Senior editor Sree Roy gives us the scoop on this trendy salon in Studio City.
Nail tech Lynn Vo gives me a pedicure. The salon's design features bamboo poles that reach halfway up the walls.
Having spent the last several years writing about design (floors, wallpaper, and the occasional ego-filled store planner who’s created the “modern-day equivalent of the Mona Lisa”) for an Atlanta-based magazine, I was ecstatic when the opportunity arose for me to write for a nails- focused beauty publication in Southern California. My excitement about NAILS crescendoed when I learned I’d be going with executive editor Hannah Lee for my first reader call. We’d be visiting AQ Nail Spa in Studio City.
To be honest, the sheer cuteness and inventiveness of the salon’s design gave me a distinct feeling of deja vu for my former magazine—there were plenty of cool design-y things to write about here. Hannah noticed it too, saying the overall feel made it more of a boutique salon than the normal strip-mall salon (although the prices are definitely on the affordable side).
I was impressed with the authentic bamboo poles of varying heights that reach about halfway up the salon’s walls — and even more impressed when I learned the bamboo serves the added function of soaking up sounds from the gym next door. Live plants also do double-duty as welcoming decor and as odour-eliminators.
Salon owner Cyndi Ma took the time to chat with us about the salon. It turns out it’s truly a family affair. The decor that we’d been admiring? It was designed by her husband Michael Ma. Cyndi’s background in nails? She’s a second-generation nail tech. Her mother ran a salon in West Hollywood, which still operates today under the guidance of Cyndi’s sister. She opened AQ Nail Spa in September of 2005 after spending two years searching for a location.
Salon owner Cyndi Ma (center) is a second-generation nail tech. She chatted with Hannah (right) and me about opening up AQ Nail Spa.
Like everyone at the salon, my nail tech, Lynn Vo, wore a Hawaiian shirt as part of her uniform. Hannah and I sat beneath light fixtures shaped like umbrellas, allowing us to feel like we were relaxing on the beach. AQ Nail Spa also offers spa packages, including waxing, massage, and facials in cute little private cabana-type rooms.
It helps that the salon is located in an affluent, trendy neighbourhood. “We picked a location where the clients would appreciate something like this,” Cyndi says. And those clients include celebrities — Dolly Parton and the cast of “Passions” have had their nails done here.
Sanitation is a high priority at AQ Nail Spa. The 12 cream-colored pedicure thrones are pipeless, and the staff cleans them after every client. For clients receiving manicures at the five manicure stations, all files and buffers are new for each one.
The entire afternoon was very Zen. Indeed, Cyndi told us that the salon’s name itself alludes to both “aqua” and to its literal meaning of “Absolute Quality.” And, she confirmed, the salon is feng shui friendly. Maybe that quality — or the beauty of my ruby red toes — was why I left the salon with such a great energy level.