Given that nail art has enjoyed giant-beauty-trend status for some time now, it’s odd that New York City, which has brow bars, braid bars, and Dry Bars, hasn’t had a chic spot dedicated to nail designs that befit a busy, well, barre maven.
That’s just changed with Paintbox, at 17 Crosby Street in Soho, created by former beauty editor Eleanor Langston, who worked at Cosmo, Self, and Fitness and has been obsessed with nails personally and professionally. “But even in New York, there was no place I really wanted to go for nail designs that was stylish and spoke to women like me,” she says, flashing the sweet teal beads embedded on her nail moons over tea at Mercer Kitchen.
Part of the reason? A lot of the nail art market has been DIY, Langston points out. “But that’s not how busy, fashion-conscious women going to blowout places, and striving to fit things into their day are thinking. If you do find a place, there can be a three-week waitlist, and typically the homework is on you to come in with the nail look, and choose from a giant wall of colors,” she says. Then it takes three hours, and maybe the place is fume-y.
Langston’s frustration caused her to create a brand—and a beauty genre—where visual artistry meets chic nail services. And it’s a combo that looks to appeal to stylish, busy women.
For starters, Paintbox’s whole approach is based on curated editorial nail looks “to guide the client.” Langston selects and stocks what she believes are the season’s 50 top polishes across brands from Chanel and Butter London to Deborah Lippmann and Zoya. You can get a simple mani (but don’t!), or use the colors toward one of 25 nail-designs-of-the-moment created by Paintbox’s creative director, Julie Kandalec, a celebrity manicurist whose work is on cover models and all over Fashion Week.
Flipping through the beautiful Paintbox look book (AKA menu), you’ll find such designs as Fire Starter (a downtown metallic, color melange) and Foiled Again (with gold or silver foil pressed into polish), in gel or polish. Kandalec’s handpicked (pun intended) staff are largely nail pros she’s worked with at shoots and backstage, and she’s trained them to get the job done in an hour “which they’re used to at Fashion Week,” she adds.
“Elevated” is the word Langston uses for the Paintbox experience. The service reflects it—it’s luxe, fastidiously hygienic, and waterless, since “water is the number one cause of ruining a manicure as a soaked, swollen nail shrinks and comes away from the polish,” says Kandalec. The space, too, is stunning and spacious with banquettes, art books, and champagne flowing like a beauty club you’ve always wanted to belong to.
For all this, the price is competitive—manicures are $35 for polish and top out at $65 for gel with designs. “There are no extra charges for gel removal (which can cause a women to peel hers off, FYI) or each little nail stud,” says Langston, who does not offer pedicures. Still, we predict throngs of women coming her for the equivalent of nail design sweatworking.
While treating our nails like a canvas has created an opportunity that Langston’s seized and will scale (she’s already found two other locations), she doesn’t think just anyone has the knack. “Our take is about taste and visual artistry. ‘Translating the trend’ takes skills and curation, and we have it.” And should you agree, Paintbox has a Photobox, a glossy wall with a place to prettily place your hands for a highly sharable nail selfie. —Melisse Gelula
For more information, visit www.paint-box.com