Theme 1: Bar

Wine me and file me.


Gel Nail Bar
St. Albert, Alberta, Canada

The vibe: Modern bar with a homey touch
Details that make it work:  A martini shaker holds files for purchase and orangewood sticks. Gel nail color collections with names like “Las Vegas” and “Los Angeles” carry the party into a wide spectrum of color options for the salon’s primary service of gel nails. A large water wall feature adds a dynamic focal point and keeps with the “liquid” bar theme. Gel Nail Bar is a home salon that may be small square-footage wise, but it makes great use of its space with its consistent theme and attention to detail.


Pink Champagne Nail Bar by The Lanes Health & Beauty
Brighton, England

The vibe: Effervescent glamour
Details that make it work: A bucket of champagne bottles — labeled with the salon’s logo — decorates the pedicure room. The bottles also appear in other strategic places throughout the salon. (They are not for serving champagne, but for decoration only.) The color pink provides fun and unexpected accents, including in the towels and flower arrangements and of course in the many choices of pink Essie nail polish. Glossy glamour is conveyed through the sleek quartz and granite interiors complemented with mirrored accessories. The salon is very popular for bachelorette parties (or “hen parties” as they’re called across the pond).



The Nail Bar Tallahassee
Tallahassee, Fla.

The vibe: Happy hour pampering
Details that make it work: A true social-spa, The Nail Bar Tallahassee combines a fully-stocked liquor lounge with a nail, waxing, and facial salon. Clients can grab a seat at the “bar” — which, though it resembles a sports bar complete with several flatscreen TVs, is the perfect place to get his or her nails done, alone or with a group of friends. Pedicure tables line the wall behind the manicure bar, also giving clients a perfect view of the game. With happy hour drink and spa specials that start at 5 p.m. and late hours (until 9 p.m. most nights), The Nail Bar Tallahassee is the perfect place to unwind after work. A few ways in which the bar theme is incorporated into the service menu are with the Choco-tini Pedicure, a 90-minute chocolate-themed pedicure that comes with a chocolate martini; and a Pedi on the Rocks service, a 90-minute hot stone pedicure that comes with the client’s drink of choice on the rocks. 

Next page: Floral-themed salons


Theme 2: Floral

PIck from an array of blooms to get the perfect look and feel.

Opalized Designs Studio Salon
Shelby Township, Mich.

The vibe: Poppies with POP
Details that make it work: The convenient thing about choosing poppies as a theme is, since the flower comes in a seemingly endless array of dazzling colors, the salon’s color scheme is wide open. “We are always moving things and changing pieces in the space to keep client interest up. They regularly ask, ‘Was this here?’ or ‘Are these new?’” says owner Kelley Killop-Marble. Marble may not have named her salon after poppies, but the blooms were a non-negotiable part of her design vision when she worked with Deen Hyde Designs to pull the look together. “The poppies show up both in the salon and in the 1,500-sq.-ft. apartment used for nail education above the salon,” Marble says. “If I see something ‘poppy’ now, I pick it up. I even picked up a piece of art while at the Nail Tech Networking Event of the Smokies last year that has a black bear holding...yup...poppies!”


Delicate Daisy
Long Beach, Calif.

The vibe: Sunny with subtle sophistication
Details that make it work: Daisies in an array of colors adorn surfaces of all different heights at this Southern California nail salon. From fresh bouquets on tables to daisy wall art and even daisy-shaped cookies on the weekends, the flowers — part of the sunflower family — impart a welcoming feel to the space. A more subtle homage is the daisy-yellow wall paint, which gives the salon a sunny atmosphere, and the circular mirrors in between the manicure tables — which feature a large circle surrounded by smaller circles, which allude to a flower-shape without being over the top.

White Orchid Nail Lounge
Weston, Fla.

The vibe: Beautiful tranquility
Details that make it work: Co-owner Ashlee Lai says, “White flowers symbolize new beginnings such as a first date, wedding, or, in our case, a new kind of nail lounge. The white orchid is pure, innocent, sensual, and luxurious.” Blooming orchids are always on display and exchanged weekly by a local florist. The wax treatment rooms display wall art of the signature flower. The color scheme conveys the flower with subtlety: as you enter, the ambers and browns symbolize the foundation or potting mix that the orchid is grown upon. The wax rooms toward the rear are painted light green and feature a white waxing table to symbolize the actual roots, leaves, and flower of the white orchid.

La Fleur Plumeria Nail Salon
Kihei, Hawaii

The vibe: Aloha nails
Details that make it work: Playing off of its Hawaiian locale, La Fleur Plumeria uses its namesake flower — commonly found in Hawaiian leis — as a symbol of what the salon hopes to offer its clients. “The plumeria flower has five petals with each petal representing a spiritual perfection: faith, aspiration, devotion, sincerity, and surrender,” the salon says in its marketing materials. The mission statement then elaborates on how the salon strives to meet each of these attributes. Plumeria imagery is present throughout the salon, as are other reminders of the islands — such as the “Maui” pedicure spa chair covers with leaf images.

Next page: Ocean-themed salons


Theme 3: Ocean

Clients are wearing flip flops already, right?

Bahama Mamas Tanning & Nail Spa
Horton, Mich.

The vibe: Tropical brights
Details that make it work: No matter the weather outside, it’s hard to feel anything but upbeat inside Bahama Mamas Tanning & Nail Spa. The walls are an array of bright blues, greens, yellows, and other vibrant hues. Decor includes hanging seashell artwork, rattan furnishings, tropical paintings, and, not to forget, a pink flamingo-themed bathroom. “We have long, cold, miserable winters in Michigan and coming in the salon feels like being on a mini vacation,” says owner Tina Sauber-Spencer.

NAILS by Marsee
Mount Pleasant, Pa.

The vibe: Beauty meets the beach
Details that make it work: It’s hard to miss the beach wallpaper that adorns NAILS by Marsee — the sand- and water-scape stretches from floor to ceiling. Polish bottles are held immobile by 3-D mini-sandcastle sculptures and collections like OPI’s “South Beach” are kept close at hand. A glowing fish-in-water piece of art adds an eye-catching element, and owner Marsee Essington even takes care to have the appropriate scents wafting through. She says, “I always have a beachy smell in my shop — coconut, sand, ocean candles, etc.”

Aqua Nail Bar and Boutique
Santa Barbara, Calif.

The vibe: Undersea calm
Details that make it work: What started as a ploy to be listed first in the phone book (courtesy of the “a” in aqua) took on a life of its own as the logo and interior fell into place.  Varying shades and textures of blue impart a feeling of tranquil waters. “Times have changed and now that position in the phone book is not so important, but it was destiny,” owner Claudia Papa says.

Next page: French-themed salons


Theme 4: French

Oh là là: Lovely salons inspired by a country that does beauty well.


Photography by Carissa Throop

Parisian Nails of Sequim
Sequim, Wash.

The vibe: Bohemian chic
Details that make it work: To get to France sans airfare, owner Sara Cole ordered fabric with Parisian imagery, then made curtain-style dividers for an existing bookcase. For the dresser, she used decoupage techniques to add scrapbook paper on the front of the drawers and distressed the furniture’s finish. She took a French-styled barber chair, then added a portable pedicure spa, for which her brother built an elevated platform/storage space. The salon gift certificates are equally adorable — the lucky recipient gets a card that says bonjour!, viola!, or mon ami.


Krème de la Krème Nail Lounge
Long Beach, Calif.

The vibe: French royalty
Details that make it work: Queen Marie Antoinette lives on in this salon, located in an affluent area of Long Beach, Calif. Glitzy chandeliers hang from the ceiling, artwork inspired by Antoinette adorns the walls, and the pink-and-brown color scheme lends an air of cultivated beauty with a nod toward girliness. Bonjour is painted above the entryway, and salon party attendees have been known to dress up as the late French queen.

La Jolie Nail Spa
Palo Alto, Calif.

The vibe: French-Vietnamese elegance
Details that make it work: La jolie translates to “pretty,” and this salon lives up to its name by highlighting the class and sophistication of its owners’ French-influenced Vietnamese heritage. Stunning French-styled chandeliers hang from the ceiling in the pedicure room, where mirrors in ornate wrought-iron-styled designs (similar to the wrought-iron stylings of the Eiffel Tower) embellish the spaces between stations. Classic wood furnishings and a color scheme of bold autumn orange, rich chocolate brown, and elegant beige complete the look. 

Next page: Ingredient-themed salons


Theme 5: Ingredient

Use it, share it, decorate with it.

Chocolate Nail Boutique

The vibe: Deliciously indulgent
Details that make it work: Chocolate brown-striped wallpaper, chocolate truffles, and real chocolate-infused products truly make Chocolate Nail Boutique the sweetest place in Atlanta — as the salon’s tagline proudly announces. Owner Aja James is a chocolate broker, bringing beans in from Ghana and supplying them to a myriad of companies, and creating the salon’s Simply Chocolate product line  (which will be available to other salons later this year). “I wanted something organic, something good for your skin, but without the milk and sugar,” she says.

Lavender d’Aesthetique (Nails & Wax)
Jurong West, Singapore

The vibe: Lavender fields forever
Details that make it work: As its name implies, everything from the salon towels to the wallpaper to the foot care products to the essential oil mist sprayed in the salon is lavender by either scent or color. “Before selection of a brand name, we thought of what we want to provide for customers who come to us. We decided that we want all customers to feel relaxed from the hustle and bustle of their busy lifestyle the moment they step into our salon,” says co-owner Vicky Lye, who owns the salon with her mom and her sister. Seeing a market for more than one lavender-themed salon, the family actually opened a second branch — also with the same all-encompassing theme.

Green Tea Nail & Spa
New York City

The vibe: Warm greenery
Details that make it work: A green tea theme was a natural fit for this Manhattan nail salon, as the owner’s family grows the antioxidant-rich tea in Korea and imports the extract to create an array of products — including a scrub, mud mask, and paraffin, among others — that are used in the nail services. Green is the dominant color, and it shows up in everything from the nail tech and client chairs to the walls (a paler shade, so as not to be overpowering), and the wall art — which includes green-toned prints and tea leaf imagery. Even the salon’s plants seem to thrive in the green environment.

Next page: Tips from an Interior Designer


Tips from an Interior Designer

Michael Habachy, principal of Habachy Designs Inc. (, says, “Like restaurants, salons are now making more of an effort to create environments for their clients to escape in.” He offers these tips when creating a themed salon:

> Customize your manicure and pedicure stations. Most people assume that custom chairs are expensive, but they don’t have to be.

> Wallpaper is another great way to create a theme. More and more manufacturers are making durable, green wall coverings in great patterns for commercial use. For an Asian theme, try using a lattice or chinoiserie pattern.

> Consider some great accent lights, whether sconces or chandeliers, to create an effect. There are lots of cost-effective options out there that can really make a statement.

> We have used mirror-clad vanities for manicure tables, and upholstered diamond-tufted benches with decorative pillows to create glamorous lounge environments. Once we used modified beach lounge chairs as pedicure seating for a beach theme! Think outside the box.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.