Bring the Spa Home

By Rachel Grice / September 10, 2011

Let’s face it: our day-to-day environments are stressful. And oftentimes, the decor doesn’t help alleviate any of that stress. The white-washed walls of your office, the dizzyingly colorful murals on the walls of your local coffee shop, the sea of tail lights as you’re stuck in traffic. The last thing you need is to come back home — to your sanctuary—and be overloaded by a barrage of sights, sounds, and smells. Seems like the only place you can ever truly relax is at the spa. So why not bring the spa home? It’s possible to get that same Zen feeling you have while getting your massage in the comfort of your own home. “The key is to find any place that creates a respite,” explains Dr. Mitchell Joachim, co-founder and partner at the design collaborative Terrefuge. “But it has to be up to the in-dividual. A home spa is supposed to be unique because it has to cater to one person or family. The spa needs to be unique, and the home is a place of wellness.” Here are some expert opinions on how to transform your home into the kind of place you may never want to leave.


Even though you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, it’s okay to want the ex-terior of your home to reflect the same tranquility you’ve established inside. Dr. Joachim and a class of graduate students set off to the Caribbean to define what it means to have a spa in terms of ecological architecture. The results were quite varied. The projects ranged from a hermetically sealed castle that would shut out the rest of the world with the rise and fall of the ocean tides to the open spa for tactile stimulation where guests can interface with soft objects. Though many of the projects are still just renderings, it’s never too early to start planning your dream home of the future. You can learn more at


The way you choose to decorate your home speaks volumes. “A space cannot be truly beautiful unless it functions in harmony with who we are,” says Clodagh, founder of a professional design service that shares her name. “It’s about pleasure, discovering what pleases us, and creating an environment that will celebrate those qualities and sustain us.” Her designs focus on the concept of total design, that is, “to enhance life and spirit through timeless, responsible design.”

By creating homes with ample open spaces for exposure to the outside world and clean, contemporary lines, Clodagh brings elements of serenity and simplicity that lend them-selves to an easy, laid back feeling in the home — one free from the stresses and com-plications of everyday life. “When I’m running low, I hop on a plane or into a car and change environments,” she says. “It’s all about being open and emptying your mind’s back door to leave room for new thoughts to come in the front.”


Perhaps the most vital room in the whole home to creating an at-home spa is the bathroom. Whether it’s a long soak in the tub or an invigorating shower, nothing can provide a greater escape within the home. And while the thought of overhauling your entire bathroom may seem daunting, Diane Schrage, senior designer for Kohler, suggests starting small.

 “Pick up a tablet and jot down everything you don’t like about the existing space,” she says. “On the other side, write down what you really enjoy. What you find out about your likes and dislikes may surprise you.”

 Then try and find easy ways to improve the flaws and accent the strengths. Maybe it’s just a fresh coat of a new color of paint or maybe it’s installing a skylight to let in more natural light. Or one of the simplest yet most overlooked ways to improve the comfort of any room—organize.

 “Storage is one of the most important things for creating a relaxing space in any room of the home,” Schrage notes. “Because mess leads to stress.”

If a total redesign is in order, Schrage suggests listening to your own feelings and thoughts about the project. “Pay attention to your needs and wants,” she advises. “Don’t try to force what may be considered the best by the experts, but listen to what your heart tells you. Ask yourself, ‘What type of spa element is going to be most relaxing to me?’” Some of her favorite bathroom elements include the Fountainhead bath (shown on opposite page), DTV shower remote, and Saile toilet, all by Kohler.

 “With the Fountainhead, our bodies become entrained with the music,” she explains. “You become more relaxed, and you can feel your heart rate slow to beat with the music.” The DTV, or digital thermostatic valving, is a shower remote of sorts. For up to six people, you can preset water temperature, force, sounds and colors or images. So whether you want to listen to Josh Groban or CNN, or want soft colors to reflect off the walls of the shower, or have an image of a sunset project onto the ceiling, you can get the most relaxing shower tailored to you.

 And, yes, what would the bathroom be without a commode? But it doesn’t have to be the water-wasting eyesore that we’ve known for 20-plus years. Now, Kohler provides water-efficient toilets that save nearly four gallons of water per flush (that’s 16,000 gal-lons per year for a family of four). Additionally, Kohler has a line of showerheads and faucets that save 8,000 and 14,000 gallons of water per year respectively.

 “We want people to feel better about their usage and provide ways for them to do that,” Schrage says. “People are still making high-end choices, but they are aware of the value of an at-home spa. Instead of spending money on going to the chiropractor every month, they can install a massaging shower. We’re beginning to see that our clients are very informed. They see something they like and say, ‘Give me that at home.’”

 As if their eco-friendly ventures weren’t enough, Kohler also started, a site that provides water-saving ideas and has donated more than $500,000 to Habitat for Humanity. “We can’t change immediately overnight,” she cedes, “but we’ve made huge strides forward.”


Though the original concept of saunas came from Sweden, the modern version of the sauna has become an essential part of the American spa. Sunlight Saunas are infrared saunas that use all-over body heat for pain relief for those suffering from arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and certain skin conditions. If infrared technol-ogy sounds a little bit like science fiction, fear not. The technology used relies on the same principles as the light that comes from the sun—the same light we absorb on a daily basis that keeps us from getting sick and depressed. Except with Sunlight Saunas, you don’t need to worry about ultraviolet exposure, just the benefits of detoxification, relaxation, and improved circulation.


Foot baths like the ones from Ashiyu provide all the benefits and relaxation of a hot tub but without the high cost, sanitizing chemicals and the excess use of water and electric-ity. Taking their name and concept from Japanese hot spring foot baths, Ashiyu spas are big enough for two to four people to soak their feet and can be used either indoors or outdoors. Just soaking for 20 minutes can have significant health benefits, not to mention emotional and stress-relieving benefits. Who wouldn’t want to lower blood pressure, ease muscle cramps, or alleviate the symptoms of restless leg syndrome? Combine that with candles and aromatherapy, and you’ve found your own personal es-cape.


After a long day of sitting through meetings and staring at a computer screen, it’s important to have a space to come home to where you can just be. Alexandra Champali-maud, founder of Champalimaud Designs and Charym Spa, knows exactly how to take any space and turn it into a meditation space.

“When creating your space, what you’re trying to achieve is a sense of ritual and quiet calm,” she says. “What you’re looking for is a place where you can just settle your thoughts and focus on kindness and gentleness and beauty. It’s where the body feels so much pleasure and peace that it takes the relaxation to another level.”

As in real estate, your meditation space is all about location, location, location. “Pick a simple space with lots of natural light, one where you can see a tree or the sky out the window,” Champalimaud suggests. To ensure you get the most out of your relaxation experience, Champalimaud recommends eliminating all outside distractions—that means no cell phones, TV’s, or laptops—and choosing a color scheme that comple-ments your personal meditation style. “There should be no contrasting colors,” she says. “The room shouldn’t be black and white or red and white, it should either be a dark color palate or a lighter one.”

But the endeavor doesn’t require a lot of extra time, money, or energy. “We probably all have tools and gadgets within our homes that can help create this space,” she says. “You don’t need to go out and spend a lot of money.” Essentially, this space is what you make of it; a space where your unique personality comes through to aid you in your search for relaxation.

Rachel Grice
Rachel Grice

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