All creatives understand the value of an interesting client. People with such strong personalities it transcends their personal and professional life, ensuring what could otherwise be a relatively run-of-the-mill fit-out will be anything but.
This is the situation London-based architectural practice Clarisford found itself in when initially approached to work for Hari Salem. A prominent character on the London fashion and style scene, over the last 40 years he has garnered an enviable reputation for hair craftsmanship, building a mini-empire of high-end salons across the city.
The firm’s first job was on Hari’s own house, in South Kensington. Success on that then led to not one but two further commissions, where the team applied what was learnt about the client himself to his business. First on a premises in Notting Hill, and then Fulham Road— the latter replacing the old flagship address close to his home.
“You can think you have Hari cracked, then realise you don’t. Everything has to be different and quirky,” explains Ultan Foley, Senior Architect at Clarisford. “Working on his house, that is how we got to know what he wants. From that we could expand to a larger scale, and a different typology. But when you actually look at it the ideas are quite similar. The materials for the house and the salon are on the same lines.
That range of materials is deceptively complex when you walk into the latest addition to Hari’s world. In many ways there’s not a huge amount of individual aspects. But thanks to the talent behind its design, and their sharp attention to detail, there’s plenty to take in when you examine things a little closer.
“He loves industrial qualities. Nothing pristine,” says Foley. “Rustic, but good materials. For the salon we did a lot of research into rusty metals, acid-washing metals, and then he also wants it to be quite contemporary. He loves Indian furniture, too, so we had to bring that into the mix as well, adding a lot more depth to the finished product.
“First of all it needs to be functional as a hair salon. So we started with an approach to do something quite contemporary, with a muted backdrop. The lighting was really important for this. We used Delta Light on the first of Hari’s shops we did, in Notting Hill, and that was quite successful.
“Obviously lighting is so important when cutting hair— the quality and also the colour rendering has to be as true as you can possibly get, so when the customer walks out of the shop it has to be as close to the same as it was when they were at the work station getting a trim.
“That’s why we approached Delta Light again, for the backdrop lighting. The fittings are quite contemporary, but also muted. That then followed onto the flooring, I guess we chose something modern— concrete effect. The walls are also understated, but then we introduced depth and variation with Indian furniture, a lot of the workstations are made from acid-washed white steel, which gives a very industrial quality. And it gives a bit of richness as well.
While Clarisford is now considered a design and build contractor, its history as a developer has afforded access to an exceptional talent pool, which the company still calls upon in order to realise unique visions. Skilled artisanal workmanship is evident throughout Fulham Road, a refurbished unit and therefore completely blank canvas when this project began.
“Hari’s brand is about him, really. He’s very quirky, really into art, particularly sculpture. But you couldn’t just associate him with one type of art, say modern,” Foley explains. “A lot of the joinery, the timber work is untreated. So it’s just bare oak, which goes back to Hari not wanting anything polished or pristine.
“I guess the functionality dictated a clean aesthetic, then we added textures throughout. In this shop we also had a good opportunity, it was a new shop. So when we went in it was just a box. At the back we just filled it with a huge roof light, which became kind of an atrium. We then used green walls around the edge, creating a little oasis of colour.”
“It was an honour to be asked to supply the lighting for a second salon of Hari’s,” says Alfie Dixon, Project Manager at Delta Light. “Hari is renowned within the design world, a unique character who everyone admires, so being part of his project team is always an exciting challenge.”
“It was vital that we found a solution to perfectly align design and function. Lighting is crucial in a hair salon to ensure clients are given a true picture of how their hair will look when they leave the salon, particularly when it comes to colouring,” Dixon continues. “So not only did Delta Light need to deliver this, we also had to embrace the design of the salon and provide fittings which would add to the look and feel of the space.”
The final results are at once pared-back and outstanding, then. Minimal modernism underpinning nuances that truly represent the guy paying the bills, while still keeping the focus on commercial purpose. It’s eccentric, wholly original, and eye-catching enough to ensure any passer-by will immediately take notice, from the head of L’Oreal Worldwide— who declared Fulham Road one of their favourite salon designs in the world— to the next customer searching for their own fresh and vibrant look.