Bohemian Whimsy Meets Modern Design at This Soothing Salon in North Park
Written By: Keri Bridgwater
Photography Provided By: Amber Thrane Leo By Liv3
A KonMari Method devotee, Jina Javier counts megahit book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by pro-organizer Marie Kondo as the source of a fresh perspective and the aesthetic inspiration behind her first solo business venture, Leo by Liv3. Javier, who co-owns and operates San Marcos lifestyle boutique Liv3 with her sisters, opened the design-forward nail salon and wellness space last December. More than just a pretty––and admittedly super ‘grammable––venue, a visit to Leo makes for a pretty relaxing experience. With a focus on self-care and services beyond manis and pedis (massage and Reiki are also on the menu), Javier aimed to create a peaceful space that inspired all five senses––somewhere people could carve out a little “me time” and want to keep coming back to.
Tucked inside a former storefront in the heart of North Park, Javier says that, first and foremost, she wanted Leo to represent her bohemian-meets-modern-minimalist style. “I envisaged creating this escape and place of calm, but with a cozy at-home vibe as well,” she says. “I think better in spaces that aren’t cluttered, so it was important for me to ask myself: will the elements that I do plan on including in here bring joy to others?”
To that end, she skillfully balanced natural wood accents and bohemian details throughout, including a sisal rug, dried flowers and rattan planters, which all sit alongside more masculine elements like the handsome custom-made pedicure chairs (by Moniker Design) and brass mid century light fixtures. The salon’s white walls and floors are offset with a color palette of subtle rust-orange, dusty taupe and pale peach hues, making it feel bright and trendy yet timeless.
After picking out a polish (Leo only carries vegan and non-toxic brands, including Veque and Côte) the waiting area is an inviting spot to sit with a cup of Paru tea and flip through the tasteful assortment of lifestyle books and magazines––Javier handpicks different publications each month based on their eye-catching content and engaging articles. More than just “good design,” she wanted the space to give people a fresh take on wellness to help inspire better lifestyle choices. “On a Sunday, I picture someone picking up one of our cookbooks and feeling inspired to create a dish they discover in it. Maybe even stopping by the market for the ingredients on their way home,” Javier explains.
Perhaps the salon’s most standout and oft-photographed feature is its striking geometric mural. Not part of the original design plans, Javier shares that it became a representation of “the right things falling into place at the right time.” Co-designed with Janie Rochfort, principal designer of art and interiors firm Betty Larkin, Javier says it’s still her favorite element inside the space. But with Leo‘s first anniversary falling on Dec. 9, she decided the time felt right for something different. “The thought of changing the mural was scary because a part of me wanted to stay with what was safe and familiar. But deciding to create something new is our way of saying thank you to our clients and giving them the gift of something different and exciting to be inspired by here at Leo.”
From establishing an initial concept and collaborating with designers to sourcing accent décor, beautiful spaces don’t just happen—they take time and dedication. The perfect balance of modern meets bohemian whimsy, North Park nail bar and wellness space Leo was a labor of love from concept to completion. Here, Javier shares, in her words, her top five steps in creating a meaningful business with an inviting and trendy, yet timeless aesthetic.
Step 1: Leo By Liv3
“What’s your business, and who are you hoping to serve? Hone in on your message and feeling that you want the space to create for your clients. For wellness and self-care, it should be warm and inviting––trans-seasonal fabrics like velvet and natural elements, such as living plants, help soften the environment.”
“Collaborate with like-minded creatives to help bring your vision to life. I followed Solstice Interiors on Instagram and knew I wanted to work with [Founder] Katie Gebhardt. In turn, Katie introduced me to the Moniker guys. During a tour of their studios, it was pure luck that I met Janie Rochfort, who ended up creating our mural.”
“Design should feel timeless. Don’t be so trendy that you just become known for being an Instagram spot because what’s the longevity in that? Create a space that feels authentic and true to your style.”
“I’m a big believer in intuitive decision-making, but sometimes, it’s good to sleep on things when choosing key items like paint colors, fabrics and materials. And when it comes to décor, don’t be afraid to alternate price-points by mixing custom pieces with high street finds.”
“Consider incorporating extra feel-good touches––it’s often the little things people appreciate or notice the most. Our self-reflection postcards (a collaboration with Hatched Collective) that clients can send to themselves and the “Be Good to Yourself” decal on the floor are two great examples.”
Leo By Liv3
3104 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92104
Keri Bridgwater is a freelance writer covering travel and lifestyle. Her work has been featured in Fodor’s Travel, Marie Claire, Matador Network and InsideHook, among other outlets and publications.