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10 Things about spa ambiance design

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”


Light: indoor and/or natural:

There is no question that natural sun light is better than any man made one. 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 with no buildings or traffic around, your spa can beneficiate from as much sun light as you wish, but if you have an urban spa, you have to prioritise the privacy of your clients. So you have to re-create indoor a wide spectrum light system. You can use different type of lights and use a combination of direct and indirect lights (i.e. recessed LED and halogen wall sconces) to create the right light, according to specific needs of each space in the spa.


Scents: Triggering the emotional memory

Olfaction is the most developed sense for emotional memory. A similar scent to your Grand Mother 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 corner stone’s of a

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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, and 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.


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. Sometime, the colors and tones are great, but it is the combination that creates a disaster. Each color and tone have a specific energy and it is this energy that will create the ambiance. Do not forget that the colors on the walls and ceiling will reflect on the skin, and if the reflection makes the skin look unhealthy (yellowish, greenish, etc), no matter how good is the facial treatment you offer, you just lost your client!



Materials and things: How it looks… How it feels.

natural versus synthetics : real versus fake experience

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, agreeable. If they seat or lie down on a vinyl cushion, the ambiance will feel as real and warm as… the vinyl!


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! So to put the client at ease while maximizing retail sales. Here are some design tips: Stimulate the 5 senses of the clients 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.

Corridors: How to kill the ambiance

Ambiance creates the experience and corridors can kill it! Corridors exist just to go from one space to another, and while they are “wasted spaces” you have to have them. So many spas focus their available space on the treatment rooms and try to make their corridors as narrow as possible… Your clients need to move between areas without any stress, and specially without the fear of physical contact while cross-passing in the traffic, or 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.


Relaxation space: Calming privacy

The perfect ambiance for a relaxation room is to have every client feel like peacefull and safe in a none private area. The lights must be bright enough to avoid threatening dark zones, but dimed enough to set a calm and private feeling. the seating should be individual, not too close, but not too far either. The scent must be calming, neutral enough to avoid discomfort. Materials must be smooth, warm and agreeable to the touch, and the sound must be southing, melodious and not too repetitive.


Music: The sound of bliss

Some people like classical music while others prefer” heavy metal”. Some sounds are “Spa appropriate” while other are not. The music and sounds in your spa must be part of the expression of the identity of the spa, help setting the energy level of each space and vary according to the needs. From a sound perspective, you can divide a spa in 4 different zones:

1. Reception and all “public” areas: calm with character

2. Corridors: you feel it more than you hear it

3. Relaxation: meditative, southing, melodious… A drifting resonance

4. Treatment rooms: Give some choice to the client but keep it calm. PS: no water sounds!


Locker rooms: make it the beginning, not the end

When your spa has locker rooms, it is generally where begins the spa experience. If you don’t want it to end right there, here are 4 important tips that will set the ambiance:

1. It has to be big enough proportionately to your spa gests capacity so that the clients won’t

even have the stress of the thoughts of a potential accidental physical contact with another

person while changing.

2. The lighting system has to be bright without intensity and balanced, eradicating any dark area.

3. When possible, create private spaces for changing within the locker room.

4. Make sure the robes are size appropriate, absolutely clean, as well as soft and agreeable to wear


Temperature: Warm but not hot, cool but not cold.

A warm and cool ambiance doesn’t 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.

Zone 1: Reception, boutique, administration, staff areas: comfortable (around 68 degree F)

Zone 2: Corridors and public areas inside the spa: just above comfortable

Zone 3: Locker rooms, powder rooms, relaxation area, wet areas: Just a touch up from zone 2

Zone 4: Treatment rooms: Suggesting individual thermostat for each room so temperature can

be changed according to the treatment type and the needs of the client.


In a spa environment, ambiance and client experience are like the thumb and the index of one hand: and these are the two fingers that hold the clients credit card!! Manicure them well!



Sam Margulies

MDsign – Medical Destination Design

Tel: 1-514-332-8941
Cell: 1-514-886-6071

SKYPE: atmospherespadesign

Email: [email protected]

[email protected]

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