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Home Spaaah! : Stressed out? Turn your bathroom into a soothing sanctuary.

October 03, 1998|JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When Diane Karp gets stressed and life's pressures have her down, the Newport Beach philanthropist disappears into her bathroom. She climbs into a warm Jacuzzi bathtub, lights her aromatherapy candles, drizzles in bubble bath and immediately slips into a peaceful state of mind.

"The bathroom is a refuge for me," says Karp, whose first priority was decorating the room when she and her family moved into their home 2 1/2 years ago. "I take the opportunity to meditate in the bathtub and unwind. After 20 minutes, I feel rejuvenated."

The idea of maintaining a sanctuary in one's own bathroom is becoming popular, says Mindy Willson, owner of Complexions Day Spa in Seal Beach.

"In response to our typically hectic, fast-paced lifestyle, many people are creating what is essentially a day spa right in their bathroom. This is one of the best rooms in the house to create a hideaway, because water is so soothing," she says.

Bathing specialist Carrie Reynolds of Irvine-based Renaissance Spa Treatments says a 20-minute bath twice a week can reduce stress levels by 30%. Her company offers a Bath of the Month Club, in which spa and body products--such as Golden Moor Mud or Papaya Enzyme Therapy--are sent via the mail. More than 90 products are available, many containing natural ingredients such as powdered pearls, rose buds and volcanic ash.

Thanks to myriad bath products on the market, such as special sponges, hand showers and towel warmers, creating a home spa has never been easier, says Mission Viejo interior designer Kay Leruth.

"It's definitely possible to create a spa in your bathroom, and it's really good for you," she says. "We all need a place inside the home where we can get refreshed and caressed, even if we have to do the refreshing and caressing ourselves."

Karp's 400-square-foot bathroom was specifically designed to provide the utmost in comfort. Not only does she have an eight-jet Jacuzzi tub that hits many parts of the body, she also has a bath pillow and handle bars for resting arms. There are plenty of bath salts, bubble bath and large fluffy towels within immediate reach.

When it comes to creating a soothing spa atmosphere, Karp has the right idea, Willson says.

"The secret to creating a safe haven in your bathroom is satisfying all of the senses, and her bathroom does that well."

Visual Elements

What you see when you relax in your bathtub or shower will directly affect how relaxed you become, experts say.

"Get away from white walls, which tend to be cold and sharp," advises Leruth. "Paint in colors you consider warm, inviting and friendly, like soft greens, blues, yellows or reds. And use wall coverings sparingly. It should be subtle, because a lot of commotion on the walls is not calming."

In keeping with the soothing theme, Karp's walls are a soft, faux-painted pale celery green.

Don't use white on the ceiling either, Leruth says. "Get creative. Paint in a corresponding color or add misty-looking clouds," she says. "There are a lot of interesting wall treatments you can use up there. Or try putting wood on the ceiling, like cedar, which will give off a pleasing fragrance when the bathroom steams up. You could use the wood to create a trellis effect."

Also consider your windows.

"Instead of installing milky glass, get clear glass that has been etched, or glass bricks or stained glass," Leruth says. If you want clear glass but need privacy, put a screen in front of your window that you can pull back or use shutters. Add a valance or curtains, she says.

"The window treatments don't have to be elaborate, but without them the room will appear chilly," she says.

Other considerations are plumbing fixtures and the sink, which can be elaborate or merely functional.

"If possible, go for gold fixtures or nickel-plated ones," Leruth says. "They both last forever, not tarnishing in the moisture. Chrome and brass are a third of the price, but they'll eventually need to be replaced."

Counter tops are another consideration. If you can afford it, granite makes a bathroom look very sensual, Leruth says.

And don't forget lighting. Create a quiet mood by installing lights that dim, or add lots of candles. The new aromatherapy candles light the room up and provide pleasing, often calming aromas.

Accessorize

Add items that you love, Leruth says. "If you have a favorite piece of art, display it," she says. "Also, don't be afraid to bring in furniture when there is space."

Small accessories such as bath salts, oils and bubble bath can be displayed in decorative bottles. Other items that add style include candles, fresh flowers, plants and pretty bowls full of potpourri.

Rather than putting all of your spa experience items away after each use, display them in a big basket where they are easy to reach, Willson says. "Besides towels, sponges and bath salts, include facial creams, masks, body moisturizers and manicure and pedicure supplies."

Karp keeps her bath items within reach on the tub ledge.

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