Too often these days we mistake a hectic schedule for a full life, yet the time that truly belongs to us is the moment when we pause...
Our story is Amanda’s story, Amanda being our founder who established The Chapel in 2001.
It’s a story of rewriting rules, overcoming challenges, and, ultimately, a belief in encouraging us to pause, if only for the briefest moment.
At The Chapel we have created an atmosphere which is exclusive and luxurious, yet inclusive to everyone. We are intent on making guests feel special through our first-class service.
In 1994 Amanda started thinking about her own brand, one that would take a new approach and change the industry. She took a sabbatical year to travel the world, gather her thoughts and gain inspiration. During this time she experienced her ‘eureka moment’ that would later have a huge impact on her business - the key factor that made one hotel more memorable than another, wasn’t location, décor or any other special detail, it was the people and service. And so her vision for the salons are inspired by moments of great hospitality, remembered from hotels and restaurants on her trip.
On returning from her travels in 1996, Amanda took a job at a brasserie in Tunbridge Wells. One evening, while chatting with a customer about bad hair experiences, Amanda spontaneously invited the woman for a haircut upstairs. What followed changed the lives of both people. Over a glass of wine they discussed how she ‘wanted to feel’, and from this conversation, Amanda quickly created the perfect style while gaining important insights. An inviting ambience, coupled with a relaxed discussion, removed fear and replaced it with trust – leading to a fantastic result. This fortuitous wine-bar was also the place where she would later meet Toby, her husband and business partner.
1997 A year later Amanda opened her first salon, Number 9 Colour & Style, taking its name from the location street number. Everyone thought she was mad to change the tried-and-tested formula of the typical hair salon. Regardless, it was here that she first created the feel of a boutique hotel and introduced a first-class service. She trained her stylists to conduct friendly ‘conversations not consultations’, working hand-in-hand with guests in an inclusive decision-making process. She educated clients about their hair in an every day language. From the moment guests stepped into Number 9 they sensed something was different. It was instantly welcoming. Belongings were placed in lockers and the first seat you were offered was a sofa. The interior design was luxurious yet comfortable. The attention to detail was palpable. Amanda referenced hair shows of the time, where models in high fashion and cutting-edge make-up strutted down catwalks. This inspired the idea of training stylists to act as if they were performing on a stage, with styling tools kept in make-up cases. And so the seeds of many new ideas were sown at Number 9. Four years later it was time for a new, larger space.
I realised that sitting down casually with someone over a drink was a great way to get to know them and led to better results for their hair.
In 2001, on walking into the beautiful, old Baptist chapel that was to become The Chapel at Tunbridge Wells, Amanda was immediately struck by the architecture of the building and the wonderful ambience. It was unique and exactly what she was looking for to bring her vision to life on a large scale. So like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, Number 9 transformed into The Chapel. Further one-of-a-kind locations followed. In 2007 a Victorian pub was converted into the Islington salon in London, and then in 2011 it was the turn of an old school house in Sevenoaks. None of the salons look the same, but all are influenced by the original space, mood, and an absolute focus on service.
As is often the case building a business and pursuing passions, it wasn’t all plain sailing. Far from it.
After years striving to create the very best experience and give her very best to everyone, Amanda had an epiphany. Juggling so many balls had left no time for herself and, realising she was feeling less of a human being (and became more of a human doing) , she downed tools one day and took time out to re-evaluate her life.
With a clearer head to think more about ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’, she realised how living in the moment was making her so much happier than reflecting on the past and chasing the future, things that have been key to getting her life back into balance.
Amanda discovered that to give our best on behalf of others it’s vital we take time for ourselves. ‘In an evermore demanding and distracting world, it’s essential that we make the most of our often all too brief opportunities to rest and revitalise so that we can maintain our well-being.’ And it’s this philosophy that lies at the heart of The Chapel experience.
My REST concept ensures that every guest receives the individual attention of their stylist from start to finish.
Although the seeds of The Chapel experience were well and truly sown in the early days, it was Amanda’s epiphany that spurred her on to ensure her philosophy is lived and breathed every day.
This is captured in The Chapel brand values of Relaxation, Education, Service and Tailored treatments, or REST.
Each luxurious salon has four areas for each stage of the visit and is designed to inspire and reflect tranquility and serenity.
The ‘conversations not consultations’ still lie at the heart of the initial welcome. Guests are welcomed by their stylist, who works with them on a 1-2-1 basis and not only cuts their hair but also washes it and looks after them throughout their salon visit.
Mirrors are placed in such a way that each guest is afforded a bit more privacy with the stylist. Thought has been put in to the lighting of each area. And the décor is not only quirky but also practical, with murals helping to educate guests about different aspects of their hair. The spacious environment, more akin to a boutique hotel, gives guests the privacy to really switch off and when they arrive, they are encouraged to switch off their phones and disconnect for a few precious moments.
My aim is to let every guest have a moment to pause and put themselves first so that ultimately they can feel at their very best. At the end of the day, delivering an outstanding experience to our guests is my team’s top priority. A great haircut, well that’s just a bonus.
News of The Chapel and its different approach is traveling fast, but it’s not just happy clients that are spreading the word - some from as far away as Australia - the industry has also acknowledged this new direction. Amanda and The Chapel have won over 30 national and international awards, including Business Person of the Year, Business of the Year and Best Salon in the UK no less than six times. Despite this, Amanda and Toby never stand still, they are constantly looking to create new experiences to inspire and delight. One such experience is the recently introduced lifestyle range.
Amanda recalled how a familiar yet half-forgotten scent has the power to bring us to a standstill, pulling us from the here and now into the landscape of memory. And in that instant, she understood the potential of creating exquisite, evocative fragrance.
Teaming up with a world-renowned ‘nose’, Amanda has created a range comprising three fragrances each captured within sublimely scented candles, soothing hand creams and pulse point perfumes.
Each of these exquisite products has been specially selected to encourage quiet reflection either by applying cooling perfume, gently massaging the hands or setting a beautiful candle aflame. In every instance these small actions create a necessary pause and a moment of comforting ritual. The complex yet subtle fragrances, Oparus, Mellifera and Noctula were inspired by different times of the day and are evocative of their associated moods.
Who knows where The Chapel’s path will lead but wherever it is you can be sure that it will continue to encourage everyone to take time to be wise.