Retreat yourself

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 August, 2007, 12:00am

The at-home gym - that room or corner devoted to a Stairmaster and a pair of weights - has gone the way of padded shoulders and perms. These days, anybody with room to spare and money to spend is building a home spa instead.

It's more than just creating a spa experience at home with massage oils and scented candles - spa buffs are getting kitted out with all the luxuries they might enjoy at one of their favourite pampering parlours.

'People are creating areas that are a combination of spas and gyms,' says Nancy Trent, a New York-based consultant to the spa industry. 'They include meditation and relaxation areas, as well as bathrooms equipped with spa-standard equipment. It's about a total experience and it can be as expensive as you like - the sky's the limit.'

In Hong Kong, spa enthusiasts with the money to indulge their habit are getting in on the act.

Caroline Ma, co-founder of Jason Caroline Design in Central, has worked on several home-spa projects. Last year, for example, she helped a client convert a 2,700sqft space into a spa and Zen garden. She has also worked on smaller projects, creating open or semi-open bathrooms, fitting showers with circular glass and installing jacuzzi tubs.

Ma says that because most of her clients belong to clubs or gyms, it makes sense for them to have a spa at home. And because regimens such as Pilates and yoga have outstripped aerobics in popularity, having a little mirrored exercise room at home seems pointless.

'It's really a continuing trend,' says Ma. 'People are placing more importance on their bathrooms, creating a spa atmosphere that's part of the bedroom.' Large showerheads that mimic rainfall and huge bathtubs are especially sought after.

'If clients have enough space, they might also include an area where they can put a massage table,' she says.

In the US, sales of spa equipment to individuals have reportedly risen significantly. Patrick Porter, chief executive of California-based New Reality, has devised what he calls a mental massage device that can be used at home as well as in a spa. Designed using imagery set to music, the kit promotes stress reduction, pain control, menopause relief and even a better golf swing.

Porter says he first began selling the devices to spas for professional use, but they're being snapped up for home use.

Committed spa fans are also installing tubs made by Sanijet, a Texas company that has converted the technology they use in luxury spas for home use.

'Hydrotherapy is one of the most authentic of spa experiences and something that can be brought into the home,' says Philip Klement, vice president of sales and marketing. The bathtubs use pipeless technology, reducing noise, and have quiet jets. They come in a range of colours and, although they cost US$5,000, they promise the kind of hydrotherapy treatment on offer at high-end spas.

Other manufacturers are pushing the boundaries even further. Wellness Shower of Florida uses Japanese technology in a shower head to reduce the chlorine and other contaminants in the water.

The body is said to absorb up to 1,000 per cent more contamination during a 10-minute shower than if someone were to drink unfiltered tap water all day. Wellness president David Fowler says the shower head was originally developed for spa use. 'It never made sense to us that someone would have a US$400 massage and facial treatment and then stand under a shower full of contaminants,' he says. The product has now become very popular in home spas. It fits any shower, costs US$249, and is sold around the world

'Especially at home, people want to make sure they're getting the best care for their skin, hair and bodies,' Fowler says.

His company is now developing a bathtub for home use with a hi-tech filtration system.

Like the shower head, it will contain Japanese minerals and far-infrared-emitting ceramics to eliminate chlorine and improve the quality of water, allowing it to be absorbed more effectively by the skin.

Fowler says it will go on sale early next year. If demand for bringing the purifying experience of spas into the home continues to grow, the device is likely to find a market.




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