After a Fashion
BELLA-ISIMO In actuality, it was only about six hours over a period of two days, but it felt like a week. And you just about could spend a week at Bella (1221 W. Sixth, 474-5999) luxuriating in their many services. Having been to many salons and spas in town, I found this one of the nicest experiences yet. The place is beautiful, with unexpected touches throughout, combining rough wood and sleek adornments. Decked with massive chandeliers from the old Scarbrough Building downtown (my jaw dropped when I realized how many times I must have seen them before), the décor comes alive with brilliantly colored touches and every possible amenity. From the hidden private waiting rooms to the gorgeous merchandising of the product lines in glass cases, it is an establishment thoroughly dedicated to the care and comfort of its guests. Charmingly greeted by the front-desk staff, I began with a hair-color consultation with colorist Megan McCoy. We discussed how I would have my hair cut and analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of my current color, and we decided it needed more contrast between the highlights and lowlights. She worked her magic with the brushes and the bowls of mysterious potions. While the color was processing, I hung out on a secret little balcony smoking cigarettes in my foil headdress, chatting with my good friend Cristobal Diaz, the aesthetician with amazing hands. When I was ready, Megan took me to the shampoo room for a truly fabulous experience of having my head massaged while lying on a wonderfully comfortable chaise longue. I nearly fell asleep, purring like a kitten. Upon awaking and inspecting the color, I pronounced it divine. Then it was on to Steven Taylor for a cut. Steven is a barber, as opposed to a stylist. The difference being, he says, that a stylist cuts the hair and then styles it appropriately, whereas with a barber, the cut is the style. Perfect for someone like me who insists on low-maintenance hair. I explained that I wanted to wear it fairly short and brushed forward, and the scissors began to fly. In no time at all, my ragged mop was transformed into a gleaming cap of golden softness. Monsieur Taylor was superb. Next was the facial with Cristobal. I think he has wonderful style with skin care, and have followed him to several establishments. Through the grueling process of extractions to the luxuriously indulgent soothing treatments, I left feeling thoroughly cleansed and well protected against the ravages of the free radicals that assault my skin the moment I leave the door. After waxing my brows, Cristobal performed my favorite treatment du jour: eyelash tinting. It's such an easy process and has incredible results, making the eyes smolder. I returned on New Year's Eve to finish preparing for the evening's festivities. I was treated to a remarkable one-and-a-half-hour deep-tissue massage in a stunning adobe-ish room redolent with scented candles and exotic oils. Dana Larsen was expert and thorough, blending occasional soft commentary with deft handwork. She put me at ease immediately, making it very easy to relax. With a bit of reflexology thrown in, it was an incredibly therapeutic experience that left me lying on the table completely useless. The crime, it always seems to me, is having to get up afterward and put on clothes and shoes. But that I did, as I floated into the cafe for lunch. I love the idea of a cafe in a salon; virtually all your personal needs can be met with a one-stop-shopping approach. Chef Michael Hinojosa created a lovely special for me -- a mouth-wateringly tender slab of stuffed pork on a bed of creamed spinach, garnished with french-fried onion rings. It was exceptional. The cafe is a hidden jewel on West Sixth, and Hinojosa is an amazing asset to Bella. The product lines include the only complete Versace fragrance and cosmetics collection in town, as well as the wonderful Le Mer products, Decleor, Bumble and Bumble, Molton Brown, and my favorite, Leonore Greyl. Owner Josh Martin has had Bella for 13 years, eight of them at this location. Manager Stacey Lawson excelled in being attentive and informative, ensuring that the series of treatments went well. It was an excellent experience that ranks high on my list of recommendations. In fact, I'm considering retiring there.