takes a look at the designers behind the spa experiences at three of Ireland’s leading hotels.
Going to a spa was once a luxury reserved for special occasions or for people with deep pockets, but just as the health and wellness economy continues to grow in Ireland – a recent report by research firm Euromonitor says it is worth around €2bn a year to the country – so too have spa treatments become more affordable.
Leading the way on the spa experience is the hotel sector.
The Global Wellness Institute reports that it has now surpassed day/salon spas as the spa industry’s revenue leader.
A big part of any hotel spa experience is the design of the spa itself – the personal touch can reveal itself as much in the surroundings as it can in how your designated therapist treats you.
Location, location, location
Design of the spa is often inspired by the hotel’s geography, a case in point being the recently re-opened Osprey Hotel Spa in Naas.
The brief given to Douglas Wallace architects was to elevate the existing spa to five-star status.
Given the Osprey Spa’s proximity to Dublin (less than 45 minutes), senior designer on the project, Katie Jakkulla, said that they were asked “to consider its use, not only for hotel guests wishing to avail of weekend packages, but also customers looking for one-day or half-day packages, or simply popping in for a quick manicure or spray tan”.
A clever idea in the design was accommodating groups of guests at the one time – Douglas Wallace planned a generous manicure and pedicure area along with the addition of both dark and light relaxation rooms and a dedicated couple’s area on the upper floor.
Also new on the hotel spa scene since last year is the Bellevue Boutique Spa at the Montenotte Hotel.
Its name and design have drawn on its surroundings perched as it is on the hills of Cork city’s north side.
Its designer was Peigín Crowley, of Moss Wellness Consultancy, who explains that they were lucky to work within the west wing of the hotel, originally a merchant prince’s mansion.
She says: “Where in some properties, the spa design is somewhat fractured from the actual hotel, we made a conscious effort to extend upon the existing language of the hotel’s luxurious fittings and furnishings, as we felt it was so intrinsically linked to the brand DNA.
"We wanted to create a space for both residential guests and day guests to experience distinctive spa journeys and treatments overlooking Cork City”.
Another hotel spa which has drawn on its surroundings but in a more novel way, is the Angsana Spa at The Brehon Hotel.
Combining an East-meets-West aesthetic, its design gives a firm nod to its picturesque setting in Killarney, while also bringing something unique to the space.
As Fiona Collins, its Spa manager, explains:
“The Angsana Spa at The Brehon is the European flagship of the famous Banyan Tree group of luxury spas, which are located in areas of exquisite natural beauty right across the globe.
"The Brehon decided to partner with The Angsana Spas because of the calibre of its therapists.
"Every Angsana therapist trains at The Banyan Tree Spa Academy in Thailand.
"The Banyan Tree Spas are consistently named among the best spas in the world”.
Equally important in the design considerations for a spa are the furnishings and colours used to create the relaxing ambience.
In terms of the choice of interiors for the Osprey, Jakulla says:
“We took our inspiration from the textures and colours found within the Irish landscape.
"An oak clad wall snakes through the heart of the spa, wallpapers are reminiscent of Irish linen weaves, and light fittings evoke the feeling of traditional wicker baskets.
"Treatment rooms and changing areas include wall panelling in muted shades of duck egg blues and greens alongside flooring reminiscent of traditional flagstones.
"We believe the spa feels inherently Irish, not in a twee way, but in the truly modern sense.”
Of the Montenotte’s spa interiors, Crowley says: “Grainne Webber Design is the gifted architect that transformed the original hotel more than two years ago and I was lucky to work with her on the spa.
"Mood lighting, textured wall coverings and stunning botanical fabrics were key in giving the spa a contemporary warm interior”.
For the Angsana Spa at the Brehon, Collins says: “Bold colours are merged with a luxury spa feel that ensures guests are comfortable and relaxed at all times.”
Lotions and potions
As much as the surroundings sets the scene for the spa visitor, another important component is the brand used for its signature treatments.
Jakkulla says that the Irish company VOYA was on board as the Osprey Spa’s partner from the beginning, which informed the design process.
She says: “VOYA is an award-winning spa brand specialising in luxury organic skincare products, combining botanical ingredients and aromatherapy oils with organic seaweed harvested from the Atlantic Coast of Ireland.
"This drove the requirement for facilities to showcase these products, in particular the new seaweed baths, plus an adequate retail area for customers to purchase products for home use”.
The Bellevue Boutique Spa at the Montenotte has impressively created its own unique signature line called Bellevue Botanicals.
Crowley says: “It is inspired by the Sunken Victorian Garden within the grounds.
"These products include rose, lavender, rosemary, peat from Laois, carrageen moss and beeswax from west Cork.
"Bellevue Botanicals is 100% natural and made in Ireland.”
For the Angsana Spa, Collins explains:
“The philosophy focuses on the use of natural ingredients such as flowers, fruits, herbs and spices.
"Its signature massage was created exclusively for us, using Euphoria Oil, and extracts from Ylang Ylang, Litsea Cubeba and Sweet Basil”.
A haven of peace and quiet
So, all things considered, what feeling should a spa evoke in someone on arrival?
Collins says: “Our aim is for guests to experience an authentic Angsana Spa experience that will leave them feeling totally relaxed and ready to return to the real world once again”.
Put to Crowley, she says: “It translates to both the feeling of serenity and calm that the interior space will give you, but at a deeper level it is that wonderful feeling you get when you shut the door behind you to surrender yourself to the therapist and the treatment.”
Hugh Wallace, who is a familiar face on TV screens from his work on Home of the Year, was involved in the work completed by Douglas Wallace on the Osprey Spa.
“We live in a world of hard surfaces and things that are fairly unforgiving, and we actually want the opposite, we want calmness and serenity.
"The design of this spa is about that balance, it’s about the idea that when I come into this spa, I’m not going to be blown away; that isn’t the purpose of it, the purpose of it is to go in and think: ‘Thank god, I don’t have to make a decision’”.
We couldn’t put it better ourselves.