Moorish Fantasy at The Spa at the Sands

Palm Springs, CA, is known for its memorable mid-century-modern design style. This is evidenced by the luxe restorations of several standout hotels and homes where Rat Pack-era stars spent their time in the 1960s relaxing and rejuvenating in this popular desert oasis located just a few hours from Los Angeles. At the Sands Hotel & Spa (Indian Wells, CA), the inspiration is more far flung. In fact, its influence is found across a sea and a continent in the hammams of Morocco and Turkey, thanks to the visionary approach of acclaimed designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard. His concept for the 46-room boutique hotel is decidedly Moorish, and nowhere is that influence more marked than in The Spa at the Sands.

Still, it would not be a Palm Springs escape without a little celebrity flair. According to Bullard, the palette of white and desert pink was inspired by the beautiful marble and mirror master bathroom in Shangri La, the legendary Hawaii home of tobacco heiress Doris Duke. That space was crafted in Agra, India, in the 1930s from white marble, mirror mosaics, semi-precious jewels, and inlaid arabesque design. “The spa is a Moorish fantasy in the middle of Indian Wells,” he says.

It is also a design fantasy, and it is Bullard himself, whose acclaim has made him one of the world’s most renowned designers, that often acts as an enticement to guests. “As a boutique hotel with a sought-after designer, guests first want to see Martyn’s interior design of the spa, hotel, restaurant, pool, and cabanas,” says Luciana LoPresto, the group spa director for PRG Hospitality, principal of Spa Casa Hotel + Spa Consulting. She also served as the spa consultant on the project. But once they see the intimate three-treatment-room spa, they can’t wait to experience the distinctive healing space. 

Along with its stunning style, the spa experience is truly an authentic one built on the Moorish focus of the property and the spa. A prime example of this is the signature Royal Rhassoul Body Treatment ($250, 80 minutes), which includes a dry brushing; an envelopment in a mask made of Moroccan clay mined from the Atlas Mountains, rose petals, coconut milk, and honey; and a rubdown with jasmine-scented body oil. “Though massage is always the most requested spa service, our rhassoul treatment has been popular since we opened the spa,” says LoPresto. Also popular is the Moroccan Radiance Facial ($230, 80 minutes), which incorporates Ranavat Botanics, an elegant Ayurvedic line that LoPresto discovered on the pages of American Spa. The spa was the first to use the products in treatments. The spa also features a distinctive reception and retail area where guests can relax pre- and post-treatment amid intricately designed pillows and poufs and purchase home-care products from the lines used in services. Also available are full-sized products from Aqua di Parma, the hotel’s amenity line, and signed copies of Bullard’s books, Live, Love & Decorate (Rizzoli, 2011) and Design & Decoration (Rizzoli, 2016), further adding to the spa’s authentic appeal.

In fact, the spa is so distinctive, it has become equally enticing to hotel guests and locals. While hotel guests are introduced to the spa before check-in via email and upon arrival with a spa menu, locals are catered to with mid-week specials, like one that gives them complimentary day use of a guest room if they spend more than $300 at the spa. “This allows spa guests the opportunity to lounge poolside in our beautiful cabanas after a treatment and order lunch or drinks,” says LoPresto. “It is an ideal way to let the effects of a treatment soak in.”

The resort’s poolside cabanas are an ideal place to retreat before and after services.

The spa has quickly become a Palm Springs-area hotspot, often keeping the seven-member staff close to its max capacity of 30 services a day on busy days. Neither Bullard nor LoPresto are surprised by this. “It is a special place where relaxation is the core emotion given by the design,” he says. “The spaces provide guests with the utmost comfort, serenity, and a quiet place to rejuvenate the body and soul.” 



Owner: PRG Hospitality Group

Spa Director: Luciana LoPresto

Opened: April 2018

Client Base: 60% female, 40% male

Space: 1,500 square feet; 3 treatment rooms

Cost of Spa: $1 million

Products & Equipment: Aqua di Parma, Body Deli, Havaianas, Living Earth Crafts, Massage Warehouse, Natural Formulations, Phytoceane, Ranavat Botanics 

Interior Designer: Martyn Lawrence Bullard (Los Angeles)

Spa Consultant: Luciana LoPresto, Spa Casa Hotel + Spa Consulting (Palm Springs, CA)



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