Manhattan Project

Anyone who has visited a Peninsula Hotel in recent years knows that the venerable hotel brand is no stranger to standout spas. From Bangkok to Chicago, the Asia-based hotel group is focused on delivering sophisticated spa experiences that guests won't soon forget. That's why the powers-that-be at The Peninsula New York turned to Sue Harmsworth, CEO and founder of ESPA International, to create a sensational new spa that would live up to not only The Peninsula's five-star reputation but also the expectations of New York City's savviest spa-goers. The partnership between The Peninsula Hotels and ESPA already has a number of successful launches to its credit, including spas in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

The relaxation room features comfy beds in which guests can nap.
The relaxation room features comfy beds in which guests can nap.


Debuting in January, The Peninsula Spa by ESPA, New York replaced a previously existing spa that was beginning to look and feel its age. With 12 treatment rooms including a private spa suite, the new spa presented an opportunity to better utilize the allotted space. And with 35,000 square feet available, there was certainly plenty with which to work. Smaller in its previous incarnation, the new spa features two thermal suites, each with an aromatherapy steam room, a Finnish sauna, an ice fountain, and an experience shower. There's even an Asian tea lounge with chairs made from reclaimed acacia wood. In creating the new space, interior designer Alexandra Champlimaud sought to impart a feeling of calm by using natural elements. According to her, the colors, textures, and materials help guests feel grounded, particularly in a city made of metal, brick, and mortar. "The design is very seductive and organic in the way that it relates to the universe and the way we are all part of nature," says Champlimaud.

A Fifth Avenue landmark
A Fifth Avenue landmark


With 150 existing members, it was important to create a fitness area that would appeal to workout enthusiasts. The new fitness area and glass-enclosed pool on the 22nd floor offer panoramic views of the city and encourage members and guests to linger. A wrap-around sun terrace overlooking Fifth Avenue also provides an ideal perch on which to enjoy healthy bento box offerings featuring Naturally Peninsula cuisine. In addition, there is a sunlit movement studio for Pilates and yoga.

The Peninsula is home to a new spa with a glass-enclosed movement studio
The Peninsula is home to a new spa with a glass-enclosed movement studio


One of the design challenges Champlimaud faced was accommodating the numerous lockers needed for the spa's many members. Another was making the treatment rooms as welcoming as possible. To help in that task, Champlimaud opted for a soft teardrop-shaped ceiling that is free of any distracting lights. "A treatment room has to be both calm and intricate and have a lot of layers," she says, noting that the spa's 12 treatment rooms and relaxation area succeed on each of those points. "I think people will want to spend a lot of time in them," says Champlimaud. "Not only through the treatments that ESPA provides but also through the actual design, they will receive a deep comfort in being there."

A host of ESPA products
A host of ESPA products


Wanting the menu to reflect the melting pot that is New York City, Harmsworth and her team decided to introduce the Peninsula Ceremonies, which are designed specifically for The Peninsula Spas. Drawing on the philosophy of the country in which they are offered, each begins with The Peninsula Tea Ceremony, a consultation, and a relaxing foot ritual. For instance, Thai Inspired ($465, 2 hours) is a muscle-melting massage that was created for The Peninsula Spa in Bangkok. It uses a poultice containing camphor, ginger, lemongrass, and turmeric that is imported from Thailand. From Hong Kong comes the Yin Uplifter ($465, 2 hours) and the Yang Soother ($465, 2 hours), which are designed to restore balance based on guests' individual needs. "We wanted to anchor The Peninsula back to its Asian origins," says Harmsworth. Because New York needed its own signature treatment, Harmsworth and her team created the Deep Tissue Experience ($465, 2 hours). It involves gentle rocking to help release any muscle tension.

The indoor pool features panoramic views of the city.
The indoor pool features panoramic views of the city.


The spa is also the first in the U.S. to introduce ESPA's Super Active Facials ($350, 90 minutes), which include highly active ingredients and are targeted to combat specific skin conditions. "The range is a mixture of concentrates, complexes, and masks that have been developed in response to the problems we're seeing in the marketplace with rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, middle-aged acne, and sensitivity due to aggressive procedures and environmental issues," says Harmsworth. Performed by hand-selected estheticians, the technically advanced facials require intensive training. "Every therapist has to be tested in order to receive the training for Super Actives, so we think globally, only about 15 percent of the therapists are going to be able to perform them," says Harmsworth.

Recruiting the right staff was fundamental to ensuring guest satisfaction. Good hands, empathy, and a knowledge of anatomy and physiology were just some of the criteria used to find ideal candidates. "Consumers want high-quality therapy and well-trained therapists," says Harmsworth. "They don't actually remember the treatment, they remember the experience. The 'E' in ESPA stands for education, so training, to us, is the essence of that." With that in mind, the spa's 24 therapists were required to undergo an intensive 10-week training program covering product and treatment knowledge, advanced spa concepts, and more.

There is little doubt that harried New Yorkers and visitors who are trying to navigate the city's fast-paced streets will appreciate their talents and the time spent developing them. Thanks to the recent debut of The Peninsula Spa by ESPA, New York, there's a new calm in the city.

OWNER: The Peninsula New York
OPENED:January 2009

55% female
45% male

35,000 square feet; 12 treatment rooms

-body treatments
-couples' treatments
-energy work
-hair and scalp treatments
-hand and foot treatments
-makeup application
-nutrition consultation
-prenatal services
-salon services

Deep Tissue Experience ($465, 2 hours)

Massage and Facial Series ($1,775, 10 60-minute treatments)

-Modern Elixir

-Life Fitness

Stonehill and Taylor (New York City)

Alexandra Champlimaud (New York City)