Moments from Bibendum on The Fulham Road is the new Stil Salon. The Chelsea branch is the younger sister of the original Notting Hill salon on Chepstow Road. And with three times British colourist of the year, Christel Barron-Hough at the helm, the salon has already fostered a reputation in its new Brompton Cross environs as the go-to spot for blonde expertise.
Behind the doors of a former luxury retail space on Fulham Road, the open-plan Scandi-inspired salon is bathed in sunlight. There are sleek white wall-to-floor mirrors with matt black finishings and textured marble wallpaper in granite tones. Dried flower posies provide pops of burnt orange and are courtesy of friend of the salon Budflora – whose further installations on the subterranean floor are a sight to behold.
The vibe is as inviting as the decor. The staff are friendly and thoughtful, and you only have to watch the team in motion to see what a nurturing environment this must be to work in. I’m greeted by Colour Director, Anna Alford. who wastes no time introducing me to the salon puppies Bertie and Arthur. Hazel takes my coat and presents me with a delicious creamy matcha latte and, though I’m no stranger to a new salon, I feel instantly at home.
We talk through my hopes for the colour. I tell Anna that months of growth have got me looking like a wet seal coming up for air. She raises an eyebrow so I elaborate; my slick mousey roots hang either limp at my cheeks when down or slick to my head tied back, and I’m missing that voluminous texture that lightened hair has. I add that whilst I’m happy for it to be beachy, I’d like to steer it more towards… Kate Bosworth in Blue Crush. She finds a reference on her phone that fits my vision perfectly and suggests lots of delicate foils in a warmish gold to compliment my skin tone.
As Anna begins the foils, we get chatting and I soon learn that her knowledge on the complex chemical makeup of hair is rather impressive. “It’s all about pH. Naturally, your hair should be between 5.5 and 6.5, but bleach is alkalising. The Shinefinity toner is slightly acidic, so it restores chemical balance of the hair ” She tells me that this bespoke approach to hair care is the future. In the same way that the last few years have seen home skincare evolve, the way we manage our hair is changing. Does this mean we need to have a science degree and an apothecary cupboard full of potions? “Well, either that or a salon like Stil can do it for you”…I take comfort in this. After all, new processes are a worrying prospect for people like me who only own one product and have a twenty-year-old hair dryer that regularly electrocutes them.
Science lesson over, Anna asks me if I’d like a head massage. I accept but, if I’m honest, this is a part of the salon ritual that I often dread. I usually find myself caught somewhere between wishing it was over and moaning in ecstasy – but Anna puts me at ease, it’s relaxing and I don’t feel awkward at all.
I’m all out of ideas when it comes to the cut, so I let Anna take the lead. She says she likes the chunky side bangs because they open up my face, but thinks we could achieve a sleeker, more sophisticated look if we cut in some subtle layers around the back and sides. It’s something I’ve been resisting for a long time, following a terrible haircut about five years ago, but I instinctively trust Anna and my intuition pays off.
After she’s taken some length off and cut in some layers, she gently skims the scissors through the tips, blending the edges, to ensure it doesn’t all sit at one length.
Then with a flick of the wrist, she does something quite magical – interconnecting the side bangs with the rest of the cut. It’s a testament to Anna’s skill – wizardry in fact. I didn’t even see her do it and I note that in future, one should pay more attention when someone is wielding scissors in the vicinity of your face. To finish the service, Anna gives me a luxurious bouncy blow dry as I side-eye the rain, thank goodness I brought an umbrella.
Creamy blonde hair that looks healthy and thick. Limp roots and crispy ends are a distant memory and the highlights have lifted some of the ageing shadows around my face, but she’s left some darker tones in to create depth.
It’s always a joy to meet someone who’s passionate about what they do and Anna is that in spades. Visiting different salons is (of course) a perk of the job, but one can feel a little like a beautifully coiffured sailor with a stylist in every port. Highlights in Hammersmith, foils in Fulham, a cut and blow dry in Kensington. But there’s something special about this place and Anna – yes, I think Stil is the kind of salon where I could one day see myself putting down roots.
A full head of highlights with Anna starts from £278 a cut and blow dry from £82.