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Hints of India

By: Mary Bemis
Posted: June 23, 2008, from the April 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

“The spa at Dream is like the Chopra Center’s funky little sister,” says Alexis Ufland, whose New York-based company, Lexi Design, helped construct the new Chopra Center & Spa at Dream—a luxury hotel in New York that bills itself as ‘hautel couture.’ ”

Having opened its doors in November 2005, the spa is the sister property to the Chopra Center at La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California. “In California, the Chopra Center has a different feel that we didn’t think would be successful in New York,” she says. “However, we still wanted to reflect the customer service and treatments with a spa that had an Indian feel that wasn’t over the top—just a touch that portrayed a modern, cool India.”

Located in an 8,000-square-foot basement space, the spa features nine treatment rooms, including a couples room, and an orange and hot pink-tiled “Udi” room—a steam area similar to a Rasul room, where clients self-apply muds and salts from the Himalayan Mountains. There also is a dedicated street-level retail space that sells jewelry, supplements, oils, teas, candles and, of course, the multitude of books written by Deepak Chopra, MD. Tucked within the spa is a 1,000-square-foot meditation room. In addition to ayurvedic-based spa treatments, the facility also offers yoga and meditation classes, as well as top-notch lectures and wellness workshops.

Creating a touch of India

Ufland and interior designer Chris Collicott— who was responsible for the design of New York’s Stone Spa—established the colorful space that pays homage to India. “When we first met Vikram Chatwal, owner of the Dream and president of the Boutique Hotel division of Hampshire Hotels and Resorts, he wanted the spa to look like an old Indian village with cobblestone tiles, but we thought that would be too much like Disneyland,” Ufland explains. “We needed something with more edge, based on the central idea behind the Chopra Center of old-world science meets modern technology—a mix of Eastern and Western medicine. We wanted to reflect the same sense with the design, creating a spa that felt like India, but incorporated modern materials.”

For example, instead of cobblestones, Ufland’s team used a patchwork of travertine tiles. Handmade sliding doors in the treatment rooms incorporate mirrored, screen-printed Plexiglas, which is reminiscent of beautiful Indian wrought iron. Nepalese artist Karla Refojo painted the 24-foot Buddha fresco in the retail boutique. “We wanted everything to shine without looking tacky,” says Ufland. “In India, colors are mixed, but that’s never done in U.S. spas, which use tan, beige and sage. To create contrast, I threw in bright pillows, and hot pink and orange tiles.”

An ayurvedic beginning