I’ve always longed to bring the spa vibe into my own bathroom. My friend and bathroom designer Kathleen Finley is a master at how to achieve this. She recently revealed to me the secret to delivering key elements of a spa bathroom into bathroom design.
Key elements of a spa bathroom are easy to integrate if you think of the categories of ancient elements: earth, fire, water and air. By including elements in your bathroom design that come from each of the ancient elemental categories, you can achieve the serenity of a spa right in your own bathroom.
A Spa Bathroom Includes Accents from the Ancient Elements
You can bring accents inspired by the ancient elements into your bathroom to achieve a spa-like feel. Let’s take a look at each element and how it can inspire your spa bathroom.
The Earth Elements of a Spa Bathroom
The earth is naturally healing and calming. It’s grounding, too. When we feel anxious, earth elements pull us back to our roots to soothe us.
With this in mind, here are earth elements to incorporate into your design:
1. Natural Woods
Kathleen points out that when you go to the spa, you’ll often see furniture and design accents in natural woods, especially bamboos. You can find bath accessories like bath mats and bath caddies in bamboo and this can add to the overall Zen feel of your bathroom. (Here are my favorite wood bath accessories.)
2. Neutral, Natural Colors and Subtle Textures
“Everything in a spa is very subtle,” Kathleen says. “Natural, neutral colors and fine textures that aren’t in your face help add to the spa feeling. Also, avoid any accessories that are bright, shiny and in-your-face.”
If you’re stuck with a pink or avocado-colored tub, or a dingy looking neutral, don’t despair! You can refinish the surface of your tub in about 4-6 hours with an eco-friendly, nontoxic refinishing kit. Read all about how to reglaze your tub and change the color.
3. A Comfortable Seat
Every spa includes a comfortable seating area where you can unwind and sip your cucumber water. If space permits, try to have a place in your bathroom where you, too, can sit and primp in front of the mirror or simply daydream. A wooden, mildew-resistant bamboo or teak stool would be ideal.
The Air Elements of a Spa Bathroom
Our breath is air, of course. When the air is pure, we breathe easily and let our worries go. Air is the element that sparks imagination and encourages us to hope for the future.
Here are some air elements to incorporate into your spa bathroom:
4. Bathroom Plants
Plants are great for so many reasons. Not only does simply looking at nature inside our homes cause us to exhale more deeply, but the plants are cleaning the air for us, causing us to inhale more oxygenated air. Kathleen recommends one large potted plant and several smaller accent plants. And don’t let a bathroom without windows stop you! There are plants that can flourish in any type of bathroom. (Discover the best bathroom plant for your space.)
5. Soft, Plush Towels
A 100% bamboo towel is going to be thin, but a blended bamboo towel is plush, luxurious and extra, extra soft. They’re wonderful for sensitive skin because they’re naturally antimicrobial and highly absorbent. Blended bamboo towels are also eco-friendly; bamboo doesn’t require watering. In fact, it naturally repels viruses and bacteria and dramatically improves the air.
Needless to say, while a thin, irritating towel can wreck the vibe of your bathroom, a truly decadent towel is essential for the spa effect. (Here’s my favorite bamboo towel.)
6. Floor-to-Ceiling Tile
You want to create a clean, elongated look. Kathleen explains that most people only tile from the floor halfway up the bathroom wall. “It might be cost-prohibitive to tile up to the ceiling,” she explains. “Or a client might want to hang a picture on the wall, which you can’t do so easily on tile. However, tiling from floor to ceiling is a really great way to provide a clean, uncluttered look that definitely soothes and relaxes.”
For a step-by-step guide and tile calculator, see 10 Steps to Choosing the Perfect Bathroom Tile.
Water Elements of Your Spa Bathroom
We can’t live without water. Water takes the shape of whatever container it’s in. It represents our ability to change and grow. In the bathroom, water can be both a healing and purifying force.
Try these ideas for adding a water element to your spa bathroom:
7. Waterfall Faucets
These types of faucets for your sink and bathtub mimic the rhythm of a waterfall in nature. Not only are waterfall faucets beautiful pieces of hardware, but watching the water flow into a bathtub or sink from a waterfall faucet can be downright mesmerizing! Learn more about the best waterfall faucets.
8. Bidet Attachment
In much of the developed world, only using toilet paper is considered a dirty way to clean oneself. Instead, the toilet can be fitted with an attachment called a bidet. This device will spray the user with water and, trust me, you will feel much cleaner as a result. An added benefit is that the bidet is an eco-friendly choice over toilet paper, preventing deforestation and using much less water than is required in the manufacturing of toilet paper. You will find a bidet in many European spas and across much of Asia as well.
9. Bathtub Jacuzzi
If you don’t already have jacuzzi jets on your bathtub, consider adding bubbles to the mix. There are many ways to do this, ranging from a temporary jacuzzi bath mat (life-changing!) to truly installing hot tub jets in your existing bathtub. Learn more about how to turn your bathtub into a jacuzzi.
Fire Elements of Your Spa Bathroom
Fire is our energy, our inner drive, our desire. In the spa bathroom, fire plays an absolutely essential role in creating the right atmosphere—at once relaxing but also full of passion.
Here are some ways to add fire to your spa bathroom design:
10. Subtle Lighting
You’ll want to avoid stark lighting and bright white bulbs. Instead, use layers, and consider avoiding overhead lights altogether. Think about a strip of lights illuminating the underside of your vanity, or a sink faucet that lights up blue when in use. Put all lights on dimmers and choose your bulbs carefully. For more expert ideas on how to choose bathroom lights, see Secrets to Achieve the Best Bathroom Lighting.
Most spas indulge all the senses. To this end, choose one beautiful aromatherapy candle that makes a statement. Leave it on the vanity and light it as you fill your tub or run the shower. Think about scents like lavender and eucalyptus that are proven to have relaxing, stress-reducing effects. (Pictured above is a double-wicked soy eucalyptus lavender candle.) If you want to add smaller candles to adorn the room, be sure the scents mingle well and remember to stick to earth tones.
One gorgeous crystal on the vanity or even on a stand on top of the toilet can add incredible sparkle to your bathroom decor. Imagine the candlelight light reflecting off the crystal in the semi-dark and you can almost feel the heat. Pictured above is a natural amethyst geode crystal cluster.
So How Can You Turn Your Bathroom into a Spa?
If you choose one design piece from each of the four ancient elements, your bathroom will achieve balance. “Remember, keep it simple and understated,” Kathleen says. “That way, you’re more likely to end up with the spa-like bathroom of your dreams.”