The beautifully-lit interior which gives a Surrey spa the undeniable feeling of being in church

Artist Brian Clarke was hired to make the spa at the Beaverbrook Hotel something a little special – here's what he came up with.

If you’ve ever been to The Fat Duck, the restaurant in Bray which made Heston Blumenthal famous, you’ll either have eaten – or seen people eat – one of the seafood dishes while wearing an iPod.

‘Eaten’ is probably the wrong word; perhaps ‘consume’ would be a better one. While listening to sounds of the sea, the dish comprises seafood elements assembled to look like sand, water and waves frothing up onto the beach. It’s not a plate of food so much as an aural and visual collage;  the ethos behind the dish is that context can be just as important – if not more so – than the food itself.

And so it is with spas. The greatest masseur in the world might do your muscles a power of good even in the dingiest of treatment rooms, but will the experience really give you the same walking-on-cotton-wool feel that you’d get if the same treatment had been dished out on a Bounty bar-perfect tropical beach? Enjoying the nature around you and listening to the lapping of the waves is an intrinsic part of the experience which just wouldn’t be matched if your view was of a yellowing health and safety poster on a beige-painted wall, and the soundtrack one of a nearby dual carriageway.


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More and more designers of spas are really getting to grips with this link – context and effect, if you like – but the new Coach House spa at the Beaverbook hotel in Surrey is well worth a mention – as the pictures show, this us a truly beautiful place.

Artist Brian Clarke was brought in with a brief to make a space which reflects the influence of the English Countryside setting and natural healing philosophy. The work he has done is delightful, with colourful skylights and tiles linking the pools (one indoor, one outdoor for when the weather begins to get warmer) to the four huge treatment pods, each one of which has its own garden.

The play of light throughout is one of the keys – in places there’s a feeling of being in a church with sun streaming through stained glass windows. It’s a beautiful example of space, light and buildings working in harmony.

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