This is a very personal and potentially contentious topic that could (ahem) get the claws to come out. People who are salon loyal will have other opinions and will think mine are lame, and will quietly roll their eyes (mentally) and pity me.
But I characterize myself as 1) committed to nice nails, 2) having rather high expectations for salons, 3) not interested in paying more than I have to, and 4) selectively lazy as hell and willing to go to great lengths to avoid a schlep or parking drama. That said, here are my picks for three amazing places to get a great mani/pedi in the three neighborhoods I know well: Westwood (where I used to live), Beverly Hills (near our new home in Carthay Square), and West Hollywood (walking distance from Equinox, where I work out). Without ado:
Best Affordable Nail Salon in Westwood: Milan Nail Spa
For the years I lived in Westwood, this was my home away from home. The decor is neat and tidy and hilariously Italianate. The spa chairs are throne-like and offer powerful massage. The quality of the services is top notch, color selection is frequently updated with seasonal choices (Essie and OPI, mainly — I’m an Essie girl myself), and the ladies are all very fastidious. Ask for Jenny, who has such a dry humor and an ever-changing fashion-plate style that’s just fun to look at. Several times I went with my husband, including the day before our wedding, but most often I did not. Nevertheless, to this day, the manicurists always ask after him and his well being — every single time. (They also seem disapproving that we don’t have kids yet, but they wouldn’t be the only ones.) There’s nominally parking in the back, but it’s limited to one or two spaces. Park at metered spots on Westwood Boulevard, and the ladies will kindly fill your meter if you go over — without you ever having to prompt them after stewing in silent panic for a few minutes. Full disclosure: I think the spa mani/pedi combo just went up to $26. Totally worth it.
Best Affordable Nail Salon in West Hollywood: Paris 1 Nail Salon
I discovered this place (pictured above) by Yelping salons walking distance from my gym, where my underground parking is validated. (See also: less eager to move the car on a congested boulevard on the Westside of Los Angeles than I am to eat a live cockroach.) It’s tucked into a sweet little courtyard and although the space is small, it is very tidy and the spa chairs are brand new and luxe. The staff offers you a small bottle of water when you walk in, which is kind of an amazingly sweet little touch for a budget outfit. There’s even a bright skylight to complete the airy look. They paint nails with the precision of surgeons, and my first (dark) manicure there lasted a full week with nary a chip. Paris 1 also has a terrific color selection.
Best Affordable Nail Salon in Beverly Hills: Natures Nails
This place is clustered along with so many others on Robertson Boulevard in Beverly Hills, it’s dizzying. But in my opinion, this one rises above. First, it nominally uses fewer of the toxic chemicals that contribute to that salon-y smell, if that bothers you. (It doesn’t bother me, actually. I like my nail salons salon-y.) The pedi chairs are big, cozy, sofa-like things that you’d buy at Pottery Barn and have in your own home — so it’s a great place for a nap if you are an insomniac who works a lot of deadline-driven editorial jobs on no sleep and then still wants to go to the Beverly Hills farmers market early Sunday morning and then get her nails done (just in case you know someone like that). They put little citrus wedges and flower petals in the barrels when they soak your feet, which probably doesn’t actually do anything except as a placebo, but who cares. Natures Nails too has a nice color selection. Be warned that parking on Robertson is eh.
For the record, I’ll throw in a bonus salon just up the street if Natures Nails is busy: Express Nails. This is the get-in-get-out type of place that is best when you’re more interested in a quality coat of color than a relaxing experience with citrus wedges and what not.
And with that, we can consider all of the world’s problems fully solved. You’re welcome. It was really my pleasure.