Even spas with the fanciest services or most attractive offers won’t pay off if they aren’t designed and decorated properly.
With ever-increasing numbers of people searching for wellness and relaxation, spas are becoming a big part of just about every new four- and five-star resort, gated community and other “lifestyle real estate developments” that include clubs. They are also being added to existing properties, including private clubs, as a key part of new master plans designed to keep them competitive and grow market share.
The critical first step to any spa’s success is to create an environment, through building structure, traffic flow and décor, that not only allows guests to relax and rejuvenate, but is also functional and flexible enough for the inevitable expansions to come.
A spa can be built from the ground up, added to an existing facility, or housed in a building that has been adapted from another use. Regardless of the structure, however, the finest facility will boast “good bones” as well as appealing décor.
Summing It Up
• A well-designed space will help to create an experience that will impress clients not only while they are in the spa, but also long after they go home.
The architectural “bones” of a spa should free designers to think about its inspirational spaces where clients can be pampered, revitalized, and refreshed. A well-designed space will help to create an experience that will affect clients not only while they’re in the spa, but also long after they go home.
Greg Hanss, Director of Marketing for the Inter-Continental Montelucia Resort & Spa, slated for a June 2008 opening in Paradise Valley, Ariz. (near Scottsdale), agrees.
“The design features should enhance the experience that the spa provides for the guests,” he says.
Comprised of 28 lushly landscaped acres, the resort, along with its two-story, 30,000-sq.-ft. spa that will include 5,200 square feet of outdoor space (see layout, pg. 26), will feature a distinct ambience influenced by the architecture and lifestyle of Andalusia in southern Spain.
Mary Kenny, Corporate Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Orlando, Fla.-based Kessler Collection, which owns The Living Spa at El Monte Sagrado Resort in Taos, N.M., reveals another essential element in spa construction.
“The use of space is always a key element to consider,” she affirms.
|Both pedicure rooms at El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa create a serene experience for the mind, body and feet.|
The four-year-old El Monte Sagrado Resort recently increased in size from 36 to 84 rooms, and its 5,500-sq.-ft. spa was expanded to keep up with the demand for services through a $450,000 project that added six spacious, candle-lit treatment rooms, hand-decorated with glittering tiles and polished stone.
“Nine out of 10 people who stay at El Monte Sagrado book a spa treatment,” Kenny says. “With so much business, accommodating more clients was an important initiative for us.”
Spa design experts also agree that marketing research is a must for every project.
Marci Krueger, Director of Sales and Marketing for Marriott’s Griffin Gate Resort & Spa in Lexington, Ky., says the property targets patrons who live within a five-hour drive of the city. The $1.7 million, 7,000-sq. ft. facility, built in an existing space of the 26-year-old resort, opened in May.
“About 20 percent of our business right now is local,” reports Krueger, noting that the spa has a separate entrance for regional customers.
Arizona Country Club in Phoenix called on its membership to suggest amenities for its new spa by assembling an 18-member roundtable of nine women and nine men. The four-room spa is located in the center of the recently rebuilt clubhouse, which opened in June.
|Depending upon the treatment, The Living Spa uses natural and organic products, some wild-crafted from indigenous plants and flowers.|
“We knew the rooms had to be in a position where they were quiet,” remarks Spa Director Sherri Buiel. “The curved walls act as a sound barrier.”
However, she says, the staff is hardly isolated, and marketing efforts did not stop once the spa opened. Arizona CC spa personnel offer complimentary massages to golfers before they hit the links, and poolside pedicures to sunbathers.
“We have to let them know that we’re here, so we’re constantly marketing ourselves by being seen,” says Buiel.
While renewal and rejuvenation are the universal services that customers seek when coming to a spa, each location will have its own purpose or reasons for being, and spas can find their niche by incorporating a region’s native characteristics into their services.
The Living Spa at El Monte Sagrado, which boasts a turquoise and adobe interior and works by Southwestern artists, offers a signature High Desert Body Treatment. “It’s very serene, very relaxing and very indigenous to the area,” notes Kenny.
Griffin Gate, which has its own herb garden, caters to Lexington’s equine industry with its Winner’s Circle package that features the “Bluegrass Wrap.”
The Spa at Colonial Williamsburg, says Assistant Spa Director Laurie Bellavance, is “based on a continuum of wellness” and draws on five centuries of healing practices to treat its guests. However, notes the architect on the Williamsburg project team, a spa is still a modern concept that requires a modern interpretation.
“We wanted an overall theme that related to the Williamsburg experience but was distinctive at the same time,” he notes. “We didn’t want to be ‘Ye Olde Spa.’ ”
First Impressions Count
|The ambiance of the relaxation room at the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa mirrors the natural abundance of the serene Bluegrass Region.|
Just as spas link age-old practices with 21st-century comforts, the outdoor-to-indoor transition should leave guests with a memorable first impression. Griffin Gate’s Krueger says the entrance should make clients feel as if “the world’s taken off their shoulders” before they receive a treatment.
The InterContinental Montelucia spa, where all but two of the 23 treatment rooms will offer natural light, will boast a glass front that offers a spectacular view of nearby Camelback Mountain, says Hanss. The main entrance will feature a rounded entryway, 24-foot ceiling and a circular staircase.
“When you enter the spa, there is this very grand sense of arrival,” he says.
Christy Olsen, Spa Manager at El Monte Sagrado, says water and natural cooling systems are prevalent throughout the facility.
“You hear the sound of water immediately,” she adds. “Our waiting room sounds like the rainforest.”
A wisteria-covered arbor marks the entrance to the 20,000-sq. ft. Williamsburg spa, which opened in April in the former Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum.
Potential Griffin Gate clients got a glimpse of the spa before it opened. The builders erected a construction wall that served double-duty as a poster board to describe the work behind the barrier, explains Krueger. Later in the construction process, she adds, a Plexiglas window was built into the wall, so passers-by could see the progress for themselves.
|Williamsburg took pains to avoid creating “Ye Olde Spa.”|
Retrofitting Across the Decades
In many instances, patience is vital to the design process. For the Spa at Williamsburg, the team went through 12 space allocation studies, according to the project architect.
However, he adds, “It wasn’t difficult to retrofit the rooms, because the building was well-constructed.”
The well-insulated museum, with two adjoining structures built in the 1950s and 1980s, already offered good temperature and humidity control to protect its artifacts.
“All of that gives a wonderful, cocoon-type environment to a spa,” the architect explains.
He goes on to recommend, though, that designers ask themselves four questions before they consider renovating an existing facility into a spa:
1) Does the building have good bones? (If not, he says, properties should be prepared to spend the money to make the structure sound.)
2) Can you achieve a realistic flow?
3) Does the facility have a private connection to nature?
4) Is there indoor and outdoor space?
|The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg offers gender-specific products to make menus and décor more appealing to male clients.|
Although they certainly have a place at the table, customers are not the only driving force behind spa design. The people on the design team are equally as important. An experienced development team will build a facility that will enhance the concept, not spoil it.
Ideally, the group should include the architect, contractor, interior designer, equipment and technical experts, business operation professionals, plus a spa consultant who acts as the visionary for the project.
Finally, of course, the question of cost is an essential part of every project.
The ever-increasing price of materials will be the greatest expense. As a result, design teams must find efficiencies in layout and construction so they have money to do the magical stuff.
Part of that magic includes keeping up with trends. Like other facilities, Arizona CC’s spa is cashing in on business among men and couples. But its Spa Kids afternoon, on the first Sunday of every month, also targets the younger set.
Ditto for Griffin Gate, where many of its young equestrian clients compete in hunter/jumper shows. And that is just fine with Krueger. “If you get them as a new customer when they’re a teen, they’ll be with you for life,” she says.