Base Coat in Los Angeles Adds to the Nontoxic Nail Salon Trend

The booming chemical-free nail sector shows no sign of slowing down.


Just a few years ago, parts of Downtown Los Angeles were pretty much no-go areas, even during the day. Now DTLA is home to a growing list of trendy eateries, stores and businesses. Base Coat is a recent denizen, having opened just last week on Mateo Street in the up-and-coming Arts District. It’s in good company—Silverlake Wine is across the street, and Uptown Pup doggy day care is up the road—and more chic establishments are bound to join the party in the coming months and years.

Given the ’hood’s gentrification, it’s no surprise that this newcomer taps into the burgeoning wellness trend. The salon is entirely nontoxic—no gels or acrylics here, just high-quality own-brand polishes that eschew eight of the nasties found in some other lacquers.

The idea for Base Coat was conceived by Tran Wills as she was about to have her fourth baby. Seeking a safer nailcare solution, she joined forces with Sarah Simon and Ali Elman, and the trio opened the first Denver outpost in 2013.

First Impressions: The light, airy decor is stunning: an industrial-style, exposed white ceiling; seven pedicure stations against the right-hand wall; and eight manicure stations next to a long wooden table. The show-stealing chairs are covered in African mud cloth boasting a striking black and white pattern. Base Coat’s extensive range of polishes is displayed like an art installation on the back wall—we swear it took us a full 10 minutes to pick one!

Unlike other mani-pedi places we’ve visited, this one invites lingering. Not only are the chairs super comfy (we didn’t want to get up!), there’s a bar serving mocktails, juices and teas—booze may be added next year—and a cute little patio out front. We expect the salon to become a mover and shaker on the social scene before it marks a half-year.


The Service: We were treated to a Base Coat Pedicure (60 min./$50) by Arlene, who did a bang-up job of transforming our gnarly tootsies into something worthy of wearing flip-flops. Yes, it’s still 85 degrees outside—welcome to Los Angeles!—but frankly, even if it snows we’re still going to show off this flattering, fall-friendly metallic brown hue, which goes with everything.

While we waited for our nails to dry, we caught a few minutes with Elman, who told us that, as a successful female entrepreneur, she hopes to be a great role model for her young daughter. She also confirmed Base Coat’s two other planned openings, in L.A.’s Fairfax and Denver’s Stapleton districts, respectively.

Noteworthy: Beautiful decor aside, there’s also a gorgeous array of organic and vegan toiletries and adorable gift items, from Fig + Yarrow bath oils to delicate Gem & Blue jewelry to signature Treat Yo Self mugs. Also of interest: general manager Shelly Hill is a celeb nail artist who tends the talons of Gwen Stefani and Amal Clooney, among others.

[Images by Jess Isaac]

More in Business