Above: In the actress Marisa Berenson’s Marrakech home, natural light shines dramatically over a steaming indoor pool, perfect for isolation and an emotional reset.
Remember when, in the 1990s, having a steam shower in your bathroom seemed like a great extravagance? It was tantamount to installing a phone in your car. Those days are long gone and, now, building a decked-out, quasi-medical-grade home spa is becoming a standard request for designers. “It used to be that we would design two or three projects a year where there would be an amazing spa in the basement or terrace level of a home,” says Atlanta-based kitchen and bath guru Matthew Quinn. But now? “It has definitely doubled.”
Quinn is currently working on a home spa in Los Angeles and another in Dallas, where the homeowner requested a spray-tan booth. “They want mani-pedi stations and hairstylist stations,” he says. Each spa is designed to host a gaggle of friends, with two to four stations plus an effervescent touch: “There’s always a Champagne bar as part of it,” Quinn says.
Folks really are looking for “private sanctuary spaces,” according to Andrew Kline, design director of New York’s Workshop/APD. “People are now into wellness in a more experiential way,” he says. Some of his clients are limiting their home gyms to the essentials—a Peloton, a Mirror, a dumbbell set—so that they can budget the extra expense and square footage for a sauna, soaking tub, and steam room. “It’s the idea that fitness is about not just working out, but also having moments of relaxation and contemplative time,” he says.
Tucked into the closet of an already tranquil primary bedroom Kline recently designed on Nantucket, a spiral staircase leads to a subterranean restorative refuge with a personal hammam, massage room, and hydrotherapy shower. In another of his Nantucket projects, you enter the spa by descending stairs directly into a hot tub. After a soak, you move into an adjacent dry space that has a sauna and a steam room. Such spa sorcery demands a high level of technological intervention, such as HVAC systems meant for wet air and pool consultants to ensure that the marble you select for the walls won’t discolor at the water level.
In the Palm Beach home of a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, New York architecture and design firm StoneFox whipped up an entire floor devoted to health and fabulosity, with a gym, hair salon, mani-pedi stations, and two treatment rooms “for body wraps or mud wraps,” architect David Fox says. Besides the client’s marble-sheathed steam room and infrared teak sauna, a cold plunge pool awaits to jolt them into the moment, thanks to refrigerated piping set to 52 degrees. The client has “a larger-than-life personality, so she wanted the spot to be really bold and fun,” Fox says. “When you walk in, it’s all papered in flamingo wallpaper, and there’s this Ico Parisi sculptural lounge sofa in the corner covered
in pink velvet.”
Indeed, designers say that one thing separating the home spa from the public versions—aside from not having to angle for the best divan—is a lack of government regulations. “You don’t have all the grab bars and signs that are required in a commercial environment,” says Quinn, who replaced a Vero Beach, Florida, client’s garage with a spa salon inspired by Miami Beach’s Faena Hotel, with black-and-white checkered floors, cross-grained and butterflied walnut cabinetry, gleaming gold fixtures, and hidden LED lights.
If this all feels too-too, you can still find ways to do you. Clients of West Coast firm Pulp Design Studios are tucking beverage centers and refrigerator drawers into their bathroom vanities; the latter keep sundry face creams and jade face rollers chilled. Along with heated towel bars and underfloor heating, MrSteam steam showers with Kohler chromatherapy and aromatherapy fixtures are one of their most frequent bathroom upgrade requests. “It’s something we really try to push to our clients,” says Pulp’s cofounder, Carolina V. Gentry, citing health benefits such as reducing stress. That is to say that a home spa might be just what the doctor ordered.
Throw in the Towel
No home spa is complete without the right cloth to wick away perspiration. Here’s what the experts recommend.
“These towels are incredibly luxurious. You can customize them with monograms or beautiful embroidery—or both.” —Carolina V. Gentry
“The quality is so good. These towels don’t lose their shape. They also have asimple detail around the perimeter. A white towel with a little trim is always nice.” —David Fox
“Superlong threads make them incredibly soft. In the summer, I use their Turkish towels, as they dry much faster.” —Matthew Quinn
This story originally appeared in the November 2021 issue of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE
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