Story by Nikki LaSalla
Photos by Beverly Perez
Behind unassuming double doors and a blackboard urging passersby to “get their nails on fleek,” lies a salon experience like no other. Wet Canvas Nail & Beauty Bar creates a trendy, upscale experience that merges nail and beauty treatments with Austin nightlife by providing free drinks and specialized nail care.
Co-owners Diana Sek and Chad Price wanted to create a high-end salon that would give customers a comfortable, familial vibe. After searching for this vibe in California, Price says it took one trip to Austin to realize their vision and store belonged on South Congress. Price, who owns the online Austin retailer Kettlebell Kings, never imagined he would be involved with a salon. Sek has always been interested in nail art.
With a background in interior design, Sek made a project out of designing the studio herself and became a nail artist once the studio was up and running. The pair spent hours painting the bold black-and-white stripes on the salon’s walls and figuring out what furniture to put in the waiting areas. The project began with one idea: a picture frame pedicure chair. Four of these blue velvet chairs sit in each corner of the salon, making for practical but luxurious decorations. “[The seat] feels like a throne,” first-time customer Amanda Durfee says. “It makes you feel like you’re being pampered, even if [it’s] just for an hour or so.”
While they offer your typical mani-pedis, Wet Canvas also emphasizes their ability to create beautiful nail art with either regular or acrylic polish. “I like to tell people if [they] can dream it, we can do it,” Price says. “People always send us pictures, asking if we can do it, but there is no limit to what we can do.” Their standard look is a sleek and modern take on acrylic nails, which differs from traditional nail salons. With designs ranging from transparent nail polish, to polish that changes colors with heat, to designs that work with gems and studs, the artists at Wet Canvas are up for any challenge. Price even showcased their game day collection, featuring the University of Texas, Rice University and the Dallas Cowboys.
A tropical fish tank separates the check-in desk from a bar where nail artists sit with their clients, working and laughing with each other as their clients drink from wine glasses. “The environment, the atmosphere and the ladies here are so welcoming,” says Angela Outley, a returning customer. ”But also, the drinks are awesome.”
Sek’s sister-in-law, who owns a bartending company, works with Wet Canvas to provide drinks for their customers. The bar is a big part of the salon’s appeal, advertised on their website as “the first stop for a night out on the town.” Manicures are named after different drink descriptors, like “shooter” or “straight-up.” Waxing treatments are called “sugar shots” and lash extensions “Minnie Manhattan” and “The Dolly Daiquiri.” Standard men’s manicures are titled “the Remy Martin Mani,” named after the brand of spirits.
The most notable characteristic that Wet Canvas Nail & Beauty Bar adopted from both the salon and Sixth Street scene is the friendly atmosphere. Their Instagram (@wetcanvasnailbar) shows their work on their customers and features hashtags like #wehavethebestclients .“Clients have talked the whole time we’ve been doing their nails,” Sek says. “At the end of a manicure, they’ll even ask each other to go out .” At the end of the day, this sentiment, fostering friendships and loyal customers, is what the salon prides itself on.