Kim Berndtson | April 6, 2021
New York, NY — Five years after building their dream waterfront home in Lloyd Harbor, NY, the basement spa this family envisioned remained unfinished. Except for the custom stainless steel hot tub that sat forlornly in front of the large picture window, their personal sanctuary lingered as an empty sea of cinder block walls and concrete floors with an original plan that no longer seemed to suit their needs.
“The area for the spa was predetermined before we came in,” says Abigail Shachat, principal, AJS Designs in New York, NY. “It had been roughly plumbed out, but the homeowners were open to our suggestions and making changes.”
To that end, Shachat sought out David Dynega, CEO of Detail Renovations in Great Neck, NY, to build the full-service, personal spa that included a large steam shower, a whirlpool hot tub, a space for a massage table, a sauna with bathroom amenities and a changing room.
“Our clients are homebodies and they love spending time in their home,” says Dynega.
“I don’t think I’ve ever worked with anyone who loves their home so much, so it was fun to give them a sanctuary where they could retreat and relax.”
Warmth and texture
As a goal, AJS Designs wanted to create an environment that was imbued with a sense of calm that utilized natural materials for warmth and texture.
“The space visually needed to be an extension of the house, but also create a feeling of escape and solitude,” says Shachat.
Taking inspiration from Scandinavian spas and Japanese baths, AJS Designs clad the dry areas of the spa with tongue-and-groove cedar planks. Dynega and Shachat painstakingly hand selected each one for uniformity, eliminating any that were too dark or too light. Treating them with an exterior natural sealant provides added durability to better withstand moisture and high humidity to which they are routinely exposed.
“We needed materials that would hold up to the environment – to massage oils, humidity, moisture, etc. – and still look luxurious,” says Dynega.
Additional natural materials in this space include Tundra Grey honed marble tile for the floor, which features radiant heat. The cloudy gray and pewter stone complements the Athens Grey honed marble that sits atop the custom Western Red Cedar vanity. Highlighted with a vessel sink and Dornbracht faucet, it not only offers storage, but also conceals a dehumidification system.
“One of our biggest challenges was maintaining an environment that balanced heating and cooling, moisture and humidity,” he says, noting that each area features its own custom climate solutions. “We worked with a mechanical engineer for four months to create a plan to orchestrate it all.”
AJS Designs repeated the Athens Grey marble as the platform and stairs that lead to the custom stainless steel hot tub that is positioned to take advantage of the view to the courtyard. Shachat also accented the tub area with a custom towel holder/wall light – dubbed the ‘Tree of Life’ – which she designed and V&R Designs and Fabrication fabricated.
“I love the relationship of the hot tub to the window,” notes Shachat. “By recessing the tub into the platform, which is level with the window and the ground outside, your relationship to the outdoors feels more seamless…like you are submerged in a natural spring.”
The generously sized steam shower, which utilizes a Steamist steam generator, is sheathed with porcelain tile and includes a custom natural stone bench that features mitered edges and an overhang so the homeowners can comfortably tuck their feet beneath it while enjoying relaxing ‘rain’ that falls from the Hansgrohe fixtures. Waterproof lighting adds soft illumination, while full-glass panels allow an unobstructed view.
“We wanted a clean look, so we integrated the glass into the stone without any metal clips or hardware,” explains Dynega. “It was more difficult, but it creates a clear, seamless visual.”
Rounding out the room, AJS Designs included storage via a custom cabinet positioned within easy reach of the massage table. Constructed from Western Red Cedar, it includes Shoji-like doors and accents of live-edge Claro Walnut hand-finished by Palo Samko, who also crafted the matching focal-point archway that leads to the sauna room.
“I love the live-edge wood that wraps around the entrance,” says Shachat. “The panels feel substantial, almost protective, and they express the intersection between something made, and natural. They also celebrate the sense of passage from the everyday to a place of seclusion. It feels as though you are stepping away.” ▪