Calgon, Take Me Away! 5 Tips for a Well Designed Spa

Although, I can’t recall my first spa experience,  a spa has been part of my bimonthly routine of R&R for years. However, I do recall my mom taking her, “Calgon Take Me Away,” self-care routine very seriously when I was a child! That is, she made weekly trips to the hair salon, nail salon, waxing salon, and even to an overnight at the spa.  There is truth to looking good, feeling good. When it comes to spas, I believe that a spa should have the same 5 sense approach: look, feel, touch, hear and smell!
To me, a spa is not just an institution that offers two or more skin care or body services. As an interior designer, a spa is a sacred space that can take a person to another level of consciousness and wellness. To achieve such effects, here are 5 Design Elements I pay attention to.
  1. Layout: Before I can go into the finer details of a quality spa, I pay attention to the layout of the facility in general. Are there long dark hallways? Are there pre and post treatment spaces? Are the rooms small enough to create security but not too small to create claustrophobia? For me, the layout should provide a level of privacy but not a feeling of being alone or forgotten about.  A common mistake I see is a post treatment room big enough for 20 chaise lounges but only containing three.

  2. Smells: Spas may have locker rooms but a locker room smell is never welcome in a spa. I believe the right aromatic scents are everything. Eucalyptus, lavender, and sage or citrus scents are typically my turn-off scents. And by turn-off” I mean, help me turn-off all the lists, to-do’s, shoulds, and other things running around in my head.

  3. Towels & Linens: Because of the intimate nature of services, a spa should provide its guests with utterly clean and soft towels and linens.  Like a luxury hotel guest room,  the softness of towels and linens reinforce the quality and value of the service provider. Offering robes that feel like a towel you use to dry your dishes may save some dollars but is not going to win over your customers.

  4. Amenities:  When I talk about amenities, I’m really referring to the locker room experience. It is one of my absolute favorite pleasures to know that after a spa treatment, I can shower and take my time to get dressed, without having to bring anything with me (no hairdryer, no shampoo or conditioner, lotion, deodorant, Q-Tips or anything else). It also says a lot when the quality of the amenities is on par with the brand. For example, Molton Brown is way more luxurious than Neutrogena.

  5. Colors: There is no one perfect color palette for a spa. I’ve seen some get away with an austere, all shades of white approach, and I’ve seen others that used different earthy shades or bright primary colors for every area of the space. The thing to remember about color is how much light it will reflect. Are there lots of windows or more lamps, or overhead lighting? In general, avoid bright bold colors like red, yellow, and orange, unless they are used sparingly to accessorize a space.

While I focused on five core design elements of spas, I have to say that service goes a very long way in creating a memorable spa experience. You can have the most elegant and opulent spa but if the people in the spa keep you waiting too long unattended, can’t look you in the eye, or pester you for add-on services, it can ruin the experience. I personally like to encounter staff who are personable, positive, but not pushy. Once you find a great spa that makes you want to linger for hours, you will be back!  Self-care is one investment that your life depends on.


Follow AJC Design