Above Image: Oakland’s new Goodbody salon with interiors by San Francisco studio Homework. Photo by Aubrie Pick.
In 2019, the CROWN Act, a bill named for the acronym “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” was introduced by then-California state senator Holly J. Mitchell. Now law in California and seven other states, the act prohibits discrimination based on hair texture or hairstyle in housing, education, and employment. On September 21, 2020, the CROWN Act was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and is now under consideration by the Senate, a step toward further empowerment of BIPOC identities.
In Oakland, another inspiring enterprise is advancing style diversity: GoodBody, a “wellness inspired beauty bar” tailored to textured hair launched by local entrepreneur Brittany Barnes in the fall of 2020. The glorious interiors, which have galvanized a wave of positive energy and national recognition, are by San Francisco architecture and design studio Homework. The boutique firm is led by partners Susan and Ben Work, whose experience ranges from private homes to commercial, retail, and hospitality spaces for Four Seasons, St. Regis, and Christian Louboutin. To create GoodBody, they transformed a once cluttered office into an expansive volume that breathes and ascends. With its spectacular scale and jewel-tone palette, GoodBody is worthy of women with crowns. We spoke with Susan and Ben Work about the project and their practice.
What values informed your design of GoodBody?
Inspired by the salon’s ethos of modernity and celebration of textured hair, we went to great lengths to create an elevated and inviting destination. We’re proud to showcase a unique space that offers specialized services for women’s hair in the spirit of honoring diversity and nurturing the client—to amplify that they’re not alone in their approach to self-care.
Considering the open volume and spectacular 25-foot ceiling, what was your strategy for the space?
After we stripped out the clutter of the walls and the drop ceilings from the previous tenant, the challenge was to transform a cavernous empty space into one with areas for reception, retail, hair washing, and beauty services. After rounds of iterations, we developed sinuous millwork to define the space. The main salon area is anchored by a row of svelte stations with leather swivel chairs in golden tobacco. We also installed flattering LED light around each station’s slender, arched-shaped mirror, which in turn echoes the arched threshold separating the service salon from the hairwashing space.
You use such refreshingly unexpected palettes in your work. Will you tell us about the deep teal and apricot pairing you created?
We are always pretty bold with our colors. This pairing creates a positive tension and soft, harmonic balance. Warm colors in the main space promote excitement, elation, and community, and rich, dark tones in the hair-washing area promote ease, quietude, relaxation, and respite.
What was your vision for the material palette?
In the smaller hair-washing area, the intentional use of jewel tones like emerald, juxtaposed with the marigold velvet of the drapes and punctuated by the mauve brick tone of the millwork, creates a richness that allows for a cozy yet exciting environment. After stripping off the tile used by the previous tenant, we were happy to find that we could work with the concrete underneath. That got a layer of polish and became the flooring.
What custom pieces did you design for the space? Was there an opportunity to collaborate with local craftspeople?
We designed extensive custom millwork, which was fabricated by our contractor. It features a crescent sitting bench that forms a natural lobby and continues on to serve as a retail nook.
Susan, in addition to interior design, your background includes work in holistic wellness. Did that inform the project? Surely. We wanted the space to empower femininity, promote the ritual of self-care, and lead clients to feel more elevated, at peace, in harmony with self and others, connected to their environment, and joyful.
Did the experience inform your practice going forward?
Creating commercial spaces to be inhabited and used specifically by people who are underrepresented makes it all the more meaningful and important. And we’re actively seeking to draw inspiration from global points of view, not just those steeped in European standards of beauty in design. We have also discovered many diverse, hidden talents in the world of textiles, art, lighting, and furnishings that we’re excited to incorporate into our projects.
Susan, prior to founding your studio, you worked at the esteemed and adventurous firm Yabu Pushelberg. Did their ethos of curiosity, exploration, and unconventional materials inform your practice?
Yabu Pushelberg was an invaluable design education. Their timeless, luxurious interiors are fueled by an uncompromising rigor and a relentless ambition that elevates their work and the end product—all in the name of creating the world of beauty that they want to inhabit. The results are not just innovative and trend transcending, but truly uplift the human experience and fire off all the senses: the ultimate luxury.
Who are your influences or guiding architecture and design spirits?
We are indebted to many design heroes and muses who led the way. From the very beginning of our careers as designers, we’ve shared a love of architect Carlo Scarpa, whose distinctive material combinations—from the handcrafted and machine-cut to his poetic layering—display masterful technique and produce impossibly breathtaking results. Our worlds have also been shaped by two artists, James Turrell and Olafur Eliasson, who are masters of manipulating our senses and challenging perception via the medium of light. They force us to move out of our comfort zones and see more there is to see. For that we are better. And, we greatly admire the dissident artist Ai Wei Wei for creating art and beauty out of activism, for his unfettered love of democracy, and for his belief in freedom of expression—even at the expense of being censored by his own government.
What is your place of design pilgrimage?
Ben’s mother lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and we used to make a yearly trip there until the pandemic hit. San Miguel is a small, charming, and colorful town, a Unesco-protected site with cobblestone streets that’s rich with culture and history, intact Spanish Baroque architecture, a thriving art and design scene, and a warm climate. We feel transported to a different era each time we visit, thrown into a way of life that is slower, more courteous, contemplative, serene, and relaxing, not to mention full of design inspiration, with its bright colors, rich, handcrafted textures, intricate ironwork, and varying scales of cobblestones in the streets—which, incidentally, inspired the tilework in our own bathroom.
Finally, would you share a few ways you create spaces for wellness in your home?
Music is essential. We have built-in speakers in our main living area, where we spend most of our time together, and it’s encouraged our practice of turning on music the minute we step into lounge-mode. Music never fails to elevate our spirits and foster connection, especially when we can appreciate a tune together and ease our minds. Scent also heals. Whether it’s sage, cedarwood incense, or a candle that smells of old leather, oak, or citrus, scent can evoke a sense of peace and happiness. And as it triggers memories and creates associations of place, time, and people, it helps define the meaning of home.