Meet the Designers Giving Med Spas a Much-Needed Glow-Up

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It might feel like a certain tension is built into the category of “medical spas.” Offices that blend offerings of both health care and aesthetician services, including minimally invasive treatments like chemical peels and body sculpting, must function in ways that accord with health care codes yet also nurture wellness. They must demonstrate authority so that clients feel safe, and enough luxury that they can relax. What’s a designer to do?

Perhaps they might follow the footsteps of primary care facilities like Parsley, which has made strides toward biophilia, softening the terrifying white-box glare of old-school doctor’s offices. Or full glam: A few years ago, plastic surgeons like Beverly Hills’s own surgeon-to-the-stars Dr. Garth Fisher began giving their spaces Swan-like makeovers, as if demonstrating in decor what they could offer the body. Med spa designers don’t have to follow these particular aesthetics, of course. But their clients will notice if the offices feel out of date, unhealthy, or just plain uncomfortable.

There’s money in this sector: According to Grand View Research, in 2022, the medical spa industry was valued at $16.4 billion. But there’s also increasing competition, as Grand View anticipates the category will grow 15% per year through the end of the decade, in part due to Americans’ growing comfort with wellness tourism. Thinking about the spaces as both luxury destinations and health care environments will help a medical spa stand out as new ones pop up around the corner.

So designers should do their homework. When San Francisco’s Elinea asked Michael Hilal, an AD New American Voice, to envision a full interior architecture design for their new medical spa, he scheduled appointments at a dozen of their competitors around California. He found them to be “function first, experience second,” he says. Embarking on her own project in the med spa space, Sagrada Studio CEO Hema Persad leaned into some of her own experience as a client. “I go to spas often, and what I’m always looking for,” she says, is one that’s “not just clean and efficient, but an actual experience. An instant dealbreaker is somewhere loud and unsanitary, with harsh lighting and bad service.”

Instead, Persad’s design of the Westside Clinic in Venice, California, feels more like an escape. “It seemed natural for us to take into account the client’s dream vacation,” she says, “and try to give her that feeling every day when she walks into work.” With its public areas defined by limewash walls, verdant and asymmetrical handcrafted tile, and a breezy mural depicting palm trees, the clinic looks more like a tropical luxury hotel. “One of our studio missions is to explore the interaction between the international and American lifestyles through design,” she says. “To create this escape and put an international spin on it was right up our alley.”

Hilal and Elinea also looked beyond America for their inspiration. The owners, he says, “are Palestinian and I’m part Palestinian and Mexican. They reached out to me and wanted to support an emerging designer in the industry that is Middle Eastern.” The owners had named the med spa Elinea after their Palestinian grandmother. “They wanted to pay tribute to their heritage,” he says, “and that’s where we picked up some of the tones and finishes.” The treatment rooms are a deep maroon, the reception desk features sleek curves, and textures include plaster and wood planks lit for drama. He calls the vibe “warm minimalism.” But there’s still room for peacocking: The hallway between reception and treatment rooms is long enough for a strut and lit for selfies. “We live in the age of TikTok and Instagram,” he says, “why not give clients a bit of runway?”

Safely, of course. The checkerboard tiles Sagrada specified for the floors and wheelchair ramp are porcelain, which helps keep the space sanitary for the treatments taking place there. “It’s easy to maintain material that doesn’t absorb germs, but doesn’t feel clinical,” she says. “There’s not much you can do about certain things, like biohazard containers, but just because it’s a medical environment doesn’t mean everything has to be gray and white.”

The point is to not just to make a place where clients will want to come, but stay. So Hilal fashioned a soothing, semi-private lounge on a back patio, with a cheerful coffee service station in the hall. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to linger—not the usual feeling when visiting a traditional doctor’s office. But that’s the idea. “Part of the thought is,” he says, “if we can make clients feel comfortable, they’ll get more treatments.” And if they’re comfortable, that’s good for business.

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