A Spa of One's Own
Deanna Kizis -- Interior Design, 10/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Hotels are a public parade of lobbies, restaurants, elevators, hallways—until you finally get to your room and hang up that Do Not Disturb sign. So, when HCA Design principal Harry Christakis began planning the Kara spa at the Park Hyatt Los Angeles in Century City, he says he thought carefully about enticing guests to leave the hotel buzz behind them and enter a "natural enclosure in the city—for an intimate, sensual, boutique experience."
To establish balance and calm throughout the 6,500-square-foot space, Christakis used a consistent materials palette dominated by maple, cedar, and glass. He also defined the reception area as a transitional moment between activity and serenity. A rust-red wall guides the visitor's eye into the sanctuary, and—since Kara is the only spa in L.A. to carry the Italian line of Comfort Zone products—lotions, shampoos, and aromatherapy oils are prominently displayed on glass shelves.
Guests are greeted by a "spa concierge," who asks them what they hope to achieve with their visit. (Relaxation, invigoration, jet-lag relief, etc.) The concierge then recommends, say, an aroma-soul massage, which relies on ayurvedics to balance energy.
Anyone in search of a simple manicure-pedicure need not venture far beyond reception, as a 16-foot-long manicure bar stands right behind. Reminiscent of a conference table, it promotes gender neutrality as well as eliminating the visual clutter of multiple nail stations. Pedicures take place nearby, at two cotton-upholstered seats built into a maple unit.
From reception, guests walk through shoji-inspired doors of glass and aluminum, through an Eastern-style meditation and yoga garden landscaped with lush grass and native vegetation, and eventually to the spa's exceptional feature: Because the likes of Sean Connery, Chris Rock, and Usher prefer a more exclusive experience than that offered by L.A.'s multiple mega-spas, Christakis built three private treatment villas incorporating the Southern California indoor-outdoor experience. (Kara does, however, offer a communal gym along with steam rooms and saunas in the women's and men's locker rooms.)
Each villa has a courtyard with a deck and lounge chairs of stained cedar, and the treatment experience begins here with a foot-washing ritual to soak away stress; a manicure-pedicure session or a meal might follow. Inside the 680-square-foot villas, guests shower and change into plush terry-cloth robes. Massages are performed on an adjustable hydraulic table—or two tables in the popular couples villa. After a massage, guests are encouraged to bathe in a porcelain soaking tub that overflows with water tumbling from a spout in the ceiling, so the sight and sound of water contributes to the soothing atmosphere.
The changing area can provide a respite between sessions, too. Built into the ceramic-tiled wall, an S-curved shelf functions as a chaise longue. A flat-screen television hangs overhead, while music of choice plays in the background—state-of-the-art amenities that the male clientele, in particular, has responded to. Christakis, after all, enjoys a good massage himself, and he's eager to spread the word. "There may be some type A personalities who don't like spas," he concedes. "I promise I'm not one of them."