View all

As a teenager, Kimberly de Freitas had her beauty career mapped out. She took her first step one afternoon when she marched right across the street from her Florida high school and into Maggie the Salon, and requested to speak with its owner, Maggie DiFalco. She told DiFalco that though she wanted to own a salon one day, she’d like to work at DiFalco’s while she pursued her education.

“There was just something about her—I was so impressed,” DiFalco says. “So, I created a job for her.”

De Freitas enrolled in an esthetics program at night while attending high school and working at Maggie’s on the weekends. After graduation, she continued working at the salon while earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Barry University.

During college, de Freitas met her future husband, a fellow student who had grown up in Curaçao. A few years after de Freitas graduated from both college and then cosmetology school, DiFalco encouraged her protégé to follow her heart and make the move to the island country off the coast of Venezuela.

After learning the local culture by teaching three-year-olds at an English school in the mornings and cutting hair in the afternoons for two years, de Freitas was approached about the idea of transforming a former restaurant at the Coral Estates resort, about 20 miles outside of Willemstad, into a salon and spa. Touring the building, de Freitas began imagining a dream business, “where every service has an ocean view.”

Located on the more natural, untouched side of the island, 8 welcomes a combination of native clients, snowbirds and tourists. No matter where guests come from, 8 plans on taking them on a journey.

“We intentionally suppressed the amount of light in the reception area so we could force guests to take a moment to adjust their eyes while coaxing them into disconnecting from the outside world and resetting their internal clocks,” de Freitas says.

The retail area is an oversized semicircle where products line the walls. The vertically interesting retail shelves were crafted from reclaimed wood salvaged from the former business.

“We wanted to reuse as much of the existing building as possible,” de Freitas says. “Not only does that keep with our vision to give back to the earth, but it also honors the history of the place.”

From the reception area, guests can take two paths—the left leads them into the salon and nail studio, and the right enters the spa—each with an atmosphere unique to the mood being created. In the hair and nail studio, large windows offer clients limitless views of the Caribbean Sea. Guests are cut and styled in freestanding chairs that face these windows instead of full-length mirrors. Nail stations are strategically positioned to optimize the view.

In the treatment room, wood shutters frame the ocean views, and guests unwind to the real sound of crashing waves and the cool sea breeze. After treatments, guests are invited to take a sensory journey through 8’s experience rooms. They can bask in wet heat in the steam room, savor dry heat in the sauna and end their journey at the igloo room, a cold chamber kept at 35 ˚F.

Guests complete services by being escorted to a lounge chair near the salon’s meditation pool or near one of the two cliff-side Jacuzzis.

“With the amount of space we have to offer, both inside and outside, we frequently host private parties and corporate events for our guests,” de Freitas says. “Each of these activities add value to our company because they create conversation in an industry driven by word-of-mouth marketing.”

Willemstad, Curaçao

Owner: Kimberly de Freitas
Salon style: Within nature
Square footage: 5,890
Stations: 4
Treatment rooms: 4
Equipment: Belvedere, Takara Belmont, VBS Wellness
Furniture: Novvo Etopa, Janus et Cie
Total design investment: $1,250,000
Retail line: Aveda
Color line: Aveda
Design by: Richard van Ginkel
Architect: Henk Bolivar
Photography: Wilfried Overwater

Owner’s Comment:
“We intentionally suppressed the amount of light in the reception area so we could force guests to take a moment to adjust their eyes while coaxing them into disconnecting from the outside world and resetting their internal clocks.”

Judges’ comments:
“When approaching the front entrance, you have great expectation of what lies within. The use of sea colors in the spa rooms works very well.” —Redman

“When you master the art of blending textures, natural lighting, functional surroundings and views to escape in, you end up with a taste of paradise.” —Leger

“What’s not to love about looking at the Caribbean Sea during your service? It is very thoughtful to have a dimmer waiting area to put clients in a relaxed state.” —Gallagher

“This space is simply stunning. It’s hard to tell where the indoor space ends and the outdoors begin.” —Nelson

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.