A day spa's healthy glow
Jen Renzi -- Interior Design, 3/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Minimalism is the last thing you'd expect to encounter at a day spa named Maximus. With polished-concrete floors, dark-stained wengé millwork, and white marble countertops, the New York space exudes an unmannered calm. But despite fuss-free lines and pared-down ornamentation, the Maximus Soho brand of minimalism promotes sensory gratification. "Our goal was to engage all of the senses," explains New World Design Builders partner Chris Kofitsas. His firm completed the 2,800-square-foot subterranean spa—as well as many of its treatments—in collaboration with client Richard Calcasola.
Touch, sight, and hearing are stimulated in the entry sequence, which provides just a hint of what awaits. To reach the spa, customers pass through Maximus Soho's ground-floor salon, then descend a floating stair of wengé and steel. Says project manager Mark Kibutu, "Richard's one design request was for a wow staircase." He got one. As the structure unfolds, it cuts through a two-story "waterfall" of oil cascading down a PVC panel lit by LEDs. "Oil has a more viscous flow than water and never needs to be replaced or filtered," says Kofitsas. (His search for the purest oil on the market led, coincidentally, to one that Maximus Soho stocks for treatments.)
The circular sunken waiting area is ringed by metal-bead curtains and banquettes upholstered in buttery faux suede. From here, spa-goers proceed to one of the eight private treatment rooms, wrapped by tempered-glass walls backed by stretched-polyester scrims. Inside each room, New World embedded computer-programmed LEDs in the floor along the base of the tempered-glass walls. These LEDs wash the rooms in any of 6.7 million colors, from an insistent citrus yellow to a pensive lavender, thought to enhance physical and emotional well-being. "I'd always wanted to play with illumination in a spa environment, but it was a challenge. We had to do a bit of tweaking to match the projected colors with the Pantone samples," says Kofitsas.
The treatment rooms line a corridor that leads to the spa's star offering, the "water journey." The journey starts with a full-body exfoliation, a Vichy Shower, and a soak in a 150-jet hydrotherapy tub. The final destination is a cylindrical steam room where, if things get undesirably steamy, patrons can seek relief by leaning their heads into the "cold plunge." This stream of water—a bracing 47 degrees Fahrenheit—falls from a stainless-steel spigot to a marble-topped trough below.
None of this would be possible without two 400-gallon water tanks and a 1.5 million-BTU boiler. And because the spa's cast-iron building is in a landmark district, these space-hogging mechanicals had to be hidden inside. To maximize the remaining square footage, New World and Calcasola brainstormed a clever alternative to the standard facial. Aestheticians administer the treatment at a white-marble communal counter that curves around the waiting area, rather than in private rooms. "We designed it to be like a bar, complete with facial cocktails whipped up by bartenders," says Kofitsas. "It's a more social approach."