Harsh, fluorescent lighting, blindingly white countertops, and packed shelves were not what Laura Lemon had in mind when she decided to open up her wellness and beauty store, Lemon Laine, in Nashville in late 2017. Almost immediately, the shop became a hot destination for design- and beauty-lovers alike, with its poppy wallpaper, wide array of natural products, and signature oil bar. Now, she’s brought the same energy and ambition to Houston, Texas—and it’s a tropically hued dream.
“I think a lot of beauty environments are intimidating,” Lemon says. “The selections can be overwhelming, and may even be too well-lit. Ultimately, I thought, ‘I want someone to feel like they’re walking into their home, and I want the beauty area to feel like their own bathroom medicine cabinet.’”
For the store’s design firm, Houston-based Content Architecture, traditional medicine cabinets were key inspiration reference, but ultimately, it took that concept a step farther. The team created dimension with a sawtooth wall of differentiated shelving spaces to divide beauty products into four key areas: treatment (primarily, serums and masks), hydration, hair, and body.
“We wanted to make it feel like each person had their own medicine cabinet in their own space, so that was the impetus for the sawtooth,” explains architect Jesse Hager. “It helped to break up the rectilinearity of the space.”
As shoppers progress further into the space, they can encounter different products in their own, specific zones—a design decision that simultaneously diversifies a pretty straightforward interior layout and makes store inventory more accessible and digestible. For Lemon, the ability for customers to access both beauty and wellness in a playful, informative, and approachable way was paramount.
“Part of what we wanted to do was negotiate between creating spaces for each different element of the store, while also making the store feel open and light-filled,” says design associate Marcel Merwin. “Color-blocking gives a representation of space and an edge that you have to cross over to get into different zones.”
Each medicine cabinet-inspired wall is also covered in original wallpaper inspired by Houston’s history and community, which Lemon collaborated with a number of designers to create. A lunar-inspired pattern is evocative of NASA, and a floral wall draws imagery from one Houston’s earliest nicknames, Magnolia City. Another wall pays homage to the Buffalo Bayou, a major river that runs through the city (one that sadly caused a significant amount of damage during Hurricane Harvey, a tragic event that ultimately brought the city together), and a peach-toned wall features the James Turrell Skyspace, a signifier of Houston’s massive art collection.
The final (and potentially most exciting) wall displays a pattern of four figures, two notable and two symbolic: a old-school country singer, a pageant girl (“rocking third place”), Kacey Musgraves (a Texas native and strong supporter of Lemon Laine’s Nashville location), and, of course, Houston-native Beyoncé, holding a lasso and a trusty bottle of hot sauce.
Across from the beauty-centric sawtooth wall, a kitchen area composes the shop’s wellness front. With open shelving, a smattering of plants, a vibrant royal blue island, and a sleek Smeg refrigerator, the kitchen looks like a space more likely to be found in a home than a retail space—but that’s precisely the point. “I think a lot of people don’t know where to start with wellness,” says Lemon. “So to see it in a kitchen format and think, ‘this is where it can fit into my everyday,’ is really valuable.”
The true focal point of the store, however, is a structure that perfectly expresses its signature blend of beauty and wellness: the oil bar. “I wanted it to look and feel like a luxury wine-tasting experience,” says Lemon. “You’re getting a barista who’s an expert on facial oils to custom blend an oil for your skin, and it’s really a full-service—we ask about your lifestyle routine, and also recommend complementary products. We have 30 minutes to an hour to really sit down with our customers and get to know them a little better.”
This beauty experience demanded a truly custom design, so Lemon and her team worked with James Dawson Design to craft a terrazzo countertop totally by hand, using local materials.
“Because it’s a port city, there are so many marble stone suppliers here. There are also marble graveyards—you go to these places and you can get scraps of marble,” she explains. “We got to pick out all the colors we wanted, and shapes and sizes, and we hand-broke them, hand-laid them and glued them down, and then [Dawson] poured concrete over it.”
In addition to the wallpaper and terrazzo countertop, the midcentury-inspired lighting designed by Brooklyn-based Ladies and Gentlemen Studio and the tall pink oil bar seats were also custom-made for the space. Design, as is beauty, is not always one-size-fits-all.
Above all, Nashville-based Lemon hopes that her new store location will help to make natural beauty and wellness more accessible to a city that as of yet didn’t have many other resources within the wellness space.
“Houston was one of the biggest cities in the United States that really didn’t have anything like what we’re doing. That was the first initial interest, but then I fell in love with it,” she says. “People know their neighbors. They say hi to you. There are tree-lined streets and bungalow homes—it’s just really special.”
With a staff of informed beauty and wellness experts who prioritize getting to know their customers and a design scheme that feels more like a living space than a sterile shopping center, Lemon Laine hopes to revolutionize how people take care of themselves.
“People walk in and their eyes light up, and they want to hang, be there and ask questions,” Lemon says. “That’s exactly how beauty shopping should be.”