A Wabi-Sabi inspired Design scheme for a Spa

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The suggested ‘Spa Design scheme’ possesses a rustic charm and character where various elements (including sustainability and biophilia – nature inspired design elements) come together in a uniquely wabi-sabi way; at the same time incorporating antiquarian minimalism to add that swank and oomph factor perfectly suited for a luxurious spa scheme; where it will be all about nostalgia and storytelling; where beauty would not be about abandoning self-care or  spending all your time to spackle over every freckle or cover up every gray hair or turn your face into a blank canvas, for that matter; but rather pampering your body without nipping and tucking into submission; taking good care of yourself, your health, wellbeing – much the same way that the Japanese tea masters took exquisite care of their pottery, cracked and imperfect as it was.; wholly engaging ourselves and our senses with nature and the world around us – the natural ecosystem – in fact being in harmony with it. After all, Our stories lie in our imperfections, the scars we got from doing a sport we love, the chipped nails after a day spent in our beloved garden.

If we were to apply purely wabi-sabi design ideals and aesthetic principles, that would mean incorporating all of the above mentioned along with cultivating an imagery of genteel poverty; where wabi-sabi is known to have grown as a Japanese take on a way of living as being a simplistic aesthetic centered around eliminating/trimming away the inessentials.; hence, obviously balancing between the peripheries of minimalism. However, keeping abreast of current trends and despite being based upon Wabi-Sabi principles at large, this proposed spa design will be incorporating ‘Antiquarian Minimalism’ at its core instead of the ‘Stark Minimalistic Japanese Zen’ ethics; lest towards much more sensual and visually rich designs.

INDIVIDUAL DESIGN ELEMENTS:

  • Choice of natural stones (see reception counter in mood board- utilizing dark grey basalt split), plaster, bricks, natural wood and concrete (for floors and walls) to maintain the wabi-sabi as well as the biophilic feel. This would be perfectly complemented by Low/Zero VOC Paints.

 

  • The interface between the outside and the main area provided by the reception circumscribed by indoor/outdoor living plant solutions by Vivid DesignThe plants only need to watered about once in two months.

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  • Antique Copper Finish sink bowl perfectly synchronizing with ‘Antiquarian Minimalism’ as well as the ‘Wabi-Sabi’ appeal.

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  • Japanese Onsen Bath Barrels made of Cedar wood

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  • A black cerused wood counter attached to one of the walls of the relaxation area,  where all kinds of tea (including the ‘Well-Coveted’  Japanese Matcha Tea) will be cooked live in the presence of the client –  so as  to enable him/her to immerse into the aroma and essence of the respective ingredients; in turn providing a overall sensory experience; to cater to the clients’ need to have an ‘experience’ as opposed to only tangible/material gains; in turn something that would stick with them and cause repeated business

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  • Reclaimed wooden built-in shelf showcasing any and every possible (organic/self-grown) ingredients that can be used to create the concoctions of treatment. The clients will be invited, upon arrival to experiment with them according to the treatment they choose/book for (Where Wabi sabi principles suggest the natural, simple, and that prepared from intuition – the entire process being a creative, joyful act, gratifying for the senses). As a result this would give them the opportunity to indulge their senses (touch and even taste in certain instances), appreciate and nourish the whole ingredients – adding immense value to the entire ‘experience.’ The aim would be to taste as well as quite literally inhale that richness of smells and also hear the sounds and feel the textures hands-on. Clients will also be given an option to buy these upon exiting.

 

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  • Japanese tatami mats and boughs of cedar filling the sinks, not allowing the slightest of sounds. Even though tatami mats are not well-suited for bathroom areas due to moisture and humidity, there are tatami mat replica tiles (composed over natural stone such as limestone) which can be used in such areas to achieve similar visual and sensory effects.

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  • Sheaves – Reed/bamboo bench by Steven Banken; an idyllic representation of the Wabi-Sabi simplicity, raw-ness as well as the uniqueness of Antiquarian minimalism. Ofcourse, it being manufactured of purely natural materials makes it a perfectly green and biophilic choice as well.

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  •  Hammock as a choice of seating – made out of natural cotton rope:

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  • Organic jute/bamboo-replica relaxing lounge chairs.

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  • In her book ‘Japanese Interior Design’, Galindo (2011) explains how it is “typical of Japanese interior design to find the combination between open space and solid volumes” and playing with perspectives. These ‘scaled-up’ soft and comfy seating pads could serve a similar purpose; pebble-like seats in pastel hues are actually part of a recreational area in an arts university in Tokyo created by Igarashi Design Studio:

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  • Organic furniture designs such as this ‘Organique bed by Gie El’ – customizable according to the client needs and utilizing concrete, steel and handbrushed wood:

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  • Biodegradable fabric for sofa/bed covers/sheets: Reportedly produced by the Swiss Firm Rohner, the team decided to design (compostable material) a fabric that would be safe enough to eat. Not only has it led to reduction in waste disposal costs for the company, but has also provided the opportunity to sell the scrap of the all-natural product (in the form of felt-like material) to local farmers/gardeners – to be used as Mulch or Ground-cover. Regulators reputedly claim that the water discharged in the aftermath of the factory operations is as clean (or even cleaner). 

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  • A Japanese style Shoji opening up into the main reception area:

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  • followed by another one opening up to the main activity/treatment area; two more will be placed on the relaxation area walls; these in particular will be intended to look like museum quality reproduction similar to the likes of the 18th Century Japanese set of four Fusuma. In the 19th to 20th century Japanese artistic influences were carried over to Europe and paintings no longer functioned only as windows into nature but also as aesthetic ornaments part of an overall planned decor scheme:

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The print chosen will be less luminous (so as to keep the surroundings not too bright/lit-up) to keep up with the overall Wabi-Sabi feel.

The screen opening up into the reception area would use glass panels instead of paper for security, insulation as well as preventing wear and tear purposes. However, for all the other shoji-style partitions part of the design scheme, the Awagami Inkjet Paper (AIJP) will be used. The particular paper type chosen is KOZO (mulberry). According to the Awagami facory, “it has the basic Japanese washi look with extreme durability and the subtle beauty that kozo fibres afford”. It is best suited for purposes here as it is highly recommended for “giclee’ prints, museum quality reproductions, fine art, scrolls” and especially Asian-style works. Additionally, it is known to be great for backlit for example, requiring semi-transparent paper with very high tensile strength. The overall aim is to emanate a cultural/exotic as well as a handcrafted/artisanal feel. Ofcourse most importantly, these Japanese partition encounters will ensure a wabi-sabi touch from the very beginning of the clients’ ‘stepping-into-the-spa-premises experience’; in that by their very nature, Japanese art from the very beginning of time, employed reduced colour palettes, inspiration from nature, and arabesques. The most mystical detail is that each and every painting is as if ‘cut’ out of a bigger scene – that no one piece shows a complete scene; so as to encourage the viewer to ‘imagine’ the rest of the story. Similarly in Japanese interiors as well, a lot is left on the eyes of the beholder

  • What could be more perfect than to embellish the reading/relaxing area with Nicholas Jones’s work, a perfect blend of wabi-sabi and antiquarian- minimalism culture:

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  • Light shadow effect in the reception area using a particular ceiling arrangement of ‘Arish’ (structure made from Palm Tree and Fronds – hence locally available in the UAE, making it low carbon footprint as well as a biophilic as well as a wabi-sabi design choice) and ‘Natural Wooden Beams’. Directional spotlights from ‘Superfuture Design’ will be used to replicate the effect of warm sunlight peaking through portions of the ceiling façade and in turn, creating the light/shadow interplay. It is claimed that individual light fixture can produce up to 8.1 m^3 of purified air for the surroundings. ‘SuperFutureDesign’ recently showcased how these lights work through their ‘Bettair- Housing’ installation at the recent Dubai Design Week (November 2017). These draw upon the principles of sustainability and materiality utilizing eco-friendly, anti-polluting light fixtures which work even when switched off.
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  • Stretched ceilings systems (shown below) made from special PVC membranes, stretched with a hot air blower and fixed to proprietary europrofiles. A perfect depiction of bringing nature inside and hence ‘biophilic design’.

 

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  • Ceiling pendant lighting locally manufactured (hence minimising the carbon footprint) from natural/reclaimed wood – serving as the most apt biophilic, green as well as a wabi-sabi design choice:

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  • Matcha utensil shaped lighting pendant constructed out of all natural materials /wood. 
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  • 12.29scent make scented products including candles, room sprays, perfumes, hand and body washes, reed diffusers, scented tissue papers and clothing. Perhaps the candles could be appropriately placed to create the right aura and clients could also have lavender scented gowns and towels while undergoing the treatments at the spa: A candle scent titled ‘A Vivid and Wild Beauty’ claimed to tap into the subjects visual, auditory and tactile senses; the scent itself being composed of “Lactonic Florals, Freshly Turned Earth and Crunchy Vegetal Green’; adequately befitting our biophilic surrounds as well as the overall design’s ‘emotional’ requirements:

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  • This exquisite gold-plated medallion/wall-jewel by Carina Wagenaar, about 89 by 55 cm in size:

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Each of the medallions represents its individual story but revolves around the common theme of ‘spiritual rejuvenation’. This one in particular is called ‘Horus’ and is centered around “care for earth” in the creator’s own words. This would perfectly embody the essence of  ‘Antiquarian Minimalism’ together with ‘Biophilic Design’

  • Oriental ‘Antiquarian’ wardrobes and cupboards.
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  • To further deepen the sensory experience, some of the tea utensils will be  similar to black lacquerware, gilded and antiqued around the edges – light and soft to touch and hardly giving out a sound. This teapot (shown above) is by tang pin tea and Kyoto mugs (ceramic) by Blythecollectiveshop – to serve tea to clients after treatment in the relaxation area. Utensils with heft and texture will be chosen in a way to deepen the overall sensory experience.

 

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MOODBOARDS:

Mood Board - Reception_A3Mood Board - Relaxation Room_A3Mood Board - Treatment Room_A3

MATERIAL SAMPLE BOARDS:

Material Sample Board - ReceptionMaterial Sample Board - Relaxation RoomMaterial Sample Board - Treatment Room

 

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