Salon Spotlight: Paintbox

We sat down the Eleanor Langston, founder and CEO of Paintbox, the breakout nail-art salon, location in SoHo, and one of New York’s coolest beauty destinations right now. A former beauty editor with posts at Fitness, Self and Cosmopolitan, we chatted with Eleanor to pick her brain on Paintbox, nail art, and all things beauty. 

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat! We're obsessed with your new salon. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the inspiration for Paintbox?

Thank you!  I love hearing that women are responding to Paintbox – those compliments are priceless. My path from beauty editor-to-businesswoman has evolved over the past 10+ years in NYC. I've always been aware of the incredible power of a great manicure: when my nails have a flattering color or design on them, I feel more confident, put-together, and professional.  When I was working as a beauty editor, I noticed that I even typed faster and wrote better articles when I had a chic look on my nails (crazy but true!).  

I had my “a-ha” moment for Paintbox in Spring 2013.  I was growing tired of my basic red manicure and was ready for something different in design but didn’t want gimmicky nail art.  I was looking for a nail studio that embodied high design in form and function, and offered special touches without breaking the bank or requiring too much time. While there is certainly no shortage of nail salons in NYC, there wasn’t one that bridged high design and modern day conveniences in a chic space that paid extra attention to detail.

We opened Paintbox in May 2014 as a space where a beauty editor’s voice and authority comes to life.  In other words, we translate what you see on the pages of magazines into a curated selection of options – from mild to wild – for the everyday woman. Paintbox is chic but has a down to earth quality about it; it’s social and warm.  Like attracts like in this case – the women who come to Paintbox reflect the overall vibe we’ve created.

Paintbox is located at 17 Crosby Street, New York.

Paintbox is located at 17 Crosby Street, New York.

We love the nail photo-booth at the salon. Can you talk more about that? What kind of role do you see Instagram and social media broadly, having in beauty?

We call that our PhotoBox. It’s a custom photo booth for guests to capture a professional, still-life post-polish photograph of their nails.  Rather than struggle with trying to capture the perfect picture on a phone, the PhotoBox prompts you with various hand poses, processes the picture through two filters, and then emails you the final shot. If you check out @paintboxnails #paintboxmani, you’ll see the gorgeous work of our manicurists.

As far as social media and beauty, they are absolutely linked – especially in the visual world of nail art.  I am constantly combing Instagram for inspiration – and new talent!

Who do you follow on Instagram for inspiration?

My instagram feed runs the gamut from all things nail (of course), to fashion and accessory brands, to editors and publicists who have a point of view that I adore.  Some of my favorites include: @evachen212, @beautyblitz, @essiepolish, @makingmagique, @andotherstories, @line_mag, @hana4 and @juliamurphree.

Who are some of your favorite nail artists right now? Any new ones we may not have heard of?

Of course Julie Kandalec, our Creative Director at Paintbox – she’s incredibly talented and has fantastic vision and execution.  You can see her work on Instagram @julieknailsNYC.

We also have Julie Ventura on staff.  She’s beyond creative and a force to be reckoned with!  Check out her work on Instagram @juliev37 and on YouTube, and tune into Oxygen’s new show Nail’d It – Julie’s a contestant!

Also love the work Elissa Schell (another Paintbox manicurist) posts.  She lives and breathes all things nails!  She’s on Instagram @nailme.e.

A look from Paintbox's Fall/Winter 2014 collection.

A look from Paintbox's Fall/Winter 2014 collection.

Nail art is all the rage, and shows no signs of slowing. What do you see as being the next trend in nail art?

I think the biggest trend we’re seeing is minimal art that is expensive-looking. Designs inspired by fabrics is another huge trend, as well as negative space that's subtle and tonal. 

I was completely taken by the Fall 2014 Fashion Shows for Reed Krakoff (plush textures in classic tones), Emilio Pucci (strong, expensive-looking fabrics and colors), and Prabal Gurung (beautiful, rich fall colors in modern color-blocking).

From the more recent Spring 2015 NYFW shows, I loved minimalistic nail designs from Azede Jean-Pierre (a white, ballet-slipper nail), Monique Lhuillier (dusty rose ombre), Charlotte Ronson (soft mint green in cutout moon shapes), Wes Gordon (tonal white linen nail), and Nanette Lepore (sea foam gradation fading into white). 

There are so many myths on gel manicures being bad for you. Can you give us the real scoop?

Of course – that’s what we’re here for. First and foremost, we are huge proponents of gel manicures at Paintbox (as we strongly believe when they are executed right and removed properly, there’s nothing better) – in fact, our gel design service is our #1 service. We have clients – and manicurists – who wear gel manicures year-round with no ill effects.  

And it’s not just the gel application process, but the removal process that women need to be aware of to ensure the health of their nails.At Paintbox, we are committed to proper removal. As an incentive for customers to return to us for proper gel removal, we offer this service free with each Paintbox manicure.  When gel is removed improperly (or picked and peeled off by a client – a definite no-no), several layers from the top of the nail can be removed, which when repeated time and again over a long period, can lead to thin or weakened nails. 

We're really excited about the new colors for fall. What are some of your favorites, and what are you wearing?

I completely agree – the fall colors for polish are amazing. Some of my favorites for fall are:

Chanel's "orage" nail polish

Chanel's "orage" nail polish

  • Essie “Take It Outside”, a smoky neutral with gray undertones
  • Zoya “Flynn”, an amber-based tan
  • 3.1 Phillip Lim for NARS, “Hell-Bent”, a dark ruby with subtle burnt orange tones
  • Estée Lauder “Arm Candy”, a gorgeous matte metallic
  • Dior “Carre Bleu” a dark teal
  • Chanel “Orage”, a sandy navy
  • Deborah Lippmann “Harlem Nocturne”, a periwinkle matte metallic.

I’ve personally been loving Givenchy “Lilas D'Exception”, or I alternate between a few Gelish shades: “Lust At First Sight”, “My Nightly Craving”, and “Clean Slate.”

What's the best tip you have for maintaining a manicure?

Don’t underestimate the power of cuticle oil, especially Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Oil.  Since my nails always have to look stellar, I'm a big fan of gel polish for its longevity and durability. Our manicurists tell me constantly that the key to healthy nails is to apply cuticle oil multiple times per day.  Deborah Lippmann’s version is packed with skin-softening coconut oil. Plus, it's not too greasy that you can't use your phone post-application.

What's the one beauty product you never leave home without?

I’ve narrowed it down to my top three.

  1. NARS Velvet Gloss Lip Pencil in Mexican Rose is my latest obsession. I recently discovered this cult-favorite pencil, and now I can’t live without it.  Long lasting color?  Check.  Amazing texture?  Check.  Perfect hue?  Check.
  2. Smashbox Perfecting Powder is a must.  It’s the perfect setting powder to make your makeup blend together and look flawless.
  3. You can’t be a beauty editor (past or present) and not preach the importance of SPF year round, no matter the temperature, weather or location.  My go-to daily SPF is SkinCeuticals Sheer Defense SPF 50.  It has a smooth as silk texture that makes for easy blending, plus it doesn’t mess up my makeup at all. 

Paintbox is located at 17 Crosby Street. Follow Eleanor Langston on Twitter @eleanorlangston or on Instagram @ellelangston or @paintboxnails.