Beauty School: Inman Park’s The Aviary

A new beauty collective sets the green standard

If your inner wood nymph needs some preening, find a perch at the Aviary, Atlanta’s most uncompromisingly eco-conscious spa and salon.

“It doesn’t smell like any hair salon you’ve ever been to, because all of our coloring is 100 percent free of ammonia,” says owner Amy Leavell Bransford (right). “The ingredients are certifiably organic, from small, sustainable family farms that are absolutely committed to doing the right thing for humans and the planet. I make sure of that.”

Bransford launched the Aviary, an earthy “health and beauty collective” of aestheticians, stylists, and massage therapists, this autumn at Studioplex in the Old Fourth Ward, where you can shake off the urban grit and exfoliate amid the foliage of rough-grained wood recycled from her family’s farm. The wood decorates the walls and forms a large representation of a tree to symbolize her roots in environmentalism. Hip clients, scanning her plant-based emollients and baskets of vegetables from the salon’s food co-op, observe that the apple did not fall far from the tree.

“I mean, just look at who her father is,” says radio personality Mara Davis, an Aviary regular. “He was green long before green was cool.” She is referring to Chuck Leavell, the keyboardist for the Rolling Stones and a nationally recognized arborist and conservationist. The Leavell family operates Charlane Plantation, the 2,000-acre tree farm in middle Georgia.

“My earliest memories involve riding around on a John Deere on this farm that had belonged to my great-grandmother,” Bransford says. “My dad has always believed passionately in giving back to the earth, so those ethics were part of my upbringing.”

Bransford worked awhile in the music industry as a publicist for Capricorn Records, and her tastes set the collegial tone at the Aviary, which forgoes soporific New Agey Muzak for a soundtrack of Feist, Iron and Wine, and Yael Naim. She is also a licensed aesthetician, and the Aviary’s skincare branch uses all-natural products such as Dr. Hauschka and Juice Beauty. “What’s not in the bottle is as important as what is,” she says, citing formaldehyde, toluene, and parabens as toxic additives found in even the most wholesome-sounding products. “We use nature to bring out the natural beauty a woman already possesses.”

Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn