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How to Design Spa-Like Locker Rooms For Less

By: Bruce Carter

Bruce Carter

People come to health clubs for many reasons. One reason often overlooked is that it can be an escape from a person’s normal day-to-day life. Studies show that lockers rooms are one of the most important areas that people respond to in a club, good or bad. Whether designing a new club or renovating an existing club, providing a beautiful upscale spa-like locker room can be a strong marketing asset to any club.

The term “spa-like” is used because spas were originally upscale points of destinations that people went to rejuvenate and “get away from it all.” Everything about the better known spas was that they were special and different from normal environments, and this was true of the spa locker rooms.

A spa-like locker room is a “dream” locker room, something people would love to have in their home, but most do not. So, there should be two goals: (1) to provide locker rooms to get more people to join and more to stay as members and (2) to provide such a beautiful locker room without spending a large sum of dollars. Here are the design features to use for a “spa” locker room.

The flooring should mostly be tile with possibly some carpet (moisture resistance) areas for the locker section. It should be noted that more locker rooms are being built without any carpet. Carpet gives a “warm” and comfortable look and feel, but it does have to be continually replaced due to moisture, cleanliness and odor. Ceramic tile is more efficient, and if the right type is chosen, it can be equally effective in creating a clean upscale ambiance. The absolute must for floor tile is that it has an extra non-slip finish. Nothing can detract from a spa-like locker room more than having beautiful floors covered with boring mats so people won’t slip. Therefore, you must shop around to find the non-slip tile that also looks good. Also, floor tile sizes must allow for the floor to be adequately pitched to the drains.

For the most part, the more wall tile used, the better, especially in any type of wet area. Rectangular shapes run horizontally are popular now. All types of color options are available (including low cost choices because walls do not have to be non-slip). It is important that the wall tile harmonize with the floor tile but have some type of contrast. In addition to the wall tile, it is also recommended to use glass mosaic accents or other type of accent pieces to add “personality’ to the wall. However, if your budget is tight, glass mosaic is usually double or more the cost of regular tile, so therefore, even a 6′ strip of accent tile makes an impression.

One area to possibly use more accent tile is above the sink area where it looks great when mirrors are outlined with mosaic tile, and then, hang pendant or wall scone lights on the tile between the mirrors. This is not expensive, but it looks very “high end.”

In addition to tile on the walls, heavy-duty vinyl wall coverings are a great way to add an inviting upscale ambiance to a locker room and are strongly recommended (except in “wet” areas). There are countless color and design patterns available to work with any décor.

Colors for locker rooms can vary, yet should interrelate to the overall color theme of the club. Soft earth colors of tans, greens and blues work as well as a predominately white or light beige with soft accents. Keep in mind that, when white is used, an added commitment to maintenance of the finishes is a must. In other words, it can look good when you open, but what will it look like six months from now?

The proper use of lighting is a must and should switch from the basic brighter overhead lighting of the main exercise areas to softer accent lighting. This would include wall sconces, pendants, recessed can lighting, cove and drum lighting. Locker rooms should be a soothing environment, so bright lighting such as basic fluorescents should not be used.

A question that often comes up is the showers. Showers for an upscale locker room should have a separate changing room in front of the shower. The shower should be at least 4′ x 4′ in size with the same size for the changing room. Louvered doors stained with a urethane finish look beautiful, and a quality fabric shower curtain should separate the shower from the changing space. Soap and shampoo dispensers and shelves for individual items should be in the shower area with hooks and a bench in the changing area. In place of louvered doors, fiberglass doors can be used, but look into using colored fiber glass doors to add a unique look.

In the locker section of the locker rooms, lockers should be a minimum of 15″ wide and 20″ deep. A combination of full and half lockers can be used, and wooden lockers can look more upscale but are not necessary (and they require maintenance). There are quality laminate lockers that work well, and most often, it is recommended to use a wood grain laminate in which there are dozens of choices. Locker benches should either match the finish of the lockers or be vinyl-cushioned.

Changing rooms (a minimum of 3) should be included in a women’s locker room at a minimum of 4′ x 4′ size with louvered doors or regular stained doors.

All vanities and hair bars should be either granite or a solid surface material such as Corian or Cambria. Another key point is that vanities should have a laminate “skirt” below the vanities to hide any plumbing. Make sure that the skirt is angled correctly to meet handicap access code. In fact, before you begin, check with ADA codes when creating a locker room or renovating an existing one for all the necessary clearances and accesses, sinks, toilets and showers.

Toilet partitions can be laminate, stainless steel (but will require more upkeep since fingerprints show easily) or phenolic (plastic). Painted metal units are basic and should not be used in an upscale locker room.

Graphics and artwork can help to create the desired mood for a spa-like locker room. More and more research is showing that people feel less pain in environments that appeal to their instinct to want to connect with nature. Adding graphics and art that bring nature into an environment can help relaxing people and making them feel more comfortable in a club. Go to Shutterstock.com or Art.com to find countless options to choose from.

Proper planning for spa-like locker rooms can make a substantial difference in how well your club is received and desired. The key is to make them unique and inviting so people will want to come back again and again to rejuvenate themselves and escape from their normal hectic daily life.

As published on clubinsideronline.com, December 2013.