Expert Tips for Redesigning Your Spa on a Budget

spa-design[Image: Getty Images]Does your spa look past its prime? Employ these expert tips for simple, inexpensive refreshes that will breathe new life into your business.

Beauty may only be skin deep, but when it comes to presenting the proper image to your clients, outward appearances may silently tell the story of your business’s overall professionalism and proficiency. Hence, if your spa design remains stagnant for years at a stretch, guests may carry that perception to the services themselves. “When you’re offering skin care, you want the most modern products, the latest education and the freshest approach,” says Alexis Ufland, owner and founder of Lexi Design in New York City. “But if your decor feels dated, that can negatively affect clients’ opinions of your spa’s entire brand.”

Luckily, there are easy and affordable ways to update a spa’s look and feel, from small accessories and colorful accents to specialty lighting and low-maintenance plants. Here are some ideas on how to primp up your spa’s key areas, straight from the pros who made them work.

Front and Enter

The front desk or reception area acts as a literal entryway to a positive first impression, so ensure its design welcomes and wows. “Updating one area of your spa is usually not enough—but if you must narrow it down for budgetary reasons, the front desk and retail areas will provide the quickest return on investment,” advises Mia A. Mackman, principal consultant for Mackman ES and founder and president of the Arizona Spa & Wellness Association, based in Sedona, Arizona.

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Ufland suggests buying a standout chandelier or other showpiece lighting to instantly boost the glamour factor; she often finds budget options at big-box stores like Home Depot. If you have a bit more cash, investing in new technology can dramatically streamline the reception’s look and increase efficiency. “With most software programs being cloud-based, you can pick and choose technology that matches your facility,” notes Ufland. “We love replacing old, clunky black computers with silver and rose gold iPads and stands, for example. Decluttering, and making everything cleaner and sleeker, totally changes the vibe at the front desk.”

You can also try a new feature, arrangement or point of attention in the reception area. Felicia Brown, business and marketing coach at Spalutions and owner of A to Zen Massage in Greensboro, North Carolina, has enacted simple but effective changes in spa entryways: adding a tabletop chime that invites guests to play, and a couple of salt lamps to infuse warmth. “We also placed an aromatherapy diffuser in this area so that people smell a fresh scent as soon as they walk in the door,” Brown adds. “We change it regularly, and write the ‘blend of the day’ on a small chalkboard nearby.”

spa-retail[Image: Courtesy of Alexis Ufland]Retail Revamp

Your retail area should already be a major moneymaker, but sprucing up its look and functionality can boost revenue further without requiring a major investment. For shelves’ backdrops, Ufland recommends using a coat of light-colored paint that reflects your spa’s brand message to make products pop. “You can also add strategic signage and decorative touches, which can be refreshed seasonally,” she says. “Get away from the ‘wall of shelves’ look and incorporate design-oriented pieces like vases or shelf talkers.” Consider using signs to arrange products by skin condition, highlight staff picks, or post five-star product reviews plucked from the web.

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Brown agrees that retail areas can be easily brightened up with a trip to the grocery, fabric or craft store. “Add eye-catching material, beads, shells, fruit or plants that correspond with the season, or use key ingredients or a product line’s color scheme to spruce up shelves and displays,” she suggests. “Also, move products around from time to time so guests aren’t always seeing the same items.”

Top Treatment

Treatment rooms are where clients spend a good portion of their spa time—yet they’re often looking at the ceiling. Hence, Ufland recommends refreshing these rooms through upper-area visuals such as specialty lights or decor. “For instance, in Tata Harper treatment rooms, creeping plants line the tops of the walls, adding a natural trim via greenery, but painted accents or artwork can create the same panache,” shares the design pro. Or, she adds, try switching up the bedding; even if you can’t afford
a new full set, upgrade the sheets or make a bed saddle with a sumptuous fabric that ties into your spa’s color scheme.

“Treatment rooms can have a completely different feel with a new coat of paint, a relaxing mural or piece of art, or a change of lighting,” says Brown. “Every room in my spa includes at least one salt lamp and often other types of dim lighting or fairy lights, which make each space feel less sterile and more cozy, personal and relaxing.”

spa-refreshments[Image: Courtesy of Credo]Lounge Life

Revamping the lounge area—where clients spend much of their downtime—will pay off greatly in terms of guest satisfaction. Mackman advocates subtle but meaningful design tweaks that add expressions of personality and authenticity. “Making changes using paint, fabric, wall art or fresh herbs is easy to pull off and demands very little investment,” she says. “Plus, they can be switched up on a regular basis.”

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Because the spa’s relaxation zone is a place “where people have time to catch up with themselves,” as Brown says, look for simple fixes to make their stay more enjoyable: Set up a corner bookshelf with inspirational titles that encourage self-discovery; add a self-serve tea station, new blankets and pillows; or install an activity such as a “worry box” where people can write down their troubles and deposit them. “Small, inexpensive updates can totally change the room’s energy and feel,” notes Brown.

Replacing furniture throughout a lounge can get pricey, but switching out a single couch or chair is relatively affordable. Another option: greenery. “You can create entire artworks with plants,” says Ufland. “Arrange them in a terrarium or mount succulents on the wall to bring in a living element.” She points out that the fiddle-leaf fig tree is a hot new plant in design; it’s low maintenance and can acclimate to many different temperatures.

Do Hue

Color affects mood and behavior, so it’s important to ensure your palette is creating the right environment for clients. For example, Brown sticks with warm but neutral wall colors to appeal to a range of tastes. “If repainting seems too daunting, you can easily alter the color scheme in a room by changing what’s in it,” she says. “New blankets, towels, rugs, sheets, pillows and accessories can achieve as much as a coat of paint.” Alternatively, if your budget is limited, consider an accent wall. “Painting one wall with a pop of color perks up a room by adding visual interest and composition,” notes Ufland.

For a truly personalized design element, Ufland suggests creating wallpaper for behind the front desk; it adds color and reinforces your identity. “We take the spa’s logo or initials and turn it into an interesting pattern—it’s easier and less expensive than you’d think,” she explains. “It injects your brand into the space and ties everything together.”

–by Tracy Morin

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