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Parlor Games

Two fresh and sophisticated takes on the traditional nail salon experience suggest it’s time to sit down, relax and stay awhile



For time-crunched spa-goers, a quick, 10-minute manicure may hit the mark. However, some beauty-focused spots think customers deserve more. Their antidote to all the hustle and bustle includes salon environments with clean, uncluttered designs that encourage relaxation and offer more than your run-of-the-mill nail treatments.

Parlor Games

Polished Perfect in Costa Mesa, Calif. Photography: Derek Rath, Los Angeles

A luxurious, unhurried approach is evident within Polished Perfect’s (Newport Beach, Calif.) 4666-square-foot flagship in Costa Mesa, Calif. The high-end nail studio, decked out in sleek art deco-inspired finishes, takes its cues from founder Twila True’s own lavish salon sojourns during her European travels.

“It’s about the service and the luxury of taking some time and enjoying your surroundings,” says Toni O’Donnell, interior designer at architecture and design firm AkarStudios (Santa Monica, Calif.). “We created an experience where customers can come in and do a little shopping, relax, buy a coffee and an artisanal cake, and then sit in custom, plush chairs for their service.”

The salon offers a variety of services, from indulgent manicures and pedicures to men’s, women’s and children’s hairstyling, which according to O’Donnell, were challenging elements to incorporate under one roof. Lighting, for example, had to be bright and directional. “It wasn’t enough to just hang pendants everywhere,” she says, so a floating soffit was introduced as a functional, yet attractive, element to house lighting. Adjustable pedicure chairs, placed precisely so customers don’t have to step over the chairs’ tubs, were custom designed to comfortably accommodate people of different heights and sizes. A “pure lab” (aka tool-sterilization room) was outfitted with a window encouraging customers to peer in, emphasizing the salon’s attention to cleanliness. Storage drawers underneath each pedicure station minimize cluttered tools and supplies. 


Materials such as porcelain for countertops and polished marble-style flooring tiles were specified with hygiene in mind. “We wanted the place to look immaculate and clean. It’s functional, but still appears high end.” Three-dimensional wall panels in a geometric pattern break up the long walls and create a sense of privacy. “The colors and accents are reminiscent of art deco, but in a very modern way, so they’re not overly decorative or ornate,” she says. “The goal was to make [the customer] feel luxurious and a little bit special.”

Parlor Games

Lily Nails in Beijing. Photography: Jin Wei-Qi, China

Curves galore and a healthy dose of greenery transformed Lily Nails’ formerly rectangular space into a cozy, Zen-like retreat. The Chinese nail and eyelash salon chain’s 710-square-foot shop inside Beijing’s Yau Tang Shopping Centre features 8-millimeter-thick white steel plates, punctuated with a smattering of different-sized holes to create a starry-sky effect, which ribbons from the entrance to form its perimeter walls.

A minimal, muted palette brings the focus to the shock of green from the vertical foliage wall peeking out from behind an archway, an element that architecture and design firm Arch Studio (Beijing) says gives customers the sense of being in a garden.

“Many nail salons are overdecorated, look cluttered and are piled with symbols,” says Han Wen-Qiang, founder and principal architect at Arch Studio, explaining the need for such a pared down look. “We hope to stimulate an outdoor feeling in the interior design. A garden is a relaxing place [that] naturally brings people closer.”


Six leather chairs are arranged to encourage communication, while the spiraling steel plate overhead distributes a soft LED glow. Thanks to the salon’s new curved boundaries, the extra space between the original walls forms areas such as the front desk, a polish display and an employee break area.

Nowadays, it’s not enough to offer customers a standard salon experience. Everything from the materials and extras, like the café and retail shops, to the emphasis on cleanliness through transparency is designed to offer the ultimate luxurious and relaxing escape. And, according to O’Donnell, the upgraded salon experience is meant for a wide range of spa-lovers, including groups of gal (and guy) pals, moms and kids, and anyone who’s just looking to come in and be pampered.



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