One on One With Anna Shay


Creating a Complete Spa Experience in the Home


By Gina Dostler


We Southern Californians, zipping around in our cars sipping coffee while we jam our way to and from work, excel at creating high levels of stress.  Physical, mental and at times emotional exhaustion prevail and we need to seek out a bit of calm, a Zen ambiance to soak out our high anxieties.

Leave it to the ancient Romans, in way-back-when B.C., to put so much emphasis on carting water into their villas to create a soothing place of comfort, respite and solace in what we nowadays term a spa. Though the word “spa” in Latin is an acronym of “salus per aquam”  or “health from water,” the expression these days really suggests rest and relaxation and not necessarily a place with water to soak and bathe.

But it is rest and relaxation we are concerned with right now, a place that is private and provides a place to quiet the mind and build up the soul; a place to soothe the body and bring clarity to the psyche.

Traveling to a resort and spa is one way yet still doesn’t include the amount of privacy I am talking about, a place where all four walls are your own. Creating the same experience found in a Malaysian spa or Finnish sauna right in your own home is entirely possible, and trending in home improvements.

Anna Shay of Solanna Design LLC and a Newport Beach local, is a master of mood, an interior designer for the human element, and that’s what it takes to create a place in the home to shut out the hectic world – a dream haven of your own creation. Whether it’s a remodel or building a whole new home, melding the master bed and bath into a spa opens up a portal to a  profound space of leisure.

Shay takes these ideas and combines fine craftsmanship with exotic materials to produce a high-end contemporary style of comfort and ambiance. She has traveled extensively throughout the world and it’s her insight into the old traditions combined with her fresh contemporary influence that makes her a top choice for instilling the spa feeling directly into the home.


Q:  Where does one begin in creating a private space and personal spa at home?

A:  Of course, most of us don’t have at our disposal the space to add an extra wing just for a spa that sports pool, sauna, message and exercise room. It’s the master bedroom and bath that has been expanded to include a certain spa quality with a home theatre in the mix. It has great AV potential. Outfitting the room with surround sound and a TV that beams through a mirror (check out is one way to make the master suite more than just a place to dream. Having the bed integrated with pop-up video screen, or a screen that drops from the ceiling mixed with handheld controls that provide integrated settings for mood lighting and background music.


Q:  Let’s talk ambiance. What translates into “spa” when creating one in the bed and bath?

A:  A softer color palette without any strong contrasts and keeping materials simple and comfortable. Being a minimalist provides an airy open quality to the room and so eliminates clutter.  We want to get an environment that puts people at ease. Use of bamboo wallpaper, fresh flowers, scented oils placed throughout the room enhances the senses. Rejuvenate the bedding to include high-thread-count cotton sheets and soft down pillows.


Q:  Tell me about the main attractions in the master bath.

A:  First you can start with adding amenities, such as fixtures. Taking a shower, completely sealing it and making it into a sauna with multiple shower heads is one such attraction. The tub is another feature to focus on. Hydro-jets are not so important these days as is the water level of the tub. Tubs that are deep enough to soak up to the neck are popular, and a plus to do after a stressful day. Then you can get fancy with lighting scenes that accent artwork, tubs that fill from waterfalls, and tile floors and towel racks that are heated. Anything that provides comfort and peace for the soul.


Q:  Lighting scenes?

A:  Creating the right ambiance with a light scene. For a relaxing soak in the spa, switch to a scene that highlights a beautiful piece of art or statue while the rest of the lights are dimmed. Running LED lighting on the glass shower doors or along the side of a mirror produces a low level of light with a peaceful glow. The use of fiber optics cycling every minute into transitions of color changes the mood and look, as well. For instance I had a client with a glass sculpture that used the fiber optics to change the color of the glass to fit the right mood.


Q:  Waterfalls?

A:  Oh yeah. I designed a waterfall for a client that incorporated a stream of water down the wall and gently flowed into the tub. The challenge was keeping the water a soothing sound and not a torrential downpour. There are showerheads that create a waterfall effect and can be just as relaxing and revitalizing.


Q:  What else should I consider when creating my home spa?

A:  Fresh air and natural lighting. Be sure to include natural ventilation with several windows to produce a nice flow of fresh air. A solar tube brings in tons of light and offers better insulation, provides consistent daylight and is eco-friendly. Also, consider putting in a remote blower for the ventilation system to provide a quiet drawing of air to the outside.



Anna Shay ASID, CID

Solanna Designs, LLC

1715 Newport Hills Drive West

Newport Beach, Ca  92660