Peckham High Street, London, SE15 5EB

Ewa and Mike, owners of Strong Arm Steady, discuss their experience opening their third barbershop...

When did the barbershop open?

4 November 2023

What drew you to this location?

We actually spent a few years looking around Peckham, especially over on the ‘hip’ side of town, near Dulwich, but the prices were ridiculous. However, when we saw this space, we could really envision ourselves here. We knew it was going to cost a lot to get started, because it was completely vacant, but we knew it would be worth it, to be in the right area – Peckham was always somewhere that we wanted to be.

When you acquired the property, what was it being used for?

It was formerly a club but had been closed down for years. This meant that when we acquired it, there weren’t any working utilities – no electricity, water – it was just a big, empty space.

Tell us about the renovation process and any challenges?

The whole thing was a really big project for us – we’d never done anything like it. Organising the electricity and water was a bit challenging, as well as getting the toilets set up, because there wasn’t a waste pipe when we started.

Does the barbershop look different in separate areas, and if so, why?

It’s an amazing space – around 2,000 sq ft – which we were able to divide up into different rooms and place the sink right where we wanted. This was one of the fun parts for us. While the work itself can definitely be challenging, getting to map out the new space and experiment with layouts was enjoyable.

What influenced the design?

Peckham really influenced the space. Peckham High Street and the surrounding areas are chaotic, 24 hours a day, and so we wanted to create a space that provided a complete sense of calm, from the music we play to the hanging plants. There’s enough space between each barber that you have your own personal space, but can still talk comfortably to each other. The plants in the window help to create a separation from the busy street.

Where did you buy the furniture?

Usually we like to visit markets, car boot sales, vintage shops – Kempton and Deptford Market are some of our favourites. It’s a very eclectic approach, we just fall in love with individual things. However, for the chairs, we went with Takara Belmont Dainty Barber Chairs.

Can you describe the lighting in each area?

In addition to utilising the shop’s natural lighting, we also installed pendant lights above each station, with natural light bulbs, as we knew good lighting was essential.

What did you use for the flooring and why?

We first had to cover the floor in self-levelling concrete, and then we painted it. In hindsight, I think staining the floor might have been a better approach, or adding the colour while mixing the concrete, so it wouldn’t change over time.

What makes the space unique?

We both like open spaces, so we knew we wanted this to be as open as possible. We have other shops in Brockley and Deptford and each is a little bit different. Here, in Peckham we wanted to work with a lot of light; there’s no wall on the front of the shop, only a window, so the light really pours in. We recently added some hanging chandeliers made out of mirrors, which catch the light giving a disco ball effect.

Each shop also has its own playlist, which we continuously add to until another shop opens – the Peckham playlist is probably our most chill so far. We’ve also curated the smells in the shop. Eucalyptus, sage, rosemary and cedar wood help to reinforce a calming and relaxing environment. This doesn’t just come from the plants, it’s also the cleaning products we use – which Ewa makes herself with essential oils.

Is the barbershop meant to appeal to anyone in particular?

People like us – we always say if we like it, we do it. I think if we were to do something that we didn’t like,
we wouldn’t feel comfortable while working, so it’s naturally going to attract a certain type of person. When we were creating the space, we wanted it to be inclusive – so much so that you don’t even have to mention it, it’s not even a subject.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of opening a new shop?

Where you like to be is usually where you’re supposed to be. Understand your client. When it comes to a location, I would suggest going with your gut instinct. But I think the most important thing is just to be you.

Sian Jones

Sian Jones

Published 02nd Jul 2024

Sian is Editor Modern Barber and Deputy Editor Hairdressers Journal International. She has over ten years’ experience writing for print publications covering Youth & Children, TV & Entertainment and Lifestyle. Sian graduated with a degree in journalism, and whilst studying was nominated for the Guardian Digital Journalist of the Year award in 2011.

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