New Trends in Spa Design

By Michael Bedner Chairman & CEO, Hirsch Bedner Associates | January 12, 2010

Spa design is about creating a sense of place, one that can be other worldly but also rooted in the location, the culture and customs. And one that promotes a sense of well being. Our belief is that people do come to the spa to change their outlook, so the spa must promote a sense of well being and calm so that guests leave feeling better than when they arrived. Working with a spa consultant, our goal is to create a long lasting design and d'ecor that's also highly functional and flexible and compliments and heightens the treatments offered and the guest experience.

In CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La Hotel in Chengdu, China, we were inspired by the 1933 novel Lost Horizon and Shangri-La, an idyllic, secluded mountain community that symbolizes utopia. Chi, the Chinese word used to describe the natural energy of the universe, is all about harmony and balance and all of the therapies used in the spa were based on Chinese and Himalayan wellbeing rituals and traditions. We also incorporated the brand's "spa within a spa" concept, where spa suites feature private bathing areas and herbal steam facilities and the use of aromatic herbs and fragrant oils.

Far from being a static entity, a spa is constantly evolving and changing, a sensual kaleidoscope of color, shapes, textures, materials, smells and treatments. While spa treatments may go in and out of fashion and ingredients for masks and body scrubs or teas are often seasonal in nature, the core design and d'ecor tenants remain the same.

1. Add value through long range planning.

Whether we're designing one spa at a resort or five urban hotels, we utilize the same design philosophy and a rigorous planning process. The design floor plan takes into account the guest experience from start to finish and insures that the treatment rooms contain the appropriate scale to handle the types of massages and treatments currently being offered as well as those that might be added in the future. Our planning process takes into account where the spa is now as well as one, three to eight years out. Obviously we want to make sure that the bones are strong, but we add value to our clients by making sure the design can withstand modification without a major investment into renovations.

2. Create a strong sense of place.

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