Here are some predictions for ideas that will
shape spa design over the coming year. By Fifi Kao
For the future of spa design, one thing is certain: it will vastly different from what it was a decade ago. Now, all hoteliers, developers, and guests are more knowledgeable about spas and are eager to enjoy the benefits they offer, with a strong focus on improving physical and mental health and wellbeing. Simply relying on dim lighting, water features, and Southeast Asian-style furniture and decor cannot meet the hardware demands of future spas. This article proposes new trends and design directions that may emerge in the future of spa design.
Sustainability in spa design
In the past few years, the spa industry has been highly focused on sustainable development, leading to true innovation in the use of sustainable materials and finishes for spa centers. This will also influence future design trends, much like the impact of introducing LED lighting to spa interior design some years ago.
It is crucial to recognize the necessity of creating sustainable environments, especially for educated, socially responsible, and environmentally conscious clients who place a strong emphasis on sustainability.
For example, the use of clay-based wall renderings that are natural and non-toxic, with low VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions and no synthetic, concrete, or lime additives. SpaChina previously introduced the application of visible light photocatalytic technology in air purification treatment in Japan. The new photocatalytic material developed by Kubo Kiyoshi generates a photocatalytic reaction similar to photosynthesis under visible light, producing highly decomposing hydroxyl radicals and reactive oxygen species. It can decompose various organic compounds and some inorganic substances, kill bacteria, and break down organic pollutants into non-polluting water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2), achieving disinfection, antiviral, deodorization, mold prevention, and air purification simultaneously.
Countertop surfaces will increasingly be formed from waste plaster and wood chips, and eco paint ranges with low VOC emissions, as well as refined plank-type products utilizing waste cork from cork forests and bottling plants in Western Europe, have the additional benefits of thermal insulation, noise reduction, and improved air quality.
Some cave-like steam rooms in spas are constructed using sustainable materials, providing a natural and primitive sense of comfort, including reducing noise, providing thermal insulation, and emitting non-toxic or low VOC organic compounds.
Textiles and rugs in spas that resemble natural linen can be made from recycled plastic bottles, ensuring high durability and suitability for spa use. Suppliers for such materials already exist, and these recycled plastic bottles can also be used to create guest souvenirs, such as water bottles, frisbees, or even swimsuits.
The connection to nature will continue to be the central theme in spa design, as witnessed by the current significant rise in spa gardens and forest bathing. I also believe that there will be a trend in the future towards truly immersive spa interior spaces and experiences.
Advancements in virtual technology
Virtual technology is rapidly advancing, and in big cities, we have seen its various applications in exhibitions and social events. For example, in galleries, video art installations use back and front projected imagery on floors, ceilings, and walls. When combined with activities like swimming pools, spa facilities, yoga studios, or indoor cycling classes, it creates completely unique environments with a sense of wonder.
Virtual technology can provide highly distinctive immersive experiences in spa centers. In QC Terme Milano’s “Secret Spa” located in Milan, Italy, multiple immersive experience rooms simulate different natural landscapes, such as a rainforest room with showers and a submerged hydro pool with an immersive video sky scene.
Virtual experiences have become a favorite among many spa guests. For instance, guests can take part in guided meditation that simulates beautiful scenery as part of their spa experience. Relax VR, for example, uses virtual reality technology to transport users into beautiful natural landscapes. Users can choose different scenes, such as beaches, forests, or mountains, and immerse themselves in a state of relaxation and meditation through VR headsets. This technology is often combined with music, meditation guidance, and sound effects to help users destress, relax, and find inner peace. By satisfying three senses of guests: sight (visual scenery), sound (music), and smell (essential oil), it transports guests away from reality and into an immersive experience. Combining this with tactile treatments, such as foot soaks or hand massages, and adding an element of taste, such as coconut water, creates a complete multi-sensory experience.
Examples of more “physical” immersive spaces can be experienced at Aqua Sana Forest Spa. Aqua Sana Forest Spa is located at various “forest” locations within Center Parcs holiday villages in the UK: Longleat Forest, Sherwood Forest, Elveden Forest, Woburn Forest, and Whinfell Forest. Guests can overlook panoramic views of the forest canopy in the “Treetop Sauna,” listen to the trickling water in Aqua Sana Longleat’s “Forest Cavern”, or gaze up at the magical changing sky as it phases from dusk to dawn to daylight in the “Forest Meditation” room.
Intuitive design for health technology
With the advancement of technology in spas, including the recent rise of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, cryotherapy machines, and comprehensive bathing experiences and fitness equipment, careful consideration needs to be given to the design of the spa to accommodate these large devices, which occupy a significant amount of space.
To ensure that guests enjoy a luxurious experience, the integration of health technology requires thoughtful design. Firstly, the space needs to be aesthetically pleasing and large enough. The best approach is to create a completely immersive environment that seamlessly integrates the equipment into the overall spa experience. For high-value treatments like these, the experience must be elegant and luxurious, matching the other elements and therapeutic sensations conveyed by the spa, aligning with the spa’s underlying natural philosophy.
This kind of immersive environment can already be experienced at the Cottonmill Spa in Sopwell House, United Kingdom. The deep relaxation room houses six multi-sensory AlphaSphere loungers designed by Sha. Undulating background lighting surrounds the room, enveloping each lounger, and creating a dynamic space that fully immerses guests, enhancing their experience, and maximizing the significant investment made in such specialized equipment.
Modern bath houses and social bathing
The concept of “Modern Bath Houses” has recently become popular in Europe and the United States and is likely to become a significant trend in the future. These bathhouse spas encourage guests to stay longer than traditional spas, with typically extended opening hours as well. For example, Aire Ancient Baths in London’s Covent Garden is open from 8 am to 11 pm. The Aire experience takes place in restored brick-vaulted subterranean historical buildings in city centers, offering candle-lit pools and thermal facilities to create a unique ambiance.
The Olympia Bath House in Melbourne is also set to provide thermotherapy and immersive experiences, inspiring a slower pace of life and fostering social connections. This trend is taking urban community wellness to a new direction, and these bathhouses can bring spa experiences to urban dwellers who may have been lacking access to traditional spas.
Interestingly, in Japan, such bathhouses have long been present across various communities, from small public bathhouses to large family-oriented bathing facilities known as “onsen.” In China, both Fujian Province and the northeastern regions also have a strong bathing culture. It is intriguing that despite their geographical differences, both regions feature large bathhouses, where people of all ages can relax, unwind, and enjoy delicious food.
Modern bathhouses promote a “slow” spa experience, aiming to reconnect people and foster social connections through the enjoyment of social bathing, all while breaking free from the constraints of technology.
Spa design for all the senses
In spa design, the goal is to infuse a genuine sense of perception and soul, while maintaining authenticity and a sense of place. We must pay close attention to the flow of the guest experience and space planning, and make the most of the spa’s geographical location to maximize its advantages.
Creating a spa garden is a way to evoke the feeling of being in nature. However, even without a garden, integrating nature into the wellness experience can be achieved through outdoor views, infinity swimming pools, urban terraces, abundant indoor plants, or semi-open treatment rooms. Any place with outdoor space should embrace nature to its fullest.
During warm weather, if conditions allow, extending spa services outdoors can be a great idea, even if it’s just for post-treatment relaxation time, as guests highly appreciate natural spaces. Even in less favorable weather conditions, a heated firepit can offer an extraordinary sensory experience and create a cozy outdoor nook. Indoors, thinning out relaxation areas while preserving some private space and using screens or decorations to subtly divide different areas can be effective.
Essential sanitization measures can be integrated into a luxurious cleansing ritual. Essential oils and other lavish products can be incorporated into this cleansing ritual. Technology plays a role in touch-free check-in, but a warm human welcome remains a key part of the spa experience. Spa operators should conduct a sensory audit of their facilities, ensuring sufficient natural light and paying attention to the spa’s aroma, as these elements significantly impact the spa experience and guests’ state of mind.
It’s crucial to create a signature space with a “wow” factor at the end of the spa journey. Whether it’s an infinity pool or a bespoke sauna with panoramic views, the guest’s journey must be intuitive and end on a high note.