Creating a Peaceful Spa Bath using Zen Principles

In 2014, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” was a bestseller in the U.S., Japan, Germany, and the U.K. selling millions of copies.  Japanese Organizing guru, Marie Kondo, urged people to keep only that which “sparks joy”.


Having visited Japan many years ago, I witnessed first hand the peacefulness and beauty of their gardens, temples and restaurants.


To create a bathroom that is a spa-like retreat we can employ ancient Zen aesthetic principles.   I am NOT suggesting placing a statue of the buddha in your bathroom!


Spa Bath Zen Principle 1    I am a fan of symmetry, I love it, I need it, but it does not belong in a Spa Bath.  The art of assymetrical balance can be achieved through material changes,  off-center sink placement, and uniquely shaped mirrors.
Faucets, tubs and sinks should be clean and simple.  Whether a simple oval or a beveled rectangle,  minimalism is key in selection of plumbing.   Cabinetry generally consists of open shelving and slab drawers without knobs or pulls.
A Spa bath often utilizes natural textures of stone, wood, rocks, and pebbles.  Walls are often clad in textured materials or slatted wood (duckboard) covers the shower floor.   Colors are limited to a natural palette of browns and greys along with black and white.   Artificial/Manmade materials should be avoided.  Plants are often added to Spa baths, but please NO bamboo!


There are two common distinct looks for Spa baths.  In one, the colors, materials, and fixtures have low contrast, creating a visually calm environment.  In the other,  high contrast between the simple white plumbing fixtures and natural textures creates strong visual interest and a contemporary aesthetic.


This concept is somewhat more abstract than the others but it is the idea of making things not obvious so there is an incompleteness to them.  The best way to apply this principle is by having all lighting be subdued and diffused without visible bulbs or even fixtures.  You could add a backlit glow behind a mirror or a subtle wash of light across a stone wall.   A Floating vanity is another way to employ this principle.
In Japan, the act of bathing is treated as a ritual.  Using an “Ofuru” which is a deep soaking tub or having a shower with amazing body sprays and rainshower head, a spa bath can be a break from reality and create a space for relaxation.