Dermalogica’s Sci-Fi Skin Trip

Santa Monica, Calif. — For the design enthusiast, there’s much to get giddy over at the new Dermalogica Skin Center here on Montana Avenue, the casually tony shopping thoroughfare that is home to the skin care brand’s first namesake and very cutting-edge flagship. Yet, it’s the two giant freestanding treatment rooms that resemble semigloss molars — yes, as in teeth — that really grab the spotlight.

“We started calling them pods and it just stuck,” said Jane Wurwand, the lithe, brunette British expat who in 1986, along with husband Raymond, founded the Los Angeles-based skin care line known for its no-nonsense philosophy, minimalist white-and-gray packaging and cult-like following. The new center also marks the end of the U.S. operations of Leonard Drake, the 32-unit worldwide retail arm of the company, which carried multiple lines. It represented “very much a Nineties concept,” believed Wurwand.

With the mushrooming of the Dermalogica brand into what industry sources estimate is a $100 million-plus company employing a staff of 500 in some 45 nations, its founders decided to reinvent its retail business into the Skin Center concept. This 1,662-square-foot unit celebrated its grand opening with much fanfare last Wednesday, following a soft opening this spring.

“What we wanted to do is get away from what exists at most salons and spas, which is a front area that is retail and then this secret netherworld that’s very quiet where everything goes on,” said Wurwand. “Snooty is not who we are. We wanted something with less pressure, with more energy. We wanted to bring the kitchen into the restaurant.”

With the architectural partnership of Abramson Tieger, the space’s openness extends beyond the limits of the shop front. Part of the facade was cut out a few feet off the ground and replaced with a glass wall that slides open and into the adjoining wall, providing a truly open link between outside and inside. On the inside of the grand window, a bench allows visitors to take a load off and read quirky titles on aesthetics and style stocked in a tall bookcase. A neighborhood’s sense of community attracted Wurwand to the 1923 building, which was thoroughly modernized inside, complete with polished concrete floors.

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