Inside Gillian Adams’ Urban Oasis

When Gillian Adams creates something, she doesn’t do it by halves. So it makes sense that her namesake salon on Sydney’s North Shore has been wowing its clients with its unexpected offerings for almost 30 years. By Kerrie Simon-Lawrence.

Stepping into the building of the stunning retreat off the busy Pacific Highway in Turramurra on Sydney’s leafy North Shore is an experience in itself. The moment the door closes behind you, the trucks and semi-trailers of the multi-lane highway outside may as well be a world away. While the art deco building was built in the 1930s and originally housed a bank, Gillian says she wanted to create an oasis, and that’s exactly what she did with her namesake space.

Gillian Adams

“Around 30 years ago, the industry was going through a lot of change,” says Gillian. “I wanted to create a place that set the standard for a true urban space; an oasis, where guests received the very best.” Most treatments, Gillian says, kick off with a visit to the Aquamedic pool. And it’s one amazing experience. With its arched ceiling and etched sandstone walls, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were floating around in an ancient Roman bath – but with way more benefits. “Our pool is Ozoned while other pools add chlorine,” says Gillian. “The pool oxygenates the skin to detoxify, rejuvenate and invigorate without the use of chemicals, there’s really nothing like it!” A 60-minute treatment in the Aquamedic pool includes a circuit of gently invigorating needle-point massage and reflexology jets, toning the skin, relaxing the muscles and promoting blood circulation.

Once in the plush treatment rooms, therapists make use of BABOR products. “It’s a very environmentally aware brand, and they’ve recently changed their packaging to recycled cardboard, with no more cellophane wrapped products,” Gillian adds.

In keeping with a water theme, Gillian Adams also boasts a Vichy shower treatment room. Earthy-coloured floor-to- ceiling tiles create a Moroccan feel, which is fitting, given the Hammam-style scrub- down clients received inside, followed by a massage that combines warmed coconut oil and pulsating water jets.

A facial treatment at Gillian Adams
The treatment rooms at Gillian Adams scream “luxury”

But let’s get back to exactly what the establishment is. It houses all the beauty benefits but it’s also a hair salon and – wait for it – a restaurant. We’re not talking a piddly cucumber salad after your treatment – no, no. How does a Goldband snapper fillet with sweet potato puree, Autumn greens and a citrus butter sauce float your boat? Or pan-fried pumpkin gnocchi with truffle pecorino? Now you’re getting the picture. When Gillian set up the business back in 1994, she wanted a point of difference. But she also wanted a place that clients could feel at home, without the need to dash off after their treatment was finished. “It was a dream of mine to have hair, beauty, body and cuisine all in one place, that would provide an awesome experience for guests and to introduce, in particular, the then-ground breaking concept of wellness.”

Guests are treated to restaurant quality cuisine at Gillian Adams

We’ve all been there before: Our treatment has wrapped up, we’ve changed out of the plush gown and pulled our jeans back on, and then we’re ushered back into the bright lights of reality. Not so at Gillian Adams. Whether you’re after a solo lunch following your treatment, or a spirited afternoon with up to 20 friends on the outdoor terrace, the chef at Gillian Adams will work with clients on a menu – and will match wines to boot. I mean, green tea is nice, but a cab sav with my fillet of beef? Now you’re talking.

While the lockdowns of the last two years have obviously effected the beauty industry, Gillian didn’t use the time to rest on her laurels. Instead, she got the contractors in and grew her offering, vowing to make her business even more impressive once restrictions were lifted. “We added two new rooms during the last lockdown,” she says of the expansion.

“It was a dream of mine to have hair, beauty, body and cuisine all in one place, that would provide an awesome experience for guests and to introduce, in particular, the then-ground breaking concept of wellness.”

There aren’t a lot of salons that have managed to stick around for as long as Gillian Adams has. But heading toward their 30th birthday, and looking to grow rather than wind down, Gillian says there is one central aim that has kept her vision alive: “We are inspired by one purpose: To help clients see their inner beauty and endless possibilities so they can conquer the world and beyond. We offer a unique urban wellness experience, an oasis, reincarnating the tradition of ancient pools, which were places to relax and locations of social encounter.”

This article originally appeared in the May-June 2022 issue of Professional Beauty.

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