Trends in Spa Design

Over the past 10 years, spa design has definitely changed; it is less about buildings and architecture than it was. The spa is no longer a glitzy showpiece, a destination, a distraction or entertainment. Nor is it an external point of validation for one's sense of self. Now it's all about creating the environment, the experience, an ambiance in which to develop introspection, growth, fitness, wellness, nutrition, connection and balance. Successful and profitable properties spend money on design that supports their guests' journey to connecting to the physical and inner self.

Natural Design Elements

Spa goers are interested in making a connection within and to the outside world. Use of natural elements, materials and textures creates an organic atmosphere and earth colors, wood, stone and other natural materials reinforce that connection. Spas and resort owners, in response to guest feedback, are looking for green materials — ones that are made of natural fibers, have sustainability and that don't emit noxious fumes. Spaces now rely equally on architecturally based elements and the integrity of the materials to carry the space.

Residential Look and Feel

When visiting a spa, guests want to feel at home. The percentage of male spa guests is on the rise, so the look has to appeal equally to both sexes. By thoughtfully using materials more commonly seen in a residence — ones that are stain- and abrasion-resistant and also meet code — you can create the warm and inviting feeling of a high-end residence in a commercial setting. The types of wood and how we use them are critical elements in creating a residential environment, especially in the guestrooms. Residential wall covering can be used selectively in low traffic areas or coated for higher traffic areas. Also, more options are now available at the commercial level-products that look comfortable and inviting and are functional in terms of commercial maintenance and budgets, yet share the residential look. Lastly, art and accessories that are evocative of what would be found at home, carefully selected and placed, add the final layer to the interior.

Ergonomic Design

This is a trend we'd like furthered. We feel that it is paramount to determine the ergonomic requirements of the staff and the treatments they provide and to design treatment spaces around those needs. This is a natural extension of the supportive and healing environment to the service providers. Our experience has shown that this approach is very popular with staff and with Human Resources as well as spa owners.

Impact on Residential Design

In our residential work, we have seen a shift away from emphasizing material possessions and surroundings designed for show. Our clients want some of the elements of the spa environment; those that support health, wellness, balance, family and connection. Spaces and furnishing reflect a simpler life, a more grounded existence and connection with core values and what is truly important in their lives.


William Caligari specializes in spa design. His company is William Caligari Interiors/Architecture in Great Barrington, MA. Reach him at 413-528-3556 or at william@williamcaligari.com.

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