DESIGN: Kate Challis & Roberta Magill’s RHB Salon

Hair Expo Exclusive: 2015 Best Salon Design Finalist

The beauty of a ballet dancer is in the fluidity of their movement. The way in which a dancer’s’ body shapes itself to evoke a feeling in the music, the lightness in which they step and how they seem to land, just so, after a leap or turn. The same could be said for a well-executed haircut and these very same descriptions are what makes hair such an incredible art form. The shaping of a living, moving entity that interacts with its space and when manipulated properly, can convey a feeling. This is what separates hair stylists from artists of other mediums. These qualities are shared with dancers. In the case of Roberta Magill, owner of RHB Salon and a former classical ballet dancer, these two art forms step in time together.


Kate Challis, the interior designer brought in to create the space, wanted to incorporate elements from Magill’s past to evoke feelings of glamour, sophistication and culture.

The brand evokes a modern European feel that is understated and minimal, rather than ritzy bling. Rather than draw upon established conventions for hair salon design, inspiration was sought from cafes, bars, restaurants and residential projects, both local and abroad, in order to create an enticing ambience.

Salon Design by Kate Challis Interiors

The project took a full year to plan, and just ten days to execute. Challis kept her process streamlined by effectively communicating with her client. She started by asking her “three vital questions”:

  • What is the outcome?
  • What is on your wish list?
  • What are you prepared to pay to achieve this?

Challis has an in-depth consultation process with her clients to ensure that the outcome matches their vision. “I encourage clients to think about their outcome in terms of their big picture objective,” she shared. “For example, ‘create glamour and European sophistication to attract a high-end customer and retain top staff’ or another might be ‘attract and retain more male clientele’ or ‘update our look so it reflects our brand.’ The next question, What is on your wish list’ are the specifics such as ‘increase the number of work stations by x’ or ‘include a barber section’ or ‘incorporate more storage’ or ‘make the retail section more attractive and profitable.’ Finally, it is critical to differentiate between what you want to spend and what you are prepared to spend on achieving your goal. We all want to spend as little as possible, but the question really is ‘What are you really willing to spend both in terms of money, time and effort to achieve this?’”

Salon Design by Kate Challis Interiors

Once the consultation is complete, Challis can work on translating her clients wish list into an achievable process with the mood of the space front and center. In the case of RHB, “The client wanted the space to be both inspiring while still being accessible and not intimidating. As RHB is located in a busy corporate strip, the owners wanted to attract more male clients and ensure that the salon appealed to both sexes. The overall mood is relaxed and feels more like a Parisian cafe or restaurant rather than a functional space.” She added, “Vital to achieving this was replacing the office grid ceiling, changing the fluorescent lights with high-grade task lighting, as well as incorporating mood lighting. Custom-made furniture meant dramatically increased storage meaning that equipment is out of sight, yet easily accessible, and creating a space which seduces you to relax and enjoy.”

The main takeaway from Challis’s work on the RHB salon space is that functionality trumps, but also ultimately leads to great form. A space needs to be accessible, livable and user friendly, but just as important is how pleasant it is to work in. When pressed about her favorite feature of this project, Challis replied that the whole design is seamless and creates an improved work flow, but if she had to choose just ONE thing, “It would be the custom-made copper and walnut furniture which Kate Challis Interiors designed specifically for the needs of RHB. It was made in Melbourne and works beautifully with the quartz crystal lights by Christopher Boots.”


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