Swapping your cell phone for a pair of slippers and your boardroom voice for a whisper can be a real spa drag, according to a growing number of spas that are serious about playfulness. (The Jonathan Adler–designed Parker Palm Springs was one of the country’s first to break with the spa-as-sanctum standard, and other like The Standard in Miami and Eleven Spa in Las Vegas have followed.) These spas, like the Eau Spa by Cornelia at the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach, which I just visited, take a deliberately carefree approach to de-stressing. What they all have in common: lessening the burdens (and the buzzkill) of toeing a strident spa line by playing up the pampering—a spa M.O. and a term that’s all but been banned from the rule book.
But not daunted by controversy, Eau Spa says "bling it on" with an anti-aging Jewelry for the Skin facial (it uses gemstone extracts), and Crushed Pearl and Champagne Shimmer body scrubs. If not the first spa to declare that it’s not a well-being spa, then the $30 million Eau Spa is definitely the loudest. “We’re not a church or a team of doctors, telling you how to live your life,” says Ellen Sackoff, of the now-shuttered Cornelia Fifth Avenue spa in New York City, who took the spa helm here in December 2009. Sackoff and team put the irreverent motto of Pause, Play, and Perfect into practice, creating a space for me-time not monasticism. Hence the whimsically named Self-Centered Garden, a coed relaxation area that blends a bit of Bali with ubermodern wire-basket swings over water and an outsize chessboard. There’s a disco ball in the steam room and a flock of rubber duckies floating in the women’s Jacuzzi. Cupcakes and cocktails join healthy-leaning spa cuisine menu as choices. “We’re not into guilt-tripping,” says Sackoff. Light therapy and DJ-mixed soundtracks accompanies your bodywork in beautifully outfitted (yet otherwise traditional) spa treatment rooms, some with private bathing gardens. It might not be everyone’s flavor—in fact, I was surprised by how much I liked it—but isn’t it nice that there’s more than one?