Kim Berndtson | April 6, 2021
Photos: Costa Picadas
New York, NY – Five years after building their dream waterfront home in Lloyd Harbor, NY, the basement spa this family planned remained unfinished. Aside from the custom-made stainless steel hot tub standing lonely in front of the large picture window, her personal sanctuary lingered as an empty sea of cinder blocks and concrete floors with an original plan that no longer seemed to suit her needs.
“The area for the spa was determined before we arrived,” said Abigail Shachat, director of AJS Designs in New York, NY. “It was roughly worked out, but the homeowners were open to our suggestions and changes.”
To this end, Shachat sought out David Dynega, CEO of Detail Renovations in Great Neck, NY, to build the personal full-service spa, which included a large steam shower, hot tub, massage table space, and sauna with toiletries and a changing room.
“Our customers are homebodies and they love to spend time in their home,” says Dynega.
“I don’t think I’ve ever worked with someone who loves their home that much. It was fun to give them a retreat where they can withdraw and relax.”
Warmth and texture
As a goal, AJS Designs wanted to create an environment characterized by a sense of calm and using natural materials for warmth and texture.
“The room had to look like an extension of the house, but also create a feeling of escape and loneliness,” says Shachat.
AJS Designs was inspired by Scandinavian spas and Japanese baths and clad the dry areas of the spa with cedar boards with tongue and groove. Dynega and Shachat carefully handpicked each to ensure uniformity, eliminating any that were too dark or too light. Treatment with a natural exterior sealant provides added durability to better withstand the moisture and high humidity that they are routinely exposed to.
“We needed materials that could withstand the environment – to massage oils, moisture, moisture, and so on – and still look luxurious,” says Dynega.
Additional natural materials in this room are Tundra Gray honed marble tiles for the Floor that has radiant heat. The cloudy gray and pewter complements the cut Athens Gray marble on the custom-made Western Red Cedar vanity. Highlighted with a washbasin and a Dornbracht faucet, it not only offers storage space, but also hides a dehumidification system.
“One of our biggest challenges was maintaining an environment in which heating and cooling, humidity and moisture are balanced,” he says, noting that each area has its own custom climate solutions. “We worked with a mechanical engineer for four months to create a plan for the orchestration.”
AJS Designs repeated the Athenian gray marble as the platform and stairs that lead to the custom stainless steel hot tub, which is positioned to enjoy the courtyard view. Shachat also highlighted the tub area with a custom towel rail / sconce – called the “Tree of Life” – which she designed and made by V&R Designs and Fabrication.
“I love the hot tub’s relationship with the window,” notes Shachat. “When you immerse the tub in the platform, which is level with the window and the floor, your relationship with nature feels more seamless … as if you were immersed in a natural spring.”
The generous steam shower, which uses a Steamist steam generator, is encased in porcelain tiles and has a custom-made natural stone bench with mitered edges and an overhang so that homeowners can comfortably tuck their feet under it while enjoying the relaxing “rain” that falls from the Hansgrohe headlights. Waterproof lighting ensures soft lighting, while all-glass panes allow a clear view.
“We wanted it to look clean, so we built the glass into the stone without metal brackets or hardware,” explains Dynega. “It was more difficult, but it creates a clear, seamless picture.”
AJS Designs rounded out the space and included storage via a custom cabinet that is within easy reach of the massage table. It’s made from Western Red Cedar and features Shoji-like doors and accents from Claro Walnut, handcrafted by Palo Samko. He also made the matching archway with a focus that leads to the sauna room.
“I love the living wood that wraps around the entrance,” says Shachat. “The panels feel solid and almost protective and express the interface between something made and something natural. They also celebrate the feeling of transition from everyday life to a place of seclusion. It feels like you’re stepping back. “▪