Room for improvement

Everyone knows that first impressions count, and in most cases the changing room is the first area of the spa that clients see, so how can you make the most of this space? Leisure Manager investigates

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By  Sarah Gain Published  August 19, 2006

|~|AlKamda---STEEL-LOCKERS-L.gif|~|Alkamda provides lockers for hotels, gyms and spas.|~|Changing out of street clothes and into a soft, fluffy robe is not just practical preparation for a spa treatment; it is also highly symbolic. The action of shedding their everyday clothes allows clients to free themselves of the burdens of their everyday lives, ready to be refreshed, revived and revitalised. “It’s like the saying, ‘leave your troubles at the door’. When you change into a dressing gown and slippers, you can leave your worries behind you, at least temporarily,” says one spa-goer. Clearly then, the space in which clients take this important first step on the road to relaxation is an integral part of the overall spa experience. Ideally, the tranquil atmosphere of the spa should extend into the changing rooms, but this is not always possible, as Sarah Lumley, director of spa and recreation at The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai, is well aware. “Ours was the first spa in the Middle East and has been open for seven years, so some of the features [of the spa] were designed for the market in the past, not for the market now,” she explains. “For example, although we have two changing rooms that cater for the members, we don’t have dedicated changing rooms for the spa. At the weekend, the changing rooms can get noisy with children, so it’s not as peaceful as I’d like.” “During the week [the changing rooms] are very quiet, but on a Friday, especially between 5pm and 7pm, it’s busy, so then we put the spa-goers into the treatment room to change, rather than the changing room. Separate changing rooms would make life a bit easier,” Lumley admits. For newer properties, it is easier to avoid this type of issue. At the Park Hyatt, Dubai, for instance, the layout of the spa within the context of the hotel as a whole was given considerable thought, according to Jason Sloan, spa manager at the hotel’s Amara day spa. “When planning and designing Amara, we put a great deal of thought into the location and the footprint of the guest’s journey when entering and exiting the changing facility in relation to the treatment rooms. We didn’t want the spa clients to be entering public areas, getting lost or creating a bottleneck,” he explains. “The facilities in the changing rooms are also very important to the client’s overall spa experience, of course, and we have a very large steam room in the changing rooms, as well as four huge rain showers,” he adds. Modesty is also always a key concern when it comes to changing room design, especially in Islamic countries. As it goes against Sharia laws to disrobe completely in front of other people, there is always demand for individual changing and showering cubicles at gyms and spas. “When creating shower spaces within locker rooms, it’s still necessary to have curtains or cubicles sectioning off each individual shower,” confirmsSanipex’s project manager, Julie Astbury. “You need some type of sight block between the entrance to the locker room and the lockers or showers, to preserve modesty, and the positioning of mirrors must be carefully thought out too,” she adds. When it comes to the overall design concept, the Far East is a popular influence, and spas often strive for a very natural and organic feel. “Glass basins and glass mosaic tiles are always firm favourites. Marble also works very well in these settings, so our new Bagno Bali range of marble basins, shower trays and accessories are proving very popular,” says Astbury. Also very popular at present are rain showers, such as those offered by Grohe. The Grohe Rainshower features DreamSpray technology, which offers optimal water distribution for an invigorating shower experience. The same amount of water is distributed to each of the shower’s nozzles, resulting in an even spray and users can choose from a range of settings including Wide, Rain, Champagne, Jet or Massage. The latest addition to Dornbracht’s Balance Modules series, the RainSky E shower, is inspired by nature, using the power of gravity to create a realistic rain effect. The electronically controlled rain module combines water, mist, light and scent. The shower’s three different settings allow the user to select a shower experience to suit their mood. The Restart programme stimulates energy, enveloping the user in a warm rain shower that gradually gets cooler and has cool bursts of mist to stimulate circulation. The second setting, Reload, is a gentle shower designed to be both relaxing and stimulating, with a rhythmic cycle similar to a Kneipp cure, the body is first warmed and then cooled slightly, restoring energy and leaving the user feeling revitalised. Finally, gentle pressure and constant warmth are offered with the Return setting. “The individual shower fields of rain curtain, overhead shower and body shower, and the mist jets, are selected by the various choreographies using the electronic control panel, as are the integrated lighting strips and the three scents,” says the company’s managing director, Andreas Dornbracht. Dornbracht also offers the fittings series, Tara.Logic, which feature tall, slender designs intended to suggest health and fitness, according to the company’s managing director. In the Tara.Logic Ritual Bathroom, the elongated fittings are combined with tall room dividers that split the room into six zones for separate preparation, face wash, body cleansing, showering and bathing areas, as well as a private gym. “Graphic, two-dimensional design elements, such as elongated real wood panels or large glazed and mirrored surfaces, enhance the character of [the fittings range]. The room is organised into sections by a variety of architectural solutions, such as a room divider that also houses the washstand, or backlit walls,” explains Dornbracht. No changing room would be complete without a safe place for guests to store their personal belongings. Coat racks and lockers of all shapes and sizes are available from the Christmann and Pfeifer group (C+P). C+P installed its Cambio locker system at Ski Dubai, where the large, yellow lockers were selected to fit with the overall design theme of an alpine ski resort. Alkamda also provides lockers to hotels, gyms and other institutions in Dubai, and Link Lockers, one of several lines supplied by the company, has anti-microbial treatment built in. Applied as standard to painted steel furniture, BioCote is a silver-based anti-microbial agent that is completely safe to touch. Incorporated in the power-coating process, it inhibits the growth of potentially harmful bacteria and fungi on treated surfaces and remains active for the life of the locker. Alkamda also offers the Marathon range of lockers, available in a variety of different materials with a choice of different lock options, layouts and finishes. Marathon glass lockers for use in wet areas incorporate aluminium bodies with moulded plastic shelves, while in dry areas the toughened glass locker doors can be combined with wooden bodies. All-wooden lockers are also available, using a wide range of wood veneers or wood grain, and finally the Marathon line also comes in compact grade laminate, suitable for wet or dry areas and designed to be hardwearing and easy to clean. Providing a comprehensive array of personal care and grooming products in the changing room shows consideration for the clients’ needs. Therefore, in partnership with London’s The White Company, Pacific Direct has developed a range of personal care amenities that includes everything from shower caps and sewing kits to cotton shoeshine mitts and vanity kits containing cotton make-up removal pads and cotton buds. “The White Company range also includes guest toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, shower and bath gel, and body lotion, available in 30ml, 50ml and 150ml bottles,” says Abigail Crowley, global marketing executive for Pacific Direct. “A new line of dispenser bottles is now also available for hand and body lotion, shower and bath gel, and hand wash and the 300ml bottles fit into specially designed, tamper-proof dispenser brackets,” she adds. Pacific Direct also manufacturers a wide range of slippers and flip flops that can be personalised with logos. The new Zendals brand of sandals is available in 12 different colours and comes with an optional, waterproof drawstring presentation pouch. “The sandals are waterproof and have built-in reflexology massaging circles that apply acupressure to the soles of the feet,” says Crowley. To keep the changing rooms smelling fresh, the Kenneth Turner collection includes floral-inspired room colognes and speciality scented candles. Blue Tangerine, the new Kenneth Turner line of candles and body products, uses natural, floral elements to invigorate and revitalise. The range includes scented candles, room spray and pot pourri, as well as an energising shower gel, soothing body lotion, refreshing hand wash and moisturising hand lotion. The citrus-scented Blue Tangerine collection is formulated from a blend of lemon, orange and mandarin oils, with accents of mint, lavender and patchouli, developed to simultaneously stimulate and relax. Also using natural ingredients, the La Source treatments from Crabtree & Evelyn are divided into two categories, offering relaxing or revitalising treatments. The company’s La Source Weekender pack comes in a durable mesh bag and contains a small shea butter soap, miniatures of relaxing body wash and relaxing body lotion, and a pack of talc-free powder, making it a handy gift set for spa or fitness centre clients. “The products are ideal for use after exercise, and each product offers multiple benefits,” says Sue Horne, Crabtree & Evelyn’s business development manager. “Key ingredients have also been added for maximum efficacy: soothing minerals rich in nutrients from the sea; botanical extracts and vitamin-rich oils.” Similarly, Elemis uses medicinal plants, organic herbs and revitalising sea weed extracts to create its Time to Spa guest amenities range. The Elemis products include Pure Shine Shampoo, Sharp Shower & Bath Gel, Wild Lavender Hand & Body Wash, Vitamin Rich Body Lotion and Pro-Vitamin Conditioner, and are available in 100ml and 300ml sizes as well as miniatures in 30ml and 50ml. “Dispenser bottles can be cost-effectively replenished, and single-use miniatures are perfect for changing rooms at gyms and spas,” says Crowley of Pacific Direct, which distributes Elemis. “The variety of products available means that hoteliers can introduce spa luxury into changing rooms.” By extending the luxury into the changing rooms in this way, it is possible to change a functional space into somewhere more inviting, drawing out the spa experience and allowing guests to step out of the spa feeling ready to face the world again. ||**||

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