Beauty Field Trip: I Visited The Chic New Soho Salon Created By A Former Beauty Editor

Paintbox is where dream manicures are made.
Publish date:
May 14, 2014
nail art, nails, manicures, beauty field trip, nail salons, beauty services

I didn’t recognize the name Eleanor Langston when I received the invitation to preview her new nail studio Paintbox, but once upon a time she was an industry peer who covered beauty for Cosmopolitan, Self and Fitness. Today, the married mother of one is no longer scouring the market for the perfect blush, but she still knows what makes for a killer manicure, which makes her second career move pretty damn savvy. The shelf life for a beauty editor is short and unless you’re perched as a beauty director at one of the glossies, dissecting chignons, writing How To’s and attending endless cellulite cream launches can become stale. You also realize that it’s a field dominated by eager, fresh-faced youngsters. At 35 years old, I often feel like the weird old lady in the club.

After witnessing six police officers chase a suspect down Crosby Street (they caught him on Broome Street), I stopped by the salon for the press preview and was immediately impressed by the chic décor and laid back vibe. There wasn’t a woman screaming at you to “pick your color!” or a massive wall of nail polish. Instead, there was a slick wood paneled bar, exposed brick walls, plush leather banquettes and at 1,500 square feet, it was more neighborhood oasis and less local nail joint. I arrived about 30 minutes early, but was seated immediately.

At Paintbox, you choose a shade or design from a seasonal look book (manicures range from $35 to $65) curated by Eleanor, along with her creative director Julie Kandelac, who also just-so-happens to be a celebrity manicurist who has buffed and polished Marion Cotillard, Rose Byrne and Venus Williams. In fact, most of the manicurists on staff are backstage regulars at Fashion Week and editorial pros. Obviously, a perk of being a beauty editor turned entrepreneur with endless industry connections.

I sipped a cold-pressed juice and flipped through the menu that featured 50 shades from Chanel, CND VINYLUX, Deborah Lippmann, Marc Jacobs, Gelish, Presto and Zoya and 25 design options with names like Border Line (a spring-y reverse French manicure) and Pop Art (tiny, graphic polka dots). It was a classy way of showcasing the options -- it beats the painted-tips-on-a-stick you see at other places.

There are "gel only" disclaimers under certain looks, so I opted for the gel-free Fire Starter for its space age appeal. The nail tech was friendly, but she didn’t yap my ear off. She filed with precision, fixed my ragged cuticles and started my Star Trek makeover with a coat of blue polish, followed by a thin layer of white adhesive. She then placed the decal over my fingertips and adhered the design by rubbing a Q-tip over the nail bed. Normally, a one-hour manicure makes me antsy, but the comfy set up allows you to make conversation with your neighbor, which makes this the perfect spot for a girlfriend get together (they’re open seven days a week until 9pm!).

And if you’re a nail selfie enthusiast, there’s a custom-built photo booth where you can easily share your design via social media. Paintbox is a watering hole for like-minded nail obsessed women who want impeccable service, a healthy amount of alcohol and a charged phone, minus the pretention. Now for the buzzkill: No pedicures! [insert sad face here]

What's your favorite nail spot in your area? Do you like the no-frills places or do you prefer a more luxe salon?