We all know how much atmospheric design can enhance an experience – and wellness institutions are no exception. In fact, it figures that for guests to get the most out of a treatment, they need to truly immerse themselves in their surroundings. Here are five wellness retreats using local materials and embracing cultural traditions in their design so it’s possible to do just that.
The spa at the heart this Yucatan hotel mixes ancient healing techniques with contemporary design. Wood-cabin treatment rooms are dotted around a cenote where early morning zen meditation takes place on the deck by the water.
There’s a a white conch, shell-shaped structure that’s used for copal cleansing rituals; three temazcal sweat lodges in a forest clearing; and a pool made from a green Brazilian marble with flecks of petrified wood. For Mexico City-based interior designer Paulina Moran, the aim was to translate the colour of the cenote to the pool so that guests could have the sensation of swimming in there.
Set within the vineyards of Château Smith Haut Lafitte in Bordeaux, the rooms and spa at Les Sources de Caudalie are in a collection of contemporary buildings, created from recycled local materials by architect Yves Collet. The main indoor pool is in a converted barn with original beams; floor-to-ceiling windows; and an underwater image by photographer Mathilde de l’Ecotais, made from aluminium plates on the floor. The beneficial properties of grapes and water, drawn from a natural hot spring 540 metres underground, form the basis of all treatments (such as a relaxing bubble ‘barrel bath’ infused with red vine extracts, a purifying merlot wrap), plus their own range of beauty products.
Local stone, wood and traditional alang-alang roofing were all key materials employed by renowned Malaysian architect Cheong Yew Kuan at this retreat, located north of Ubud. At the spa – which features a pilates studio, hydrotherapy pool and an outdoor jungle gym with a climbing wall – an unfussy, succinct approach to interiors by designer Koichiro Ikebuchi reflects the retreat’s core purpose: focusing the mind on thoughts of better physical, mental and spiritual health. Wellness programmes range from stress management to rejuvenation, and carefully crafted experiences include a private meditation session and treatment in Kedara, the estate’s tranquil garden where natural spring water flows into a series of pools.
Surrounded by forests in the foothills of the Himalayas on a sprawling Maharaja’s Palace estate, the spa at this ayurvedic retreat is inspired by nature and simplicity. The colour palette of the interiors – maroon, orange, yellow – takes its cue from the robes worn by Buddhist monks. There are statues of Buddha wrapped in red and yellow scarves, with matching textiles dotted around the space and artworks that depict Indian deities and flora and fauna. A live flutist plays throughout the day, accompanied by spiritual chants to calm guests arriving for treatments.
White marble, traditional Moroccan tiles in blue hues and carved plaster on the walls and ceilings are all typical elements of Moorish-Andalusian architecture that provide an instant sense of place at the spa at this resort on Morocco’s north coast. The courtyard garden layout is reflected in the spa design, where you’ll also find calligraphy paintings by local artists, wrought ironwork details and hand-cut brass lanterns. The same influences seen in the design are carried through to the treatments such as the ‘Moroccan Uplift’, which includes an Argan oil massage, a Rhassoul exfoliator and a mint-tea bath.
London-based freelance journalist Emma Love specialises in writing about interiors, design and travel for titles such as Elle Decoration and Condé Nast Traveller, where she is a contributing editor. She also writes for publications such as the Financial Times and the Guardian.