11 Simple At-Home Nail Designs That Mimic an Expensive Salon Job

I don't know about you, but I have about 7000 manicures saved on Instagram right now—many of which I'd tucked away for a rainy day when I might splurge on a deluxe mani at my favorite local salon. Well, as I was scrolling, tapping, and screenshotting away, I couldn't have predicted that in a couple of months, we'd be experiencing a global pandemic and I wouldn't be able to invest in fancy-schmancy salon manicure even if I wanted to. (But also, I never get anything other than the most basic of manicures when I go to the salon, so I don't know who I was kidding.) 

Anyway, with more time on my hands and a spike in DIY beauty creativity, I've been revisiting some of the simple nail designs lurking within my camera roll and Instagram archives. Surprisingly, quite a few are totally doable from the comfort of your couch and truly mimic the look of a professional job that would normally cost a week's wine budget. Ahead, I've rounded up the top 11 simple nail designs I plan on tackling at home—even post-quarantine because why not? Keep scrolling for all the inspiration, tips, and product picks you'll need to paint along with me this season.

Butterflies

After taking stock of my collection of simple nail designs living on my phone, I noticed that A) 80% of them involve some type of winged creature and B) the majority of said 80% weren't so simple. Most recently, celeb hairstylist Justine Marjan's winged design caught my eye, and thanks to handy mani hacks, like press-ons (Marjan's were made custom for her by manicurist Amy Le!) or stickers, this complicated-looking design couldn't be simpler. 

Designer Labels

Apparently, I'm a huge label snob when it comes to my nails. I found multiple iterations of this simple nail design trend—from Louis Vuitton to Chanel, but the latter is by far the easiest to accomplish. Click here to see manicurist Betina Goldstein in action creating the design! For polish, she used the dynamic duo below from—surprise!—Chanel. 

Crystallized Rainbow

Does it get more glamorous than this? Despite how fancy and photo-worthy this nail design is, it's surprisingly simple and only requires rhinestones in the color, size, and shape of your choosing! Goldstein used Swarovski crystals, but you can find plenty of budget-friendly options on Amazon that do the job just as well. 

White Grids

If you love a nail look that's both understated and elevated, this white grid design is a simple way to upgrade your normal French manicure or pastel color palette. Click here to see how manicurist Imarni created the look, and make sure you use a fine-line nail art brush to help you nail the design at home.

Smiley Face

Remember when Harry Styles's manicurist Jenny Longworth taught us how to create his iconic smiley face manicure via IG? Same. This inspirational picture offers a similar cheery effect. Follow along, and make sure you have a peppy yellow polish on hand. Longworth used a formula from Chanel, but this quick-dry formula from Essie is a bit more budget-friendly. 

Neon Squiggles

Yes, this neon squiggle nail design might look complicated, but all you need is a few of your favorite shades of neon polish, a fine-line brush, and if you're into the chic flat finish, a matte topcoat. Do this one freehand!

Halfsies

How sleek is this two-toned simple nail design from Goldstein? You can follow along with the easy how-to here, and while we're actually very into the stunning shade of maroon, you can obviously choose any shade you're in the mood for! Goldstein used a polish from Essie called Bubbles Only. 

Mismatched

The mismatched nail trend has been huge, and we don't see the effortlessly simple nail look leaving anytime soon. This color pairing from Goldstein feels especially seasonal and soothing. 

So many '90s trends have come back with a vengeance, and we're not above painting our nails the same way we did when we were also bopping to Britney and wearing Technicolored fake hairpieces. That said, the simple nail design looks so much chicer with our current fashion vibe—playful but poised.

Seeing Stars

Every celebrity manicurist I follow has their own iteration of a simple starry nail design. This popular manicure still feels a little intimidating, but there are plenty of cool galactic-inspired stickers to tap instead of going rogue with your polish. 

Perked-Up Pastel

If you're leaning into pastels this season, there's no better way to upgrade your favorite shade than with a subtle stripe of contrast. It just makes your at-home manicure look a tad more interesting, no? Plus, it's so simple. 

Related Stories