Welcome to the jungle. At the entrance of Patti’s Nail Safari, the only hint of the lush jungle theme outside (other than the salon’s name) is the painted zebra on the sign. Upon entering the foyer of the West Sand Lake, N. Y. –based salon, the safari begins. Closing the front door behind them, clients are immediately transported into a dense jungle with handpainted murals of roaming lions, tigers, panthers, and other wandering jungle life. Under clients’ feet is an eye-catching rug with two welcoming zebras. On the wall, elephant trunk racks beckon clients to hang up their coat or hat. Handpainted and artificial vines, ivy, moss, and trees are scattered about the salon. Handcrafted, plywood cut-outs of elephants, zebras, lions, and a tiger or two, come to life throughout the rooms. One can almost imagine the sights and sounds of the jungle coming alive.

The vision behind the safari experience is owner and sole nail technician Patti Mayer, who grew up with her brother on their parents’ 30-acre private zoo. “Many of the world’s most beautiful wild animals live literally in my backyard,” says Mayer. Her extended family included lions, tigers, bears, elephants, panthers, and monkeys. Mayer and her family busied themselves with round-the-clock feedings, waiting on the public, and cleaning cages. Mayer even had her own “special” pet, a chimpanzee named Debbie who, for six years, was part of the family.

Surrounded by such magnificent animals, Mayer developed an appreciation for natural beauty—an appreciation she wanted to share with her clients. “Drawing on my personal experience and background, I decided that the excitement encountered on a safari was analogous to the feeling that clients should have when getting their nails done at my salon,” she says.

To help recreate that feeling Mayer hired an artist to interpret her ideas for the salon’s safari decor. The result is right out of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Although she was more than happy with the finished work, Mayer says the six-month decorating project seemed never-ending. Very close attention was paid to every detail—from the wood curtain rods with spotted leopard curtains to real rocks and branches entwined with artificial leaves and thistles for a 3-D effect, which surround the animal cut-outs. The artist took advantage of every component of the salon. Within minutes, she converted a polyurethane brace into a tree by brushing on a wood stain and adding branches and artificial vines and leaves. The safari motif is even carried through to the bathroom, with its jungle-themed shower curtain, a baby elephant cut-out ready to hose himself down in the tub, and head cut-outs of a lion, panther, and zebra adorning the walls.

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