Spa Bathrooms on the Cheap
I don’t know about you, but busting the family budget for relaxing spa treatments is something I have a hard time justifying, no matter how frazzled I am. Granted, there are some things you may have a hard time doing for yourself at home, like massage therapy, for example. But there are many treatments you can do at home that I think are actually more relaxing to do that way. Here are some tips for creating spa bathrooms on the cheap.
Not having to rush out into inclement weather because there’s another appointment booked after you is a good thing. So is taking all the time you need with your chilled cucumber eye treatment, bubble bath wine, clay and walnut facial, and home paraffin treatment.
One of my favorite places to get a massage is the MGM Grand spa in Las Vegas. Not necessarily because of the massage quality (although their deep tissue and hot stone treatments are oh-so-phenomenal), but because of the full day access to the rest of the spa that you get whenever you book a treatment. It’s one of the best bargains in Vegas and includes this enormous sunken Jacuzzi that’s the size of a small swimming pool, relaxing chairs to recline while enjoying ice chilled facial towels and cucumber slices for your eyes, giant steam room, loads of relaxing quiet Zen atmosphere, your own locker...why am I going on about this? Because I think it’s important to note the massage is only one component of the relaxation experience.
Getting changed into a comfy warm robe and relaxing in plush reclining seats with healthy snacks and lemon infused spring water for an hour or so before your massage really gets you relaxed to enjoy the experience. Afterward, you can enjoy the bubbling Jacuzzi and steam room and really take all the time you need to face reality again. That’s what makes their experience much more enjoyable than the usual walk-in appointment massage. And to some extent it’s easily replicated in your own home. Here are some suggestions for carving out a personal retreat in your own home that feels like a professional spa.
Bump out, hotel-style shower rods
These things are great, and unless you have shower doors attached to your tub unit, you can use one. They give you a ton more usable space, are great for narrower tubs, and feel oh-so-luxurious. Bonus? If you’re renting, you can take it with you when you leave.
Clear jars with airtight lids
These keep everything dust free, on display and help promote that “professional spa, everything is here you could possibly want” feel. They’re also helpful for us old folks who are fed up with trying to remember what container everything is in. Another reason I like glass is because it’s easily cleaned and doesn’t scratch easily.
Glass jars are great for storing homemade spa products as well as bath beads, swabs and cotton balls. You can mix and match these to your heart’s desire, but having a few groups of 2-3 matching jars provides a more dramatic look. A couple of suggestions for keeping it cheap? First, save your empty candle jars with the snap on lids. Most of these have a really tight seal and they come in fun shapes. Just scrub the labels off and sanitize. One of the sexiest modern shapes for candle jars I’ve seen is at Linens and Things. I think the brand is called Colonial. They have a tall elongated oval shape. Overabundant stashes of cotton balls and bath beads look great in these.
Second? Canning jars. The old fashioned ones with the metal latches and glass tops are fun, but the newer ones with the screw on lids work just as well. If you feel like these might give you more of a country/cottage look than you are comfortable with, I encourage you to check out the canning section of your nearest discount department store. There’s a whole new line of Ball brand jars out there with a wider, more contemporary design and professional industry-style platinum colored lids.
Consider going monochromatic
Try a monochromatic look or at least go lighter/more subtle with your color variations. (Perhaps a tone on tone look?) This should help make your bath area feel more spacious.
Shop the supply stores
Bulk towels, comfy robes, professional pump bottles, paraffin treatment supplies, new files, professional grade grooming tools...these are all things you can purchase reasonably at beauty and hotel supply places. For anything made with toweling, I have several friends from the travelers’ circuit that swear by picking these things up when they are in Turkey. I’m personally a huge fan of Sally’s Beauty Supply for manicure related items.
Personally, I love the restaurant style 5-6 shelf units in chrome or brushed stainless steel with the heavy-duty castor wheels. Why? Well, for starters these are some of the only pieces of furniture that have held up during my nomadic years — move, after move, after move. Giving them a thorough cleaning with a scrub brush doesn’t damage the finish and neither does water — something you can’t say for varnished wooden pieces. They clean easily with simple homemade products and roll out of the way for thorough floor scrubbings.
Metro shelving comes in various sizes and styles and have coordinating individual shelf units and add-ons like wine glass holders, hanging wine racks and roll-out drawers. These pieces are easily integrated into bathrooms without storage. I think they give a professional feel to a luxurious home bath, particularly one in a loft or a storage-sparse apartment. (Bonus: You can also use industrial shelving to pimp your garage.)
Don’t forget the footwear
If you really want to go the extra distance in your spa room, don’t forget some one-size fits all slippers to put on after moisturizing treatments, and some flip flops for pedicure nights. Flip flops can be purchased inexpensively at dollar stores. As for cheap slippers, Ikea usually has them by the bin at their show stores. They’re made of terry cloth so they are easily laundered, and the bottoms have rubberized traction for safety.
Keep it sparkling on the cheap and easy
I keep spray bottles of cleaners I need at all high-frequency cleaning stations throughout the house. In the bathroom, that means inside the shower as well as under the sink. The two I use most often are a vinegar and water solution with a citrus based essential oil/extract, and a water and rubbing alcohol mix. The first is for most of the general frequent cleaning, and the second is for sterilizing handles and light switches during cold / flu season, as well as a quick and cheap shine treatment for mirrors, glass and chrome. Believe me, I’m not a fanatic about this by any means. It’s just that it’s much faster to have cleaning rags and sprays at the ready, and keeping things sleek and shiny maintains that spa atmosphere for little money.
I’m not saying you need to run right out and find room for a mini bar in your bathroom (although I’m sure it’s been done). But since the steel shelving units now come with drop down wine and glass racks, this may be a way to have that merlot within easy grasp before you step into that bubble bath. Sparkling mineral water would also be great. This is assuming you’re comfortable with the European style of certain beverages being served at room temperature. If not, and you have the room, then a mini fridge is in order. Note: if you already own a home with a master suite, then this is much more easily integrated. In which case, consider going the extra mile and have a hot water supply with selected teas and a supply of honey and lemon.
Find the affordable sources for spa products in your area or make your own where possible. Having been out of the loop for a while, I was surprised to discover that Family Dollar carries a selection of reasonably luscious items for minimal money. Body butters, foot scrubs, scented sprays...if you don’t feel like making your own, this might be a way to go. Make sure you have lots of cotton balls, swabs, plush towels, etc.
Go get some gadgets
This is not something you need to do all at once. The other nine steps will certainly get you started in style. I’m also not suggesting you go out and buy a bunch of doodads to sit around and collect dust. What I am saying is to pick up a chill-able gel eye mask or two and give some serious thought to the types of spa and salon treatments you enjoy the most. Then, when you are financially ready and feel the time is right, pick up some supplies to support them.
For example, if facials are your thing you may want to get a small supply of stretchy head bands, a fan brush to romance the clay mask application, and perhaps a towel steamer if you really want to indulge. If pedicures and manicures are your thing, then you may want to pick up some toe separators, beauty gloves, manicure tools, and if you really want to take it over the top, one of those paraffin appliances they have at the nail salons.
Another affordable way to kick your bathroom up a notch is through the selection of an upgraded shower head. After my recent article on extreme showering, a few people recommended switching shower heads. A trip to the shower aisle at the nearest giant hardware store really opened my eyes to the possibilities. In addition to the removable hose options, one of the most dramatic shower head options I saw was the rainfall style. It was under 40 bucks and also came with an elongated version to provide total body coverage.
I’m sure there are other ideas out there, and would love to hear any suggestions from readers as to how they may have carved out their own personal spa retreats. (Anybody have an idea for an affordable outdoor shower?) One thing I didn’t really cover here was extra atmosphere enhancers like music, nature sounds, candles, or aromatherapy. I’d love to hear some suggestions for that category specifically. In the meantime, happy relaxing!