Magnificent Makeover

In Beverly Hills, a fabulous facelift isn't normally all that newsworthy—unless, of course, it comes with a $40 million price tag. Although the recent recipient of one such high-priced makeover isn't a Tinseltown celebrity, it is a Los Angeles icon nonetheless. The Sofitel Los Angeles, a posh Hollywood property, recently got a massive update. At the heart of this pricey revamp is LeSpa at Sofitel, a lavish new 5,000-square-foot eight-treatment-room relaxation retreat that opened in December and was created to meet the spa needs of the area's stylish residents and visitors.

According to spa director Maureen Schumacher, the spa has a modern, natural look that is contemporary and luxurious with a design focus on water and natural light that reflects the spa's Southern California location. The treatment rooms are made up of six luxurious private rooms and two spa suites, which are ideal for couples' treatments and feature personal changing areas, steam showers, and hydrotherapy tubs with chromotherapy, as well as an outdoor cabana for alfresco services. The spa also features deluxe manicure and pedicure stations and a secluded candlelit Serenity Room for pre- and post-treatment relaxation. "Our guests are looking for an experience that extends beyond the treatment room to all areas of the spa," says Schumacher. "They are looking to unwind in an environment where they can escape their Blackberries, where we force them to turn them off."

 LeSpa's contemporary yet natural design inspires spa-goers to relax.
LeSpa's contemporary yet natural design inspires spa-goers to relax.

While the soothing decor is indeed stunning, Schumacher says the spa's most distinctive feature is its focus on customization. Prior to all services, guests are treated to a heated rock foot bath infused with scented salts and rose petals and including a signature tea service in the ethereal Serenity Lounge. "The scent of the salts and the flavor of the tea are coordinated with the treatment the guest is about to receive," she says. "When the therapists come to the lounge to pick up their guest, they remove the client's feet from the bath one at a time, dry them off, apply Decléor's cooling Circulagel to the legs, and place slippers on his or her feet. This allows the guest to acclimate to the therapist prior to his or her service and begin the relaxation process before even entering the treatment room."

Inspired nailcare services, such as the Stiletto pedicure for high-heel wearers, are performed at one of the spa's natural light-filled manicure and pedicure stations.
Inspired nailcare services, such as the Stiletto pedicure for high-heel wearers, are performed at one of the spa's natural light-filled manicure and pedicure stations.

Spa services are also personalized, starting with a choice of music on the iPods found in each treatment room. Most facials are also tailored to each client to address the needs of all skin types. Additionally, the most popular service is the So You customized massage ($145, 50 minutes; $195, 80 minutes), where guests are allowed to add hot stone, aromatherapy, or deep pressure techniques to their session. "We encourage the guest to be creative and design the perfect treatment at no additional charge," says Schumacher.

The user-friendly menu is chock-full of diverse options, many of which take advantage of California's indigenous ingredients. Among the menu highlights are seasonal treatments, which feature lemon, sugar, beeswax, and rose in summer; grapeseed, cinnamon, and clove in fall; dark chocolate, champagne, and peppermint in winter; and orange blossom, avocado, and eucalyptus in spring. The menu also offers a variety of treatments for men, as well as sessions designed to treat jet lag and to soothe the sunburned skin of clients who may have overindulged at area beaches. "I wanted to reflect not only our local environment but also the global image of Sofitel," says Schumacher.

The Sofitel Los Angeles, located in the heart of Beverly Hills, recently underwent a $40 million renovation.
The Sofitel Los Angeles, located in the heart of Beverly Hills, recently underwent a $40 million renovation.

The selection of products used during treatments was equally well-thought-out. Schumacher selected Essie for nailcare and Decléor and Carita, two lines that echo Sofitel's French roots, for skincare and bodycare. "Decléor and Carita have the same global approach to beauty shared by LeSpa at Sofitel and are also French luxury brands like we are," she says. "I really enjoy the partnership that has developed between the spa and the brands. They have been instrumental in not only our brand and treatment education, but also in teaching the art of recommendation and retail classes for our reception staff. We have developed a true partnership that has been a huge help to our growth and development."

An inviting reception area welcomes guests to the spa.
An inviting reception area welcomes guests to the spa.

Another element of the spa's growth is its approach to retail. All products used in the treatment room are available in the spa boutique, which also offers fitness apparel and other spa-inspired items. Schumacher says that while she and her staff practice soft-selling techniques, she knows the value of retail and its ability to help guests bring spa memories home. "I believe that retail should be a souvenir of the spa experience, which will remind them later of the great time they had," she says. "Souvenir is the French word for memory, after all. So, as my staff will tell you, if it's not nailed down and someone wants to buy it, I will sell it."

One of the biggest challenges to opening a new spa is staffing it. LeSpa can accommodate up to 63 clients a day, and to meet those needs, there are 21 employees, 60 percent of whom are full time. Schumacher says she is thrilled she was able to successfully address the issue of staffing early on and has formed an excellent team. "Hiring staff that is talented, open to change, willing to pitch in where necessary, and has a flexible schedule can be difficult," she says. "We do many added-value services we don't charge for in order to create the indulgent atmosphere, and we believe in creating a family with our staff. We have been very lucky to have found the wonderful people we have."

It is the combination of a stellar staff, creative menu, luxe design, and, of course, loyal clients that have made LeSpa's first six months a success. In fact, Sofitel execs are so pleased with the results that plans to grow and develop the concept throughout the brand's other 10 properties throughout North America are already being discussed. After all, what's a magnificent makeover if it doesn't generate imitation?

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