A Spa in Balance

By Rona Berg / August 31, 2012

Mindfulness made its mark 16 years ago at the Miraval Life in Balance Spa in Tucson. From eating to working out, a mindful approach permeates every aspect of this beautiful desert retreat, where guests learn to better regulate the body, balance the emotions and recalibrate negative patterns that can cause stress, through mindful awareness.

So of course the approach to the new Spa redesign, six years in the making, was mindful. Every little thing was thought through so clearly and consciously that it appears absolutely effortless. The new Spa strikes just the right balance: It is not lavish or opulent, but it is luxurious. According to New York City-based designer Clodagh, of Clodagh Design, who worked on the project with the architectural firm Mithun, “It is everything you need but nothing more than you need. It’s not about design, it’s about enhancing people’s lives.”

That may be true, but the design is breathtaking. And it’s sustainable, with natural materials like wood, stone, and stucco that frame the beauty of the surrounding Sonoran desert. “I wanted the outside to flow seamlessly in and the inside to flow out,” says Clodagh. “There’s a procession of transitions as you enter the space that affects you subliminally,” she says, “making the invisible visible.”

“I wanted the outside to flow seamlessly in and the inside to flow out. There’s a process of transitions as you enter that affects you subliminally.”

As you walk past thin blonde grasses swaying in the desert breeze, through heavy wooden doors, and enter the new spa you become aware of the quiet. Surrounded by thick reclaimed wood walls, enveloped in soft natural light, you relax. Your ears perk up. And you begin to listen. Says Miraval chairman Philippe Bourguignon, “We hope when you are in this space, you can hear yourself like nowhere else.”

The 16,000 square foot spa has 23 treatment rooms (six outdoors), and a new VIP spa suite with a two-way fireplace, private terrace garden and jacuzzi, private bath and an indoor and outdoor double shower with dramatic desert views. Three ancient doors connect throughout the spa: the front door, and the doors to the men’s and women’s facilities. The Miraval ethos is transformation and, upon entering, you really do feel like you’re transitioning to a healing place. “I wanted to make people feel protected and safe, to create a sanctuary,” says Clodagh.

Clodagh, the designer

The designers literally left no stone unturned. They put citrine crystals in the men’s spa for male energy, amethyst in the women’s. Tourmaline was placed near the spa bridge to absorb negative energy, petrified wood rocks were brought in for clearing and grounding. A bowl of stones at the spa entrance is a place for guests to pause and set an intention, and a beautiful reflecting pool unites the Catalina mountains with the sky.

“All the senses are addressed and all the elements are integrated,” says Clodagh. Art hangs on the walls, with most for sale to support local artists. The temperature of the treatment beds can be regulated, and light fixtures by Tucker Morgan are designed to create desert light. When you open the doors, you smell jasmine, a plant that was chosen for its healing properties.

Before the spa redesign, the Clodagh/Mithun team built 16 LEED-certified villas at Miraval, and all sold for full price during the economic downturn. Next, they built 18 hotel rooms and suites. The spa renovation came last, with big plans ahead for the future. The goal, says Miraval owner Steve Case, is “to create a model to build Miraval in other countries.

“We wanted to build on the legacy without losing the authenticity,” says Case. “The spa before was okay, but not spectacular. Miraval deserved a spectacular spa.” And that is exactly what it got.


Rona Berg

Rona Berg

Editor-In-Chief at Organic Spa Magazine
Longtime journalist, author and current editor-in-chief of Organic Spa Media, Rona Berg is the former Editorial Director of ELLE and Deputy Style Editor for the New York Times Magazine, and she has contributed to and been quoted in dozens of publications. She co-chairs the Personal Care Committee of the non-profit Green Spa Network, is a Charter Advisory Board Member of the Nutritional Aesthetics Alliance, best-selling author of Beauty: The New Basics and Fast Beauty (Workman Publishing), and is a frequent speaker and guest on radio and television and at conferences around the globe.
Rona Berg

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