Design Essentials for Creating a Successful Spa Business in Your Health Club

When people visit one of your spas, their worries should be forgotten and relaxation should set in. Places like the Qua Spa at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and Spa Vital in Cherry Creek, CO, have captured this concept and delivered it to spa enthusiasts. These spas create a lasting memory through design and superior service, just as your spa should do.

The following are some design essentials for creating a successful spa business in your health club:

Location. Has anyone ever told you that location is key? Well in this case, it is vitally important to have the spa entry easily accessible from the club entry. Whether you are trying to attract members from outside of the club or entice existing members to use your spa services, the spa must be one of the first things seen from the front entrance of the club.

Atmosphere. Upon entering through the spa doors, your clients should instantly feel a transition in mood and ambiance. This can be achieved with soft lighting, water walls and a soothing greeting from the staff. Changing the lighting to soft and indirect will help create a more relaxing atmosphere. The sound of water or nature sounds in the background are design elements that can enhance the atmosphere and help your clients’ transition into a tranquil environment.

Also part of the transition is going from street clothing to the soft plush robe and moving into the relaxation room, which is a critical part of the spa program. This room could have running water, a tea bar, light, healthy snacks and more. This space provides a quiet waiting area where clients officially get into the spa mood. The Spa Vital has two wading pools at different temperatures, along with steam and sauna rooms to relax before or after your treatment. These features enhance the spa experience and create an ideal environment in which to escape.

Materials. The materials in the room must withstand the activities and services being performed within. For example, a wet treatment room typically should be all tile to become like one large shower space, so that water can get anywhere and maintenance is easy. Massage rooms that do not include water can be designed with materials that help with sound and ambiance. Because clients will be on their backs for some treatments, ceiling materials must also be considered in the design.


Lighting. In treatment rooms, lighting is critical for setting the tone. During treatments, soft, glowing light that does not shine in the client’s eyes makes for a more relaxing and soothing experience. Indirect lighting in ceiling soffits and behind special materials can help create a unique space. A second level of lighting should include task lighting for cleaning.

Room themes. You can create a theme to your rooms to create experiences from across the globe. Be careful not to get too carried away with this concept, though, or the rooms will not be cohesive. Cohesion in design theme throughout the spa sets the tone and character. Theme are often based on the location of the spa and available resources and materials. Similar materials and colors should be carried throughout the spa to create an overall vision and feel. Themes are sometimes associated with nature. Bringing the outdoors into the spa or the spa into the outdoors is common practice across the world. Designing spaces that look outdoorsy – from the snow in Switzerland to the beach in Mexico – can play an important role in tying the spa in with its environment.

Circulation. When planning a spa, you must ensure that the circulation and flow work well for the staff and clients. Arterial hallways form the main travel route and branches lead to the more private spaces. When possible, place hair salons at the front of the spa where it is more public and locate the most private treatment rooms toward the back.

Visiting a spa is an escape from reality. Whether your facility is located in the city where people want to escape from work or on an island vacation spot, the experience you create in your spa can take your users to another place. Spas are universal and can be found across the globe. From New York to California and from Russia to South America, they have something to offer for everyone. What vision do you have for your spa?


Christa Plaza is a principal and architect at Essenza Architecture, Boulder, CO. She specializes in fitness center designs and has a passion for listening to clients’ visions and turning them into built spaces. Essenza Architecture is an international, eco-friendly firm that blends beauty with function. With more than 30 years of experience, Essenza creates visually interesting and innovative club spaces. Plaza can be reached by email at [email protected].