Skin Deep

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An artistic eye makes Paloma much more than a salon and spa.

Evette Richards and Levi Dugat have each worked jobs that left them feeling unhappy and depleted at the end of the day. So when they set out to create a new space for Paloma Botanical Beauty Parlour in Austin’s Mueller development, they wanted to create a space that would leave both customers and employees feeling content and relaxed.

Paloma is a boutique-style salon and spa offering hair, massage and skin-care services using natural, organic product lines. But it goes beyond the traditional spa experience, also functioning as an alternative gallery space showcasing emerging and established contemporary artists, plus a retail collection of hair and skin products, jewelry and gifts.

“We wanted it to feel clean, light and airy and also have pops of color,” Dugat said of Paloma’s space. “We wanted to create an environment where people would be happy to come to work, which will in turn enhance the services we offer. We definitely set out to examine what other spaces in our industry look like and go the completely opposite direction.”

The results are spot-on. Walk into Paloma, and you’ll immediately feel welcomed and relaxed. The bright Austin sun streaming in the windows highlights a room that is indeed light and airy. Customers can make themselves comfortable on the colorful couch cushions that Dugat and Richards made themselves, but the art and retail around the room makes you want to get up and take a closer look.

From hair care to skin care, the couple have been very careful in their selection of products. All of the ones that Paloma stylists and aestheticians use are naturally based, and many of them are local. The Mueller development’s commitment to energy-rated buildings, its use of solar power, and its green space made it a good fit for Paloma and its philosophies.

Richards, Paloma’s founder and an aesthetician, and Dugat, the manager, remodeled the space recently to create a lounge area in the front of the store with more retail. The remodel also added another spa room and took the waiting area farther into the salon where customers can don robes and let serenity sink in.

Personal touches, like a wooden table from Richards’ family and a photo of Dugat’s grandmother with her graduating beautician school class, bring a cozy atmosphere in, while trendy pillows and colors keep the space exciting.

“We wanted the space to feel comfortable and sincere, not centered around a concept of vanity or materialism,” Dugat said. “It’s a more down-to-earth environment, where people feel safe to learn about taking care of themselves.”

Richards said she’s been to salons where she felt intimidated and doesn’t want clients to have that experience at Paloma. With their broad smiles and easygoing way of speaking, Dugat and Richards themselves have very welcoming demeanors.

Throughout the salon, art and personal touches give Paloma a home- like feel. Between the two, Dugat and Richards have many friends who are artists, and Dugat is an artist as well. With the expansion and remodel, they knew they couldn’t fill extra wall space entirely with retail. Using the walls as gallery space seemed like a perfect way to add a unique touch to the salon while also supporting and promoting local artists. The art displays rotate, from paintings to groupings of childhood Polaroids, arranged throughout the rooms. Most of the art—with the exception of more personal collections, like the Polaroids—is for sale. The art, and the retail, on Paloma’s walls is also a way for its owners to help the LGBT community.

“We consider ourselves part of the queer community in Austin,” Richards said. “We do a lot to support the gay community, artist-wise and vendor-wise, and community-wise. We’re very much invested and involved.”

Look for ongoing art exhibitions at Paloma this winter, as well as an expanded retail section. And ask the friendly staff if you can try your hand at guessing which proud graduate in the vintage photos is Dugat’s grandmother—a correct guess will earn you a free goodie.

 

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A native New Englander, Kate moved to Austin in 2002 to attend graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, where she got her master’s degree in journalism. She spent several years as a reporter with the Austin Business Journal, where she covered health care, development and real estate. Kate now runs Thumbtack Communications, where she provides ghostwriting, copywriting, social media strategy and PR in addition to writing bylined articles. She lives in Central Austin with her husband, son, and two cranky cats. When she’s not writing, she’s playing guitar, gardening or hiking.

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