Designed for Success, Part II

The message from Part I of this article that ran in May is that you need to create and sustain two seemingly opposed energies in your spa environment—retail and treatment.

But you don’t want to create a feeling of friction or conflict; the yin and yang are components within an integrated whole. One way to do this is by using color. Again, endless theories abound, but generally it is a growing notion that white walls aren’t ideal. They seem cold and clinical, even for a medical spa environment. Still, the hygienic message conveyed by white must be communicated with color in every inch of the facility. One way to do this is with a tropical, citrusy palette, including sunny yellows and tangerines for your yang areas—entry and retail—and fresh, subdued aquamarines, turquoises and grass greens for the yin treatment areas—showers and relaxation spaces. These colors can be made very subtle when mixed with white, but still are a bit zingier than traditional pastels.

Pink, flesh and peach tones are traditional choices for spas. It certainly is a matter of taste, and these hues do flatter most skin tones. They can seem dated, however. An exception would be hot fuchsia paired with brown, white and silver for a cosmopolitan, metrosexual vibe, which may or may not work for your clientele. Earth tones also are a mixed bag. Although rusts, browns and terra cottas are grounding and soothing, they tend to look muddy if they aren’t mixed perfectly, may make the skin look sallow and can drag down the energy level like a bag of wet sand, so handle them with care.

The heart of the matter

In a perfect world—or at least a perfect spa—the treatment area itself is situated in the heart of the space. Generally, however, it is located at the back of a facility or down a long hall, tucked away to the side.

Treatment rooms are the real reason why clients show up, but it’s a mistake to sink a lot of your budget into their décor. This is simply because clients’ eyes are closed most of the time they are in these areas. Therefore, you don’t need an original Picasso on the wall. Far more important is the design—meaning the architectural logic and placement—especially from an ergonomic standpoint, keeping the body mechanics of the therapist your top priority. This also adds to the in-room experience. Designing the room in a way that allows therapists to consistently do their best work means taking into account the following key factors.

• Plan your system to ensure that therapists can access professional products and equipment effortlessly and soundlessly.

• Be willing to invest in a great electrical bed that can be adjusted easily.

• Build in a therapist control panel, so that they can adjust air, warmth and music at the press of a button to ensure supreme client satisfaction.

Considering that the average massage therapist burns out and quits the industry within five years, it is paramount to understand that how they move and stand can save their body and help prevent this. It is beneficial for them to give up the stool and get on their feet. Traditionally, skin therapists sit during most of a treatment. However, this is counterproductive.

First, from a body mechanics perspective, standing for long periods of time is easier than sitting, which actually is harder on the back. It also affords the therapist far more mobility, as long as they are wearing shoes with good support. And secondly, from an energy standpoint, consider that most therapists are women, and a woman’s energy center, or hara, is located just below the navel. This is where their power lies, energetically speaking.

Likewise, the top of a client’s head, or crown chakra, virtually is enclosed and embraced by the therapist as she works. This means that the client’s energy is pouring through that crown area into the therapist’s energy center, which is ideal for a truly flowing exchange. This results in a satisfied client and a therapist who might be able to avoid the burnout that eliminates the career longevity of more than 95% of the professionals who enter the spa industry.

Keep it clean

Hygiene must be a primary concern to spa professionals, and, although this may seem to be only a maintenance issue, it really comes down to design. Often, clients become disenchanted with a spa if they perceive that it isn’t clean. Have you ever noticed how some rooms truly are easier to clean, and to keep clean, than others? Some seem to become magnets for clutter, while others remain more orderly. Much of this has to do with how the space is utilized. “Dead” space, which doesn’t experience activity, becomes messy. This type of area also tends to be neglected and, therefore, not be kept as tidy as other more accessible, visible areas.

Ideally, every inch of every square foot of a spa should be dollar-generating. Keep this in mind when you select and arrange the furniture—the equipment and furnishings will dictate how effectively you can use your space and how easily you can keep it sparkling clean.

Give your clients some space

There are a number of theories that can shape how spas are designed and built. One of these is that women don’t mind being naked in front of each other. It is presumptuous to create a facility with no sensitivity to the need or desire for privacy. The degree of this is not only personal, it’s also cultural. As the United States’ international society becomes more and more diverse in every way, it would be wise to consider that women from traditional ethnic cultures may not be so keen about having to traipse around undressed in front of strangers. Gowns, robes, partitions, screens—even the way to access showers and restrooms—all must be considered as methods to make clients feel comfortable and enjoy their experience.

“Building” relationships

If you are planning and designing a new facility, remodeling an existing space or simply establishing your skin care practice in a single room, remember that the most important part about the building process is not the structure itself, but the building of relationships. Everything matters all the time. Issues such as hygiene and safety are non-negotiable and are not subjective—a sink either is clean or it’s not.

But many other issues are far more subtle, and you can drive yourself mad when trying to make the right choices. Yes, wall colors matter. Yes, the length-to-width proportion of the treatment room matters. Yes, your selection of music matters. But, at the end of the day, it’s really about how you make your clients feel, as well as the results that you consistently deliver.

The most essential aspect of designing a successful spa is not a matter of hardware, how the lighting is arranged or whether the front door faces east. What matters most are you and your team. You can visit a facility that does everything right in terms of design and décor, but it can leave you feeling empty or annoyed because the energetic connection was not made, or because the professionalism of the team left something to be desired. Focus first on the vision and the mission. In fact, write them out with a broad-tipped black marker on a piece of cardboard, and lean it against the wall as you make your design decisions. Refer to it often, because when your vision and spirit guide every physical choice you make regarding your spa, you’ve got a synergetic synthesis for success.

Editor’s note: In the May 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine, Annet King addressed the challenge of designing both the retail space and the treatment area in a spa differently. This month, the second part of the article discusses the importance of color, treatment room layout, hygiene, client privacy and the spa team.

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