Spa

By Andrea Toochin

On a sunny April Day, the petit powerhouse behind Acqua Beauty Bar, Jamie Ahn, took time out of her busy schedule to show me her latest project, Townhouse Spa. Tiptoeing around the construction site in platforms with a structured Monogram Vuitton in hand, she eloquently detailed the many features of this triplex spot. Frankly, it’s not fair to label this a ‘spa’ because it’s far more than that – -it’s a destination.

Once again, I must credit Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks, for ushering us into the age where a successful business is one that creates a home away from home, aptly put in his words, ‘the third space’.

When Townhouse Spa opens in June, it will be far more than another beauty and pampering emporium in Midtown Manhattan. The fact that it’s three floors is just the beginning; this enterprising entrepreneur has covered every base and her attention to detail and ability to anticipate consumer needs ensures that Townhouse will lure every consumer from Park Avenue princesses and high-profile celebrities to suits closing deals and ladies on the brink of marriage.

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At first sight, you will realize why this business is more than a spa. The first thing you see upon entering is a boutique stocked with obscure skin care lines, high-end cosmetics, lingerie, clothes, and jewelry. The reception and coat check are located just beyond the boutique, but the all the fun begins in the back.

Ahn realized that like shopping, pampering is exhausting. She often noticed patrons at Acqua would order food after having a number of treatments, so this time she decided to put a restaurant in the spa. Hence, the lounge and restaurant area, which in time will serve wine, loose-leaf tea, food, cocktails, and special herbal shakes, the latest trend in Korea. Situated as a communal area, the bar and restaurant section lies between the reception and the nail spa, an open space adorned with a plasma TV, outfitted with pedicure chairs, a communal manicure station with dividers, a threading area, and a room for waxing.

Though the communal floor is inviting, the women’s floor downstairs is most impressive. Many spas have couples treatment rooms and offer hydrotherapy treatments but few have the 53-gallon SpaOceana pod, a huge tub with 20 jets and an LED light system equipped to offer color therapy, and heat and steam treatments, among others. The pod can also perform a pseudo massage thanks to vibration capabilities and its ability to rock back and forth. As if this weren’t enough, since this futuristic pod has a hole for your head, you can get a facial while soaking.

Alone each of these floors would suffice as your average upscale spa but together they offer a relaxing spot with ample space to accommodate both individuals and group events. If you’re planning a business meeting to lure a big account, get in line to reserve the VIP room. The intimate WiFi-enabled room in the rear has the comforts of a cozy living room like a fireplace and a desk, along with relaxing spa basics including two massage beds and a steam shower.

Now, this wouldn’t be a product of the zeitgeist without a men’s floor. Though metrosexual is as last season as the Murakami bag, men are still not comfortable admitting their grooming addictions to the women around them. This is why Ahn devoted the entire second floor to them.

In a light-filled room facing the street, male patrons can get hair treatments, a hot shave, manicures and pedicures, and even have their shoes shined while watching ESPN on the LCD television with a beverage in hand. As with the women’s floor, there are treatment rooms for massages and facials, and a steam room with built-in chairs and waterfall showers directly above each chair accessible via chain.

This may not be the first of its kind but it’s certainly more accessible; by modern standards, a 6,000 square foot spa is cozy. Creating a place where clients feel comfortable and have privacy largely influenced the design of this spa. This has yielded a cozy yet chic environment, one that might start a trend making upscale spas the new spot to close business deals and celebrate engagements.

Townhouse is located at 39 West 56th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. To book appointments at Townhouse call Acqua Beauty Bar at 212.620.4329. www.townhousespa.com

Originally published May 2006
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