The Wellness Trajectory: Four Innovative Trends in LUXURY Spa/Wellness Design

Edition Spa, Miami Beach

It has been a truth, no matter where we are or what century we live in: that we humans are affected by our interior surroundings. Most of the time we are not completely aware of it, but many times we are aware of when it affects us negatively. As Alain de Botton commented is his great book, The Architecture of Happiness, our moods “can become inconveniently vulnerable to the color of our wallpaper, or our sense of purpose may be derailed by an unfortunate bedspread.” 

Understanding the need for positive sensory engagement with our surroundings is one of the prime goals of wellness architecture, one that includes the creation and maintenance of great spa designs, and because of them, the probability of great spa experiences. 

Details inherent in the creation of the spa visitor’s sensory engagement include a multiplicity of design details, all affecting the senses.  The confluence of touch, scent, sound, sight, and taste are subtle, sometimes invisible, but they are there, all working together to create a memorable wellness experience.    

Spa, Calistoga Ranch

At the recent ULI (Urban Land Institute) conference, Michael Lahm, COO of TLee Spas, a major, awards-winning Spa design and consulting firm, enumerated new trends that he and his colleagues have recently seen as emerging in innovative spa architecture and design.  These trends appear to expand the meaning of Spa, creating a sense of enhanced health and well-being.  He said, “We are developing new spa concepts as we collaborate with architects, interior and landscape designers. We seek to create engaging environments, both  built and natural, that reflect a strong sense of place and peace.” 

The trends enumerated below define the wellness trajectory of place infused with peace. 

1. This is the spa design trend that focuses on the greater connection of people to nature. A spa design allows closer connections of the spa experience to that of the natural world. The sound of water is a prime example, so guests sitting in the waiting room can listen to this often calming, natural sound of nature. Often, saunas include natural cedar seating and portions of the walls are made of pink Himalayan salt bricks, the guest a sense of green sanctuary, almost of refuge, that seems to be very effective in unplugging from a noisy world. 

Ritz Carlton Reserve, Dorado Spa, Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico

 2. HOTEL Fitness /Wellness. Fitness is driving the current wellness culture in hospitality. Equinox has created a hotel brand built around fitness and wellness.  Hyatt hotels recently acquired Exhale, a spa and wellness company, and last year Hyatt acquired Miraval.  Accor Hotels announced it had formed a strategic partnership with Banyan Tree, a Singapore-based company known for its luxury properties and spa offerings. And recently, Hilton announced it was testing a new room design that brings the gym directly into a guest’s room.  

3. Mental Wellness – In addition to the millions who practice yoga and meditation each day, there are many who are discovering other solutions to feeling and being well, many involving water:

        Flotation Therapy is one growing in popularity: where the guest floats in a soundproof tank filled with salt water at skin temperature. Its effects are more clarified, creative thinking.  

        Contrast Bathing refers to alternating the body between hot and cold water environments, a historic practice with proven health benefits to relax and soothe pain.  

         Forest Bathing- Mobiie Meditation-  Shinrin- is the name given to the Japanese art of "forest bathing," contemplative walks through the woods that reconnect the individual with nature and can lead to decreased stress, natural mood elevation and even a stronger immune system.  

Couples Spa Suite, Auberge Esperanza Resort, Cabo San Lucas

4. Wellness/Spa Technology -- In our technology-saturated age, spas are offering multiple tech advancements. These are just a few new to the spa/wellness field: 

    Bed and LightStim Treatments:

      LED light therapy delivers light energy in a similar way plants absorb light energy from the sun. It is a patented technology used to diminish fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps with acne, as skin bacteria is eliminated with this treatment. 

    Acoustic/Frequency technology, A system of sound healing that uses the power of vibration, intention, and light touch to bring and mind into greater harmony. This trend is part of that  frequency technology also.

    -- The Oxygen Jet Peel Facial is simply a “pressure wash” that uses jet technology to deep clean by infusing saline and oxygen into the skin, leaving it hydrated, exfoliated and feeling refreshed. This treatment is also helpful for acne patients because it helps remove unwanted bacteria on the skin.

 Recently, the Global Wellness Institute predicted the wellness tourism sector of the global hospitality industry will reach close to $1 trillion U.S. 2020, with the spa market tipping $12.8 billion alone.  Renowned architects understand the power of an all-encompassing wellness paradigm, including Scott Lee, President and Principal of SB Architects, designers of awards-winning green interiors, hotel, and residential spaces.

In a recent interview, he said, “Wellness beyond the boundaries of the spa, and going into areas such as sleep, diet, nutrition, and the farm-to-table movement. It’s not a passing trend. Wellness and fitness are new currencies. These days, it’s not about what car you drive or what brand your watch is. It’s about how well you are, and how wellness will be for years to come."




Auberge Rancho Esperanza, Cabo San Lucas
Solage pool, Napa Valley
Spa area, Rancho Valencia, Rancho Santa Fe, California

Susan Kime

Susan Kime's career combines publishing, journalism and editing. She was the Destination Club/Fractional Update Editor for Elite Traveler, and senior club news correspondent for The Robb Report's Vacation Homes. Her work has been published in Stratos, Luxury Living, European CEO, The London Telegraph, Caviar Affair, ARDA Developments, and Luxist/AOL. She was the Editor-in-Chief of Travel Conno...(Read More)

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