San Diego–based interior designer Katie Gebhardt didn’t want Leo to be your average hole-in-the-wall salon. “We wanted the space to feel so cozy you felt like you were at home,” says the California native and founder of Solstice Interiors. “But also a space that felt like an escape.”
Situated in the heart of North Park, San Diego, the design-forward, wellness-focused hub is the brainchild of owner Jina Javier. After struggling to find a nail and massage salon in the area that put inspired interiors (and toxic-free products) first, Javier tasked Gebhardt with reinventing the classic concept of a nail salon.
“This salon had been a dream of Jina’s for quite some time, so she had already been gathering a ton of inspiration when she brought me on. We wanted to create something very natural, neutral, and timeless, of course, yet still have some fun pops of color and interest. I was very inspired, specifically, by the Surfrider Malibu and their dreamy, textured, and neutral palette,” explains the designer.
In lieu of traditional furnishings (you won’t find bulky leather massage chairs here), Gebhardt opted for modern seating and woven accents that would complement the space’s dreamy palette of rusty oranges and hints of peach.
We recently caught up with the designer to learn more about her latest project—and how we can snag those gorgeous velvet chairs for ourselves.
If you had to sum up Leo’s vibe in three words, what would they be?
Soothing, minimal, and layered.
We’re digging this color palette. What drew you to these hues?
The dreamy mauve, rust-orange, and peachy hues were drawn from multiple sources of inspiration: fashion, interiors, art, murals. They’re popping up everywhere! I loved that the rust-orange [acted as] a pop of color but still muted. It feels very neutral to me.
Why did you decide to go with nontraditional seats for the pedicure area?
One thing we knew could not be in this space: those big, bulky leather chairs. Jina and I fell in love with this chair and spent a ton of time customizing it to be perfect for the setting it was going in. I worked very closely with a custom-furniture maker, Moniker Design, to perfect each little detail. I knew these chairs were going to be one of the main focal points of the salon, so I chose to incorporate that pop of rust orange velvet to stand out against the neutral materials throughout the space.
The waiting area is so zen. What were some of your must-haves for this space?
Not magazines about Jen and Brad breaking up in the ’90s. Just kidding, but not really. [One] must-have for the entry area was a comfortable built-in bench that was neutral but still had interest, so smaller decor items could easily be swapped out. There’s another waiting area toward the back, which is meant for people waiting to head into a massage. Must-haves for this zone were a place to set drinks and an infused water station. They make a custom tea blend with Paru Tea, only available at Leo, which you can sip on while waiting.
We want that accent wall in our own homes. Where did the idea for this graphic come from?
Jina and I were meeting with our custom furniture maker to go over some details and ended up going to their office, which is where we found a mural by this same artist. We both fell in love and instantly knew this artist had to be a part of the space. Janie Rochfort of Betty Larkin was the maker behind this mural and came up with the design solely based on our love for her other mural and our color palette. This beauty was actually hand-painted.
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