A spa is like a building: each and every element of its conception and design is a stone that is part of the foundation supporting the building (or the ambiance of the spa, if you will). If the aesthetic elements are important in the creation of the ambiance, structural elements are even more essential to it. Here are 10 of these most important "ambiance building stones."
1. Light: indoor and/or natural. There is no question that natural sunlight is better than any man-made light. When it comes to inside a spa, the most important issue is the balance between letting in natural light and privacy. If your spa is surrounded by beautiful nature and there are no buildings or traffic around, it can beneficiate from as much sunlight as you wish. However, if you have an urban spa, you have to prioritize the privacy of your clients. You will have to recreate indoor a wide spectrum light system. According to specific needs of each space in the spa, you can use different types of lights, as well as a combination of direct and indirect lights (as in recessed LED and halogen wall sconces) to create the right light.
2. Scents: Triggering the emotional memory. Olfaction is the most developed sense for emotional memory. A similar scent of your grandmother's kitchen can bring you back instantly to the memories and emotions of 40 years ago. It is one of the most important ambiance elements. A well designed scent is one of the cornerstones of a memorable spa ambiance. In many spas, the signature scent is part of the operational and marketing plans. But it is not because you like certain odors and perfumes that it will be agreeable to everyone. Most ambiance scents are made of essential oils… some are more toning while others are more calming or refreshing. The best way to develop the right aroma for your spa is to retain the services of an aromatherapy specialist.
3. Colors: The good and the bad. Most of the time, the colors inside the spa are defined by the theme or the style of the facility. And almost all colors are appropriate for a spa! What makes the color inappropriate is not the color itself, but its tone. A "bright orange" color will most likely be terrible, while a "fire orange" could be great. Sometimes the colors and tones are great, but it is the combination that creates a disaster. Each color and tone has a specific energy and it is this energy that will create the ambiance. Do not forget that the colors around will reflect on the skin. If the reflection makes the skin look unhealthy (yellowish, greenish), no matter how good the facial treatment you offer, you just lost your client!
4. Natural versus synthetic: The experience of materials. A true ambiance is a real one, not a fake one. To reach your goal, you must use the real things. If you are going to have plants, avoid plastic fakes. Each and every thing clients touch in the spa must feel natural, warm and agreeable. If they sit or lie down on a vinyl cushion, the ambiance will feel as real and warm as... vinyl!
5. Retail Boutique: Pushing sales or welcoming buyers? If the experience inside the spa is perfect, but the client feels pressured in the boutique, you just killed the ambiance! Put the client at ease while maximizing retail sales. Here are some design tips: Stimulate the five senses of the customers in strategic places throughout the spa with non-aggressive marketing supports. Place the retail products at appropriate reaching heights for client's comfort. Present the products in a manner which will set the perceived value of the products.
6. Corridors: How to kill it. Ambiance creates the experience and corridors can kill it! Corridors exist only to go from one space to another. While they are wasted spaces, you need them. Many spas focus their available space on the treatment rooms and try to make their corridors as narrow as possible... But remember your clients need to move between areas without any stress – especially without the fear of physical contact while crossing paths in the traffic! This will impact negatively the experience. Forget narrow; think short! Your corridor must be wide enough to avoid not only the contact, but also the stress of potential contact.
7. Relaxation space: Calming privacy. The perfect ambiance for a relaxation room is to have every client feel peaceful and safe in a non-private area. The lights must be bright enough to avoid threatening dark zones, but dimed enough to set a calm and private feeling. Seating should be individual… not too close, but not too far. The scent must be calming and neutral to avoid discomfort. Materials must be smooth, warm and agreeable to the touch. Sound must be soothing, melodious and not repetitive.
8. Music: The sound of bliss. Some people like classical music while others prefer heavy metal. Some sounds are spa appropriate while others are not. The music and sounds in your spa must be part of the expression in the identity of the spa, helping set the energy level of each space and varying according to the needs. From a sound perspective, you can divide a spa into four different zones: Reception and public areas: calm with character; Corridors: feel it more than hearing it; Relaxation: meditative, soothing, melodious... A drifting resonance; Treatment rooms: give choice to the client, but keep it calm.
9. Locker rooms: Private area. When your spa has locker rooms, it is generally what begins the spa experience. Here are a few important tips that will set the ambiance: First, remember it has to be proportionality large for your spa guests. Do not make clients have the stressful thoughts of a potential accidental physical contact with another person while changing. When possible, create private spaces for changing within the locker room. And while changing, lend comfortable, clean, and sized robes.
10. Temperature: Warm but not hot; cool but not cold. A warm and cool ambiance does not require mixing hot and cold air, but temperature has its role in the creation of the ambiance, and an important one! Different spa zones require different temperatures. The reception, boutique, administration and staff areas should be comfortable (around 68°F). Corridors and public areas inside the spa should be just above comfortable. Locker rooms, powder rooms, relaxation areas, wet areas and such should be just a touch up from the public areas. Treatment rooms should offer clients individual settings so the temperature can be adjusted according to treatment type or needs of the client.
Sam Margulies is a French designer. Located in Canada, he is specialized in the conception and design of spas, medical spas and resorts, with a portfolio of more than 130 projects around the world. In the early 1990s, Margulies began to study different environmental arts for energy flow and balance, as Feng Shui, which play an important role in his work. He presents lectures in international conferences worldwide. His articles, where both aesthetic and business perspectives are valued, are published in trade magazines and websites around the world. Margulies is recognized as a world leading expert in spas, resorts and medical spas conception and design.