Hollywood Classic

Sunset boulevard, one of the world's most glamorous avenues, winds 26 miles from the Pacific Ocean to downtown Los Angeles. Midway, Argyle Salon & Spa is located on two lower floors of the Sunset Towers Hotel, a National Historic Landmark in West Hollywood. The 6,600-square-foot facility opened in December 2005 and retains the name of the building's most recent former occupant: the celebrated Argyle Hotel. The hotel name hearkens back to the original 1929 Sunset Towers apartment building that Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Bob Hope, and John Wayne once called home.

In July 2004, when business partners Britney Hinker and Devin Semler decided to open a hair salon with a room for medical treatments and massage, they chose to make it client-focused, like a country club. After connecting with Jeff Klein, the hotel's new owner, they expanded their initial concept to suit its incredible Art Deco setting. Hinker and Semler designed the space and chose Paul Fortune, whose sensuous textures and signature mauve and purple color palette adorn the entire 74-room complex, to decorate it.

The salon, featuring 14-foot ceilings and a windowed wall, integrates three separate rooms: one for a full-service barber shop, where men treat themselves to straight razor shaves, hot towel service, and shoe shines; another for medical spa treatments; and a third for waxing. The salon opens to a 2,000-square-foot terrace with views of the Hollywood Hills and the downtown skyline. Spa treatments are available in four alfresco cabanas that can be expanded for couples services; a fifth cabana is dedicated to nail services. Clients who choose to process their hair in the fresh air rather than under a dryer can lounge in chairs on the terrace, which provides a Hollywood mansion-like hilltop setting.

 The Sunset Towers Hotel is located on the famed Sunset Boulevard.
The Sunset Towers Hotel is located on the famed Sunset Boulevard.


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Upon arrival at the spa, guests are escorted to the serene lounge on the lower level. The spa houses a hammam, a Turkish-style steam bath featuring an oversized slab of Carrera marble shaped like a chaise lounge and backed by a cascading waterfall; a laser treatment room; and four lavish spa suites.

Client comfort is at the center of every treatment at the spa. Each of the 400- to 500-square-foot spa suites is equipped with its own sitting area, a 42-inch plasma TV, a closet, and Kohler fixtures that include a sink with vanity, a soaking tub, a shower-for-two fit with double shower heads, and an en suite bathroom. "We've always hated when guests have to rush off the table five minutes after a treatment is completed," says Hinker. These areas are ideal for changing, and clients relish the 30 minutes of downtime included with each spa appointment. If clients want more time, they can book it by the hour before or after any service for an additional $60 to $75. With comforting amenities, free unlimited long distance telephone service, an array of mini-bar choices, and the option of wine and champagne service, there's no reason to rush. The Argyle music system hooks up to iPods, and guests can bring their own music or listen to anything in Argyle's catalog. In the future, the staff plans to input clients' musical preferences in the computer so their favorite music will be playing when they arrive.

Among the hydrotherapy offerings are a series of bath teas that are prepared by a team of herbalists.
Among the hydrotherapy offerings are a series of bath teas that are prepared by a team of herbalists.

One intrinsic element raises the Argyle to a truly luxe establishment: the owners' decision to hire premier leaders in each field for consultations before opening. For example, they collaborated with Cornelia Zicu, a top esthetician and owner of the renowned Cornelia Day Resort in New York City. Zicu trained the spa's estheticians in the use of her signature products. Favored treatments include the Argyle Custom Facial ($135, 50 minutes; $185, 80 minutes) and the Argyle Ultimate Facial ($245, 80 minutes). The ultimate treatment begins with a full-body massage, during which time a one-hour facial is performed.

Christopher Warren, the former head therapist at the renowned Kinara Spa (Los Angeles), holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and leads the dozen-strong massage team. He created a menu that ranges from the Custom Massage ($135, 50 minutes; $240, 110 minutes) to the Hot Stone Four Hands ($375, 50 minutes).

The owners also involved Philip B., a haircare specialist whose Philip B. Signature Scalp Treatment was recently named by Forbes magazine as one of the Top 100 Things Worth Every Penny. He developed exclusive new bodycare products and worked closely with the spa's staff to develop its treatment menu. The Philip B. ScrubWrap ($200, 80 minutes) starts with an infused bath, continues with an exfoliation, followed by a heated wrap during which the client receives a scalp massage and a foot massage, and, after a hydrating shower, ends with a warmed moisturizer. The popularity of the treatment, Hinker claims, is due to the temperature of the room. "We keep our rooms warm, using heating pads, heated towels for the feet, and warmed mittens for the hands," says Hinker. "I'd rather our therapists feel warm, than our clients feel cold."

Retail products are artfully displayed in the Argyle Boutique.
Retail products are artfully displayed in the Argyle Boutique.

For the salon, Vienna-born Gerald Niederweiser, resident colorist and stylist, was lured from The Christophe Salon in Beverly Hills, where he had worked since 1995 and had established a loyal clientele.

Another distinguishing component of the spa is the Argyle Med-Spa, which combines the clinical expertise of a medical facility with the indulgent ambience of a spa. The Argyle's registered nurse works under the supervision of Marc Mani, M.D., a prominent Beverly Hills surgeon who specializes in aesthetic surgery. A Harvard Medical School graduate and board-certified physician, Mani has offices in Beverly Hills and is also available for consultation at the spa. A number of treatments at the Argyle Med-Spa utilize cutting-edge technology, such as Tri-Active Laser dermatology ($150 per treatment on one area), which diminishes the appearance of cellulite, and deep-heat laser facials ($375 per treatment), which are effective in correcting sun damage. Other offerings include hair reduction and vein removal, as well as Botox ($17 per unit, 15 to 30 units recommended per area) and Restylane ($550 per syringe) packages.

The treatment rooms incorporate the signature mauve and purple palette found throughout the hotel.
The treatment rooms incorporate the signature mauve and purple palette found throughout the hotel.

An outdoor awning gives the Argyle Salon & Spa visibility on a busy street and a well-situated vitrine in the lobby is filled with retail products. To promote business, the owners employ an in-house public relations staff as well as a major L.A. agency. They do celebrity mailings and work closely to establish relationships with editors and celebrity publicists and stylists. The spa also participates in regional events, in conjunction with award shows, and is a venue for corporate and private functions.

In celebrity-centric Hollywood, Jennifer Aniston, Melanie Griffith, and Eva Longoria lead the way to the Argyle. There, hotel guests, local clients, and celebrities alike indulge in a total spa experience with extraordinary beauty and body services as the centerpiece of a day that might include a workout in the gym, a swim in the pool, lunch on the pool deck, and drinks and dinner in the Tower Bar.

Though it's too soon to know the role that retail and gift certificates will play, whether there will be a membership Argyle Ambassador Club, or how much larger the staff of 80 will grow, it's not too soon to predict that the Argyle will be luring the fashion- and wellness-savvy community for a long time to come.

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