I’ll be honest, I’m not usually a beauty salon kind of girl. I’m pretty low-maintenance and DIY, and a lot of salons I’ve been in feel a little over the top to me.
But M. Steves Beauty Cottage is not your typical salon. From its understated facade — tucked in next to Zinque on Venice — to its laid-back interior, the cottage is welcoming and suffused with the eclectic spirit of Venice. It’s also an extremely personal space, reflecting founder Mally Steves Chakola’s desire to create her own experience of beauty to share with others. Sun-drenched walls and easy-going luxury subtly reinforce Mally’s motto: “Glow together.” The saying is also a design centerpiece in the cottage, framed in a silhouette by Los Angeles street artist Diana Garcia. From the start, Mally put community at the center of the space, inviting collaborations from local artists, teachers, musicians, and entrepreneurs. She’s hosted yoga classes and life coaching workshops and happy hours. When we met, she emphasized her goal with the cottage: it’s to build a space where people can share experiences of beauty and joy, which is I think at the core of why people come to Venice in the first place, to find beauty and joy. The space is intimate but flexible, with an inviting deck in the back adorned with home-grown roses and herbs.
“Roses and herbs” is the perfect metaphor for Mally’s approach to beauty: the glamor and drama of heavily scented, gorgeous flowers mixed with the efficacy of the humble herb. No matter how pretty a product smells, if it doesn’t work, it’s useless. The M. Steves line chooses high-quality and natural ingredients but Mally makes sure that the formulae work as designed. “Most of all, I care about performance,” she told me. On my visit, I was treated to a mini-facial by Deborah Pattison. I really appreciated that it wasn’t about piling on a bunch of product — another core philosophy of Mally’s is that products should maximize benefits. The facial included all five products from her line and it was a great experience, but you can get away with a simplified at-home version with only two of the products. Over the past month I’ve been trying out the Reviving Exfoliator (doubles as a mask) and the Ultra-Nourished Boost. Both products contain rosehip seed oil, which has been lauded recently for its anti-oxidant features. (M. Steves has a good overview of its properties.) The steps are simple: wash face, scrub with a little bit of the exfoliator, then use a little more of it in a thicker layer as a mask. Leave on for 5-10 minutes. Then rinse, and follow with the boost. You really only need a tiny bit! I used the exfoliator/mask once a week for four weeks, and each time my face felt like it had just been polished. There was a little tingling while the mask was on, and people with very sensitive skin may feel more, but I felt it was just refreshing. The nourishing boost is basically pure oil. A little goes a long way — but this oil is super fast-absorbing and doesn’t feel heavy. The first couple of times I used it, I noticed a little breaking out in spots; but that cleared up within two weeks and now my skin just drinks it up. I layer my usual sunscreen/moisturizer over it. I really admire the way Mally has expanded the idea of a beauty parlor into a new source of community engagement in Abbot Kinney. You can keep up with their events and announcements via Mally’s blog or the M. Steves Twitter feed. If you’re in the area, every Friday they offer a free facial if you purchase $50 of product. It’s a nice way to dip your toes and see if you like it. I may not be a beauty salon kind of girl, but then, this is a cottage, not a salon. 🙂 I’m a fan.