There is little doubt that a spa environment helps stimulate and soothe the senses. Unplugging is becoming necessary for our well-being as well. Whether it’s seeking relief from our devices or simply shutting out the whirlwind of noise coming from media of all kinds, we’re searching for ways to escape from the pressures of daily life in an ever-increasing tech-saturated world. As a result, interior designers are seeing a rise in homeowners seeking to design a spa-like oasis in their homes. Incorporating natural stone is playing a pivotal role in creating those calming spaces.
Helping to create spaces of health, wellness, and well-being is a growing trend among interior designers as more homeowners are realizing how design can positively or negatively affect their emotional state, according to the 2019 Outlook and State of Interior Design (OSID) report released by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).
The definition of wellness is expanding holistically, according to the findings in the report, and people are looking for refuge and spaces to retreat from the chaos of daily life. Interior designers like Kerrie Kelly are responding by creating visually open spaces in the bath area to replicate the spaces one finds in a more traditional spa. Natural stone can help create that calm feeling.
The Roman baths were made of stone, Marie Frenkel, designer and owner of DreamStyle Kitchens & Baths, LLC, reminds clients seeking to design bathrooms to mimic a spa-like atmosphere. “Stone has a smooth cool touch, something you won’t feel with engineered [quartz],” she adds. “It is luxurious and brings us in touch with nature.”
“Calming, softer looks can be achieved by incorporating natural stones like marble, limestone, and travertine in a honed finish,” says Kerrie Kelly, creative director of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab and member of the ASID National Board of Directors. “To achieve a relaxing look, honed finishes are preferred over polished, as the stone’s ‘brilliance’ is downplayed and the ‘soft’ texture helps with the natural wear over time.”
Kelly notes that natural stone is often marketed as a luxury item and like fine furniture, is beautiful and must be cared for. She reminds clients to consider the type of natural stone they’re choosing as some offer better stain resistance than others. For clients who insist on marble in their bathrooms, for example, they must keep in mind that like any natural stone, it should be cleaned properly and sealed periodically. If maintenance is a concern, look for a natural stone that can offer stain resistance but still offer that pure and clean look of a spa.
Frenkel chafes at comments that natural stone requires much more maintenance than manmade materials. She gravitates towardquartzites that look similar to marble but offer better stain resistance. “Granites and quartzites require minimal service and hold up extremely well,” she says. “If you use a textured or matte finish, natural stone has such a luxurious feel.” While manmade materials try to replicate nature, natural stone is nature, she reminds clients.
Another reason Frenkel loves the feeling of natural stone in bathrooms is because stone is good for retaining heat. Heated floors under natural stone feel so comfortable when one gets out of their tub or shower.
Limestone, marble, and travertine tend to be the most preferred kind of stones for a bathroom specifically because of the wide variety of size, colors, and textures that are offered, according to Kelly. “The range allows homeowners to create a custom design specifically to their liking,” she says. “Due to its organic origin, stone varies, so it will always be unique to each specific project.”
Frenkel finds that warm tones go well with wood tones. She likes to pair a beautiful teak or walnut vanity with ema Marfil walls and Dark Emperador floors. Since many of her clients want the look of Cararra marble without the maintenance, she’ll often recommend quartzite since it has better stain resistance than marble. “A beautiful white vanity with white quartzite top is so luxurious, especially if you use an ogee edge or another more traditional edge,” she notes.
Other warm-tone colors for a spa-like bathroom include beiges or browns. For those who find cooler tones more soothing, Frenkel recommends whites or grays. For clients who prefer patterns in their natural stone, she’d recommend Rainforest Green or Brown granite. Those who lean toward cleaner looks with minimal lines might consider Carrara marble.
“Emulating the spa experience at home doesn’t require significant investment,” says Anthony Anguille-Valles, spa director at the spa at dana, located within the dana hotel in Chicago. He feels a spa experience is accessible for everyone and the key to modeling a classic spa ambiance is in reducing overwhelming sensory stimuli, whether it’s through reducing clutter or minimizing the use of bright and flashy tones.
He agrees that Earth tones – like those used in the classic spa setting – should be integrated when possible. “Muted grays, browns, greens, and pinks are all suitable examples,” he adds.
Another way to bring in the spa experience at home is through sound. The healing benefits of relaxing sounds have been well-documented and most spas employ serene sounds in their spaces, whether it’s through music or the serene sounds of waterfalls, rain, or chimes.
Since waterfalls are a function of nature, Frenkel feels there is no better material to replicate the calming sound of water trickling down over rocks than with natural stone.
The key to creating a spa-like atmosphere at home is by not only creating a visually open space but also by incorporating luxury elements, whether it’s through using natural stone and curbless showers as part of the design or installing heated flooring and towel warmers. Another design element to consider is using glass enclosures from floor to ceiling to allow natural light to filter through. All of these things help to elevate the look and feel of the bathroom, giving a nod to all we love about a “spa day,” according to Kelly.
“Furniture should be placed to foster an openness to the living space as well as directed toward natural light sources when possible – the latter helping to balance one’s circadian rhythm,” adds Anguille-Valles.