Starr Salon: Great Hair, No Attitude

Starr Salon is high-end, high-class but friendly. No diva, no attitude, no nonsense

Published: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 | 1:47 PM

Six years ago, when a sophisticated Scottish stylist arrived here in sunny Southern California, all it took was one look outside at the clear, blue January sky and she knew she was never leaving.

“You put a Scot in California in January with palm trees and sunshine and they don’t want to move. That, just, would never happen,” said Karen Milne, the blonde bobbed owner of Starr House salon on Mission Street in San Marino, who transplanted herself to California after years in Washington DC, which she describes as even colder than her mother country.

Milne first trained as a stylist in stylish Glasgow, got a degree in business beauty, and opened her first salon, KLM Beauty Studio, in 1992 at the young age of 24, not to mention hosted a radio show and wrote a magazine column on beauty. On a visit to California during a stint working as a spa director in the capital, the warm weather inspired her to take the plunge, and open up her own business again.  “The salon was up for sale. And so the rest is history,” said Milne.

Since then, Starr House, which was voted Pasadena Weekly’s best salon for haircut and service the past four years in a row, has provided local San Marinans with “Starr” quality service, minus the hassle of a drive to Beverly Hills. (The salon’s old slogan even used to be “We make you the star,” though there is decidedly nothing Hollywood about the place.)

“We’re high-end, high-class, high quality but we’re friendly,” explained Milne of the Starr concept. “And there’s no diva. There’s no nonsense. There’s no drama.”
Which is exactly what Milne’s salon is. Her staff boasts stylists like Albert Dedios, who won an Emmy award for styling the cast of Carnival, and Kimberly Sanchez who was on the reality TV series Blow Dry. Not to mention, the wait list for Milne’s makeup lessons is two-months long.

But past the professionalism, Milne’s shop boasts none of the traits of LA’s uber trendy salons. No techno music pumping in the background, no diva receptionists, and certainly no shuffling from one person to another for shampoo, cut, color and blow-dry. At Starr House, as Milne put it, they offer, “highest quality of service in a friendly environment which is warm, comfortable. I believe that we deliver high-quality service and value for money.”  Not to mention, the added bonus of not having to drive to Beverly Hills and fight for parking to get a decent hair cut.
In essence, what might make the perfect slogan for the salon, is “city smart, town friendly.” (Or in this case, city smart, suburb friendly.)

“We try and pair people up with the correct personality because we want this to be a lasting relationship. You have a stylist in your life and they’re in your life for a long time,” said Milne, explaining that they want their customers to really have a relationship with their stylists, who stick with their customer from the moment they walk in the door to the moment they walk out, strutting their brand new ‘do’. They do individual consultations with their clients to make sure they are getting the right hair style for their lifestyle (explained Milne, if you want a high-maintenance cut to go with you’re low-maintenance attitude, they’re not letting you go there).

“There is a whole communication process, where we sit down with everyone on every visit,” said Milne. “Not just the first visit.”

The salon, which offers manicures, pedicures, waxing and make-up in addition to hair, is constantly making sure they keep up with what’s new in order to satisfy their diverse client base (“It’s very broad. Very broad,” said Milne, who says they style everyone from 10-year-olds to brides and grandmothers, and customers that come from as far away as Thousand Oaks.).

“We keep up,” said Milne. “We have a whole calendar of education for this year in color and cutting and just updating everybody’s technique and information.”
While Milne used to play stylist to the Capitol Hill crowd of doctors, lawyers and Congressmen in D.C., she said that catering to the arts and entertainment crowd takes a totally different approach.

So far, Milne’s personal approach, mixed with an undying desire to be the best, seems to be working. “I was born and raised in Scotland. Remember Braveheart? Remember that? I have those standards,” she teased, hinting that her Scottish upbringing is partly responsible for her success.
More likely, however, she can thank her own personal relentlessness.

“I want it to be the best experience that anyone’s ever had and whatever it takes, I will provide it. And I will find out what it is that they want and if we haven’t [got it] then I will rectify it,” said Milne. “This is what I want to deliver and what people come to expect. And why shouldn’t they?”

Starr House The Salon is located at 2636 Mission Street, San Marino. For an appointment or consultation call (626) 799-0828 or log onto