Dozens of red roses float in a crystal vase. A gold-colored pedestal brims over with pastel macarons. Chocolate-covered almonds fill a glass jar.
"Would you like a glass of Champagne?" a woman asked a guest while pulling a chilled bottle of a French import from a silver ice bucket.
That consummate hostess is Heather Hart, and she's not offering hors d'oeuvres or aperitifs in her Newport Beach home.
Rather, the women around her are getting their hair done.
The well-manicured Lavender Salon is Newport Beach's latest "it" spot among locals looking for a fresh cut, color or style. The salon, which has a team of 14 stylists and seven blow-dry specialists, has been bustling since a soft opening in early April.
And what a salon it is. Hart is the mastermind behind the previously vacant space's transformation in Castaway Commons into a fantasy palace of beauty, with an interior boasting an exuberant and elegant Parisian-themed design.
The opulence is not uncommon for Castaway Commons, a two-story, 34,500-square-foot building near the Costa Mesa border. It currently has several high-end medical and dental tenants, including cosmetic surgeon Terry Dubrow, whose wife is a cast member on the reality TV show "The Real Housewives of Orange County."
The building also has housed several restaurants, including The Arches.
"This is everything I wanted in a salon," the mother of four said as she walked around, smiling at guests. "I didn't always find the greatest experiences in salons, but in Paris I did. They took care of the hair and soul, and I wanted to build that here. If you take care of people, your business will take care of itself."
Hart and her husband, G.J. Hart, who own the casual-dining restaurant chain California Pizza Kitchen, note that service, leadership and passion have characterized their rise in the hospitality industry.
At the Lavender Salon, the mix of spirits and hairspray may appear an unlikely combination, but the point is to create a relaxed social experience, said Hart, who is determined to carry out hosting duties with aplomb.
A hand-built receptionist's desk was carved out of violet marble. Below the counter is a glass showcase displaying vintage
Under glistening chandeliers, clients sit on velvet settees, sipping Starbucks coffee served in porcelain Hermes breakfast cups and saucers.
Others are turned to the salon's floor-to-ceiling glass shelves to look at a collection of European cosmetics, shampoos and accessories carefully selected by Hart.
Hart believes in attentive service to each guest.
First, a client slips into a hand-made black silk robe — a design unlike the typical wrap that snaps shut at the neck — and places her purse into a drawstring bag as a security measure.
She then proceeds to a station equipped with a custom-made Italian chair embellished with a diamond-encrusted cushion. There, she sits before a custom-made mirror. Tools and hair products remain stored in hand-made cabinets.
Comfort is even afforded the hair dressers, who may stand for several hours during the day styling air. For them, Hart has installed padding under the wooden floors to ease the pressure on their feet.
The luxurious experience continues to the shampoo room, where a client may linger in a plush chair and look up at television screens mounted on the ceiling to watch scenes of a waterfall rush over rocks. Lavender-scented towels are placed around a guest's neck to further alleviate stress.
While lounging in the color processing room, a guest is given the stress-relieving options of complimentary earphones to watch programs on Netflix or coloring books for adults.
And those in need of a makeup application or skin treatment may seek the salon's aesthetician or in-house makeup artist.
For participants in wedding parties and other big celebrations who are looking to borrow an extra special touch for an updo, Hart has an antique bakery case showcasing rare jewelry hair pieces that she brought back from her international travels.
It's a generous gesture that extends to the automobile parked in front of the salon.
Hart welcomes bridal parties to have portraits taken in her 2000 lavender-colored Rolls-Royce, nicknamed "Miss Daisy," and clients, she says, may also be given a ride in the classic motor car.
Hart said her salon is intended not only to beautify the hair but also rejuvenate the spirit.
Despite the elegance, however, the business owner said she aims to keep prices reasonable. A blowout starts at $40.
"I loved it. Now where's my room?" a well-coiffed guest said, suggesting she was ready to move in.
Lavender Salon is at 1617 Westcliff Drive, Suite 102, Newport Beach. For more information, call (949) 515-2900 or visit lavendernb.com.
Kathleen Luppi, firstname.lastname@example.org