There’s nothing like some me-time in a luxurious spa after a long day. And it takes just a little effort to transform your own bathroom into just such a place, an oasis in which to relax and rejuvenate.
Some simple fixes and inexpensive accessories can do the trick, designers say.
Start with a clean slate
“Rooms feel calmer without clutter. So before doing anything else, clear off surfaces, walls and floors,” says New York City designer Eve Robinson.
“And while you’re at it, toss out anything past its prime or that you really don’t want or need.”
Robinson favors light color palettes – seafoam green and white, for instance – and uses very few accessories, perhaps “simple black-and-white photographs of ocean waves for a sense of relaxation and comfort.”
She adores the classic spa feel of terry cloth, and suggests “crisp, white towels and bathmats to brighten and freshen a bathroom.”
Robinson also likes upholstering stools on wheels with terry to provide seating or space to pile extra towels. Often, she embroiders them with such words as “splish” and “splash.”
While Dallas designer John Phifer Marrs is equally keen on soft hues, he says, “Sometimes the most relaxing baths are no-color.”
For one client, he used varying shades of white and off-white, and added some baroque sconces and a neoclassical, tole-topped table for elegance and oomph.
As with many furnishings, Marrs says, “You can often replicate such high-end pieces with reproductions and flea-market finds.”
Scents and sounds
The right music can make a difference, according to Los Angeles-based designer Molly Luetkemeyer.
“Get the smallest iPod dock possible,” she says. “Make a playlist of music that helps you unwind, or download some ambient nature sounds – ocean waves, a bubbling brook, forest breezes. Turn it on when you enter the room and almost immediately you’ll feel more serene.”
One of Luetkemeyer’s favorite parts about visiting spas is “being enveloped by delicious aromas,” not only essential oils and bubble bath, but “candles that make you go ‘ahh.’
“Try short, chubby ones along the bathtub rim, several candlesticks grouped together or a candelabrum – and be sure to dim the lights before stepping into the tub,” she suggests.
Pay attention to the little things: Luetkemeyer always has a pretty container of matches near her candles.
And getting back to good smells, she counsels, “Push the spent end of the wick into the warm wax to extinguish the candle. If you blow it out, the beautiful aroma will be covered by a smoky odor.”
Alex Jordan, co-president of the Chicago design firm Gregga Jordan Smieszny, likes to create an island mood with accessories that exude a “tropical feel.”
Among them are teak flooring (“Buy tiles online, much less expensive”) and, “if the room is well-ventilated, a large, hanging, paper light fixture a la Noguchi,” he says. “Glass garden lanterns work well, too.”
Two other easy tricks he uses to bring the outside in: Cover the walls in grass cloth. Or either paint a trellis on one or more walls, or mount a real one.
On a smaller scale, but as effective, would be replacing the linen-closet door with latticework.
“Of course,” Jordan adds with a laugh, “that means you have to keep the contents tidy.”
Don’t limit yourself to the bath sections of stores, he advises: “Broaden your vision. Investigate stores’ living-room departments and boutiques carrying foreign products.”
Think about glass cylinders filled with seashells and river rocks, wood receptacles for makeup and hair brushes, baskets for rolled towels, cleaning equipment and the kids’ toys.
One final suggestion Jordan shares is “parachute cloth for the shower curtain or to surround the tub. It’s reminiscent of a spa’s massage area and looks like it would gently rustle in an ocean breeze.”