IstockphotoIf you've ever experienced the tension-melting effect of stepping into a spa resort, you know the feeling of being primed for a sense of well-being. It's no accident. Spas place tremendous importance on orchestrating the perfect entry.
"We use whatever sensory cues we can to get each visitor to leave her stress outside," says Mike McAdams, the owner and designer of the ultraluxurious Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, Texas. By the time you get to the front desk, you've left your stressed-out self somewhere between the rock garden and the fountain.
That's the way you should feel when you walk into your own home. "The trick is staging that moment," says Cary Collier, principal of Blu Spas and Collier and Collier Spas, part of the award-winning design team behind the Four Seasons at Bali, Alvorada Spa at Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Phoenix, and others. "It's about thinking beyond how your room looks and paying more attention to how it makes you feel." Try these smart staging techniques at home to set the scene for relaxation.
Make an entrance: While you can't necessarily create a winding path or rock garden this minute, tonightor everyou can choose to enter your home through the most positive, uplifting route possible. If entering through the jam-packed garage gives you a headache, screen off some of the most offensive junk or come in through the front door instead.
Calm the clutter: The entries into our homes are places where we dump thingsmail, shoes, umbrellas. "That chaos creates an immediate sense of being overwhelmed and buried by your life," says Anne McCall Wilson, vice president of Spas Fairmont Raffles Hotels International. Instead of letting those subtle and not-so-subtle stressors hit you at the door, hide them in baskets or drawers.
Next Page: Light up your life [ pagebreak ]Light up your life: "Two of the most common mistakes I see in entry halls are that they're either too dark or too harshly litbecause of a big overhead fixture," Collier says. "The most soothing lighting tends to be a combination of ambient and overhead."
McAdams agrees. "If you do nothing else, just layering the light with lamps or sconces can make a room so much warmer and more inviting." A simple solution: Invest in a dimmer switch and add a table lamp to your foyer.
Enter gently: After a long day at work, it's easy to barge into the house like a grump. But spa counselors, who are trained to create a caring, relaxing atmosphere, suggest you rethink that approach. Don't walk in barking orders at your kids or husband, or you'll add to your stress," says Robbie Hudson, spa director at Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, Texas. "Instead, the first thing you should do, no matter where you're rushing to or how crazy your day was, is to take the time to greet your family members individually. That warm behavior can cause a positive ripple effect."
Treat your senses: You don't have to buy one of those tabletop water fountains (we promise!) to create a more soothing ambiance. "But the more you can engage your five senses in a positive way and eliminate any sensory disturbances, the more relaxing your reentry is going to be," McAdams says.
Here, a few suggestions: Add a cushy rug to absorb some of the echo effect of hardwood floors. Bring in fresh flowers or a flowering plant (that doesn't need to be replaced weekly) for a pleasant aroma. Or introduce some kind of natural texture (unfinished wood, metal, stone) "so everything's not hard and slick," McAdams says. These subtle-but-soothing sensory cues will send a subliminal signal that'll help you calm down.