Setting a New Standard
Standing out in the hipster haven of miami beach is a difficult proposition. new clubs, trendy restaurants, hot hotels, and sexy spas come and go at a frenetic pace as hoteliers battle for supremacy of the South Beach kingdom. One monarch, however, has shunned the beach scene to create a haven of communal relaxation and hydrotherapy that has yet to be seen in South Florida. André Balazs, the mastermind behind The Chateau Marmont and The Standard hotels in Los Angeles and The Raleigh in Miami Beach, recently unveiled The Standard, a spa hotel unlike any other. Balazs's first true foray into spas, it is a $200 million minimalist vision found on the site of the Lido Spa Hotel in the lush residential enclave of Belle Isle, along Biscayne Bay. With its pristine views, communal water-based treatment areas, and holistic vision, the spa is the antithesis of the party scene located just a few blocks away. "The whole point is that you're not on the beach and not on Collins Avenue," says Balazs. "The spa is an antidote to everything on the beach."
Guests can apply exotic muds to themselves and to others in the outdoor Mud Lounge before relaxing in the sun.
The Standard offers a spa experience that emphasizes do-it-yourself treatments and a focus on water-based therapies. The entire third floor of the hotel is an indoor and outdoor hydrotherapy playground. The indoor baths include a vast Turkish-style hammam, steam and scrub rooms, a cedar sauna, and a shower room that offers music from DJs around the world. Outside are such amenities as a Roman waterfall hot tub, an arctic plunge pool, a falling water column, an infinity pool with sound piped underwater, and a lounge where guests can apply mud to themselves and to others. Hydrotherapy tubs of different shapes and sizes are also interspersed throughout the space. Individual treatments are available in the spa, Vaso salon, and en suite, but the focus is indeed on community. "The idea was to create a role of bathing in the daily routine comparable to the role of bathing in the days of the Romans," says Balazs. "Then, the spa was a place to relax, exercise, socialize, and expand the mind intellectually. We've created a place like that."
A variety of hand and foot treatments are available in the intimate Vaso Salon.
Balazs says that while his spa appears to be an anomaly in today's booming marketplace, which focuses heavily on individual treatments, it is actually inspired by ancient traditions of sophisticated cultures in Europe and Asia and even the Native American community, which emphasized communal rituals as an important aspect of society. "The range of experiences at The Standard are like those found at true spas, back before a spa came to mean a rubdown with oil or smoothing the skin with hot rocks," he says. "The American spa business has largely been fueled by companies that built the salon industry and created products that they push for treatments. Americans grow up thinking a treatment means another individual has to apply a product to them or physically do something to them for it to be a spa treatment. We are liberating people from that overly commercialized definition of a spa."
The infinity pool offers a serene, unobstructed view of Biscayne Bay.
According to Balazs, he and his team adhere to the mantra, "The Standard isn't." Another place this is readily apparent is in the price points of service. Because so many experiences at the spa don't necessarily use the skills of a massage therapist or esthetician, costs to the spa-goer can be considerably less. The Turkish Hamam Rub and Scrub, a soap massage and steam, for example, costs $65 for 25 minutes, while use of the communal areas is free for hotel guests and clients enjoying other treatments. It is also available for a minimal cost to walk-ins.
The hammam room, with its extra-wide slabs and circular shape, encourages group relaxation.
"Our pricing is very deliberate," says Balazs. "Many of our treatments are 'do it yourself,' and this was a conscious effort to try to find ways to make people feel good about themselves and help them feel good all by themselves. By eliminating some of the costs of having someone spend an hour performing a treatment, we eliminate a whole level of expense."
In the Scrub Room, clients are encouraged to scrub each other down and use the invigorating high-pressure hoses.
This strategy is particularly important for The Standard's local clientele. "We have far too many square feet of spa facility to justify based on the room count alone," says Balazs. Because only 100 rooms are available at the hotel, local business is imperative. Membership packages range from $100 per month for residents within a mile radius to $200 a month for an all-access pass to the indoor and outdoor baths. Unlimited yoga and other classes at The Standard Center for Integral Living are also part of the all-access pass. "To me, it would be ideal to make The Standard a place you stop by every day on your way home from work," says Balazs.
The Aroma Steam Room is infused with scents of chamomile, eucalyptus, lavender, or mint, depending on guest preference.
The Standard also offers distinct products and treatments beyond hydrotherapy. Once again, exploration and holistic alternative offerings are paramount. That explains why Moon Phase Treatments, a variety of biodynamic treatments based on the phases of the moon, and holistic, somewhat obscure product lines like Astara and Just Pure, among others, were selected. "A lot of what we are doing in general is having people explore and ask questions," says spa director Jason Harler. "We approached our products from that mentality, specifically seeking out situations with a story, a world view, and really amazing origins. We offer what I consider to be the best lines representing holistic culture."
Once again, it appears Balazs has succeeded in making his mark. Harler says the spa is booked solid four to five days a week and that he is proud to see clients of all ages, from all walks of life, embracing The Standard. Adds Balazs, "People are absolutely crazy over it. It is everything we were hoping for—people are astounded and love it and are passionate about it." It's hard to imagine setting a higher standard than that.