Conjure calm at home with a spa-inspired bathroom


When it comes to unwinding at home, a go-to for many is a soak in the tub, although the degrees to which a bathroom transports one to a relaxing spa varies.

Luckily the spa environment can be replicated at home with the right design choices, peaceful colors, natural elements and thoughtful finishing touches.

“When I’m thinking of a spa bathroom and designing for a client, I’m thinking light and airy,” said Brian Brown, principal designer at Brian Brown Studio in San Diego. “It should just be super-low maintenance and easy to use.”

Natural order

While what reminds each individual of a spa experience differs, there are some elements that make it easy to create that atmosphere at home.

A standalone tub, rather than a tub/shower combo, is key.

“The ultimate luxury element is definitely the standalone carved marble bath,” said Alexander Purcell Rodrigues of Alexander Purcell Rodrigues Design in New York, Los Angeles and London.

“Sometimes actually we raise the bath onto a pedestal, which is quite nice – when the client has a room with a view, if they want to see the window they can gaze out from the tub.”

Photo courtesy of Brian Brown Studio

Add a tub to a large, open wet room with built-in elements such as large stone shower benches, and one is transported to the spa.

Whether wet or mostly dry, the bathroom needs to be a uniform space. To tie it all together, both designers go with a more neutral color palette with natural textures.

“I tend to do things that are more neutral because they’re more calm and serene,” Mr. Brown said. “I’ll use accents of black, like black fixtures, to make something stand out so it’s not just a total neutral palette.”

Then, he recommends adding “natural materials in a smart, modern way – using a different mix of them so the textures play off of each other. You need some sort of interest in there.”

Mr. Rodrigues often opts for stone.  

“I really like natural materials,” he said. “If you use stone a lot, it begins to give that natural feeling that you’re in the earth and surrounded by nature.

“And you can mix up stone textures as well, either by using the same stone but treating it differently by leathering it or brushing it, or using stones with different textures, begin to play with those interplays of materiality,” Mr. Rodrigues said.

Photo by Avablu Photography, courtesy of Alexander Purcell Rodrigues Design

Whether a matte or texture tile or nature stone, Mr. Brown said it should be carried across entire walls and to the ceiling – no more tiling just inside the shower glass.

 “It’s more luxurious and it just has a much nicer effect,” he said.

Peace full

There are plenty of small touches, as well, that add up to a full spa atmosphere at home.  

“I think that lighting is a huge one, and something that’s overlooked a lot,” Mr. Brown said. “You’ll never see harsh light in a spa.”

Mr. Rodrigues agrees.

“You need directional lighting in a bathroom,” he said. “Practically, you have to be able to shave and all that stuff, you have to see at some point. But if you want to relax, you want to be able to turn the mood down and turn the lights down.”

Mr. Brown likes to add indirect lighting sources underneath vanities and behind mirrors. Automated systems can also lower larger lights to a spa setting.

Photo courtesy of Brian Brown Studio

Fixtures such as faucets and handles, too, are important to the total package.

“More so than the color of the fixture, it’s the weight of the fixture,” Mr. Brown said. “How does it feel in the hand? Does it feel relaxing, does it feel solid, can you get a good grip on it? The nice spas that you go to have nice fixtures. It makes a huge difference in the way it feels.”

Other items to borrow straight from the spa are nature-infused scented candles or oils, matching dispensers for luxe soaps and lotions, and lavish towels and robes.

“Having things that are really plush and soft makes all the difference after you get out of a nice bath,” Mr. Brown said.

“I think sound is also a very important thing,” he added. “Make sure you have speakers in there so you can play tranquil music or whatever floats your boat.”

Last, but equally important to all of the elements in view, are the things that need to be kept out of view.

“One of the keys to a spa-like bathroom is actually storage, because if you have a bathroom with clutter everywhere it certainly doesn’t feel like a spa,” Mr. Rodrigues said. “Hide all of that stuff that really rear-ends the mood.”