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A purple cloud reads, “STOP — Take a nap here.” Even if it weren’t for this sign posted at the reception desk, you might be tempted to stop inside the strawberry-shake- and chocolate-cake-colored craftsman cottage off Abbot Kinney in Venice, lured by the scent of eucalyptus, the hot-pink glow or the sound of Magnetic Fields emanating from the deejay’s turntables. This is Nitespa, open till midnight six days a week (closed on Mondays during the summer). But unlike spas where some caffeine-free herbal-healthy tea is shoved into your hand, Nitespa host and co-owner Julia Martin asks, “Glass of wine?”
Now this is my kind of spa.
“You’re just in time for Prosecco,” Martin says when I enter, thrusting a champagne glass my way. (Don’t worry, they also have triple-filtered microwater, whatever that is.) Suddenly, I’m in love. Martin is a blonde bombshell with a sweet smile and an earnestness about her. She reminds me of Kate Winslet in Heavenly Creatures (her looks, not the creepy, murderous part), and seems like the kind of girl you wanted to be friends with in high school, ’cause she’s cooler than you.
In fact, a trip to Nitespa is a lot like swinging by your cooler friend’s house — you know, if your friend weren’t too cool to give you a facial and a bikini wax. Massages take place in the would-be bedroom (a little “On-Air” sign illuminates outside when someone’s having a session); facials and waxings are cooked up in the cotton-candy-pink and vanilla-striped kitchen. And instead of the spa-y waterfall/birds chirping/rainforest soundtrack that you usually get, there are guest deejays and a vinyl collection you’d die for (though, if you must, there is indeed a rainforest-chirp loop available).
There’s no white-robe pretense. You can just hang out on the front porch or wait in the living room, lined with Natalia Fabia paintings, whose girls on canvas look like Bratz dolls that spent too much time at the bottom of the toy box. There is an entire library of zines to scour — everything from Gourmet to Hello! And if you don’t feel like reading, Martin, glass in hand, will come and keep you company. After a few minutes, you’ll feel like you did go to high school with her.
On the day I went to get my fingers and toes fixed, Rosario Dawson was there. I was impressed that Martin didn’t give the celeb exclude-everyone-else treatment — we all just chatted and sipped our wine. That’s what’s cool about Nitespa’s atmosphere — it makes even the stranger next to you feel like a confidante. Maybe it’s because instead of impersonal salon chairs with foot tubs, there’s a wooden pedicure platform with vintage ’60s chairs; you soak your feet in large, clear bowls filled with scented water and marbles. And the fuchsia-lucite manicure tables, designed and built by Ball-Nogues, local architects who’ve worked with Frank Gehry, look like sculptures.
The entire gingerbread-like house can be rented out for parties. For Nitespa’s one-year anniversary, Martin and her partner, Michael MacLachlan (co-owner and director of operations), threw a shindig that featured burlesque dancers, a magician and free booze. Parties like this are happening throughout the year — every client gets an invite. And let me tell you, Martin knows how to throw a party — she did it for a living in San Francisco, where she was an event and party planner, as well as a massage therapist.
Martin and MacLachlan, who set out “to turn the spa world upside down” here in L.A., plan to expand and bring their spa-for-night-owls services to a trendy hotel on the Eastside this fall. But Nitepsa isn’t all sinful indulgence. Every party girl knows we all need a little time to detox. So most Sundays, Nitespa holds a Hangover Clinic party. They mix a restorative elixir for you, and there’s a surprise deejay, with detox scalp massages and facials, plus a whole lotta relaxing. What better way to end a wild weekend??
1301 Abbot Kinney Blvd. (entrance on Santa Clara Ave.), Venice, (310) 396-5122, www.nitespa.com.