Name: A Rockafellas Social Club
Location: Toronto, Canada
Size: 900 square feet
Years lived in: Rented 3.5 years
A Rockafellas Social Club is no ordinary barbershop. Modeled after the Prohibition era speakeasy of the 1920s and '30s, this Toronto gem truly exists in underground secrecy. You can't look up the location or become a client/club member without a personal invitation and pledge to maintain the code of clandestine honor. Sound like an odd business plan? Judging by the packed days of the 5+ hair stylists and growing list of folks anxious to be let in on owner Mr. Rodriguez's secret handshake, A Rockafellas Social Club proudly and successfully breaks all the rules.
If it weren't for the unfinished industrial ceiling and fluorescent lights, this hair salon/barbershop social club could easily have you believing you're caught in a time-traveling dream, stretching back to the days when whispered passwords granted access to the best party in town. The hidden, unmarked door is tucked inside the most unlikely of downtown locations and opens into a charmingly colorful room decorated with antique and vintage furniture and oddities. Even the gorgeous, functioning heavy barber chairs are relics of days gone by.
The open-concept, split-level layout uses stained wood banisters to separate the lounge area from the barber workspace, allowing waiting clients and stylists to hang out together without interrupting their workflow. A pre-1940s player piano, hand-painted club tables for card games and fully stocked bar keep members happily occupied.
Vintage hats and old photographs line the walls, crooked and imperfect to let you know they've seen their share of rowdy good times. Ornate antique barber tools decorate the stylist's stations, and everywhere you turn, another authentic piece of memorabilia catches the eye. But if you look closely, a few surreal touches tip their hat to owner Mr. Rodriguez's childhood favorites, a touch of Argentina here and Star Wars there — just to keep you guessing.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Buenos Aires, Argentina meets French Quarter New Orleans circa 1920s.
Inspiration: Speakeasy cafes and bars that hosted the painters, poets and writers of the early 19th century.
Favorite Element: The custom whiskey crate hair-washing sinks.
Biggest Challenge: Creating a work area (the salon/barbershop) within the same proximity of a social club without affecting the integrity of the original design inspiration.
What Friends Say: "It's like stepping into a time-warp," "It's like being on a movie set," and my favorite from a group of women that mentioned how masculine they thought the design was, said it was sexy sitting at the bar sipping whiskey and discussing hair.
Biggest Embarrassment: The placement of the chandelier. It was centered exactly where I wanted it to be, in the center of the lounge area, but unfortunately it's underneath some water pipe connected to the heater/air conditioner on the roof. In the winter when there is a heavy snow or rain buildup we get a teeny tiny leak too small to pinpoint but enough to burn out some light bulbs. So I have to change light bulbs a lot! I'm currently working on a solution.
Proudest DIY: The club was formerly a garage with cold concrete walls and floors, a garage door and no washroom. I hired my cousin and helped him make it all come together — he's an artist. I did two illustrations from two corners of the room and with his help and guidance (and hard work) we put it all together and made it a reality.
Biggest Indulgence: The pre-1940s player piano (still trying to determine the original manufacturing year).
Best Advice: A workplace doesn't have to look like a workplace, as long as it functions like one.
Dream Sources: Antique markets everywhere.
*Note: In keeping with the secret nature of this establishment, it was difficult to obtain a full resource list from Mr. Rodriguez — this is all we were able to squeeze out of the dapper gentleman…
PAINT BRAND & COLOR
Behr Premium Plus in Chopped Chive, flat.
FURNITURE & DÉCOR
Mirrors — from the original 1929 Royal York Hotel in Toronto (now the Fairmont Royal York).
Leg Lamp — www.retrofestive.ca
Club Tables — hand-painted by Mr. Rodriguez's father
All other décor & furniture — all items have been collected over the years from family, friends, the Bracebridge Falls Antique Market, Muskoka Antique Market, Parry Sound Antiques, and a variety of other antique markets & shops in Ontario.