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A luxe route to health
IT would appear that there's a spa for every city dweller requiring a relaxing treat: From bare bones set-ups located in a mall or even a shipping container (Nimble/Knead in Tiong Bahru is one such novel establishment) to sanctuaries in five-star hotels with exorbitantly priced treatments and an intimidating array of facilities (fancy a massage using gem stones or an authentic Turkish hammam session?). But for those seeking services that are affordable enough as regular treats, preferably in a plush setting, the options are limited. Scratch that, it's as common a sighting as Kim Kardashian without falsies.
"With so many people living in condominiums or good class bungalows with steam rooms, jacuzzis, pools and other facilities right at their doorstep, and most of them too busy for a long spa treatment, it's a waste of resources to have a spa with so many facilities," says Chris Tan, founder of the two-month-old Dempsey Road spa The Luxe House.
"Although the market is saturated, I can claim to have the first and only concept - a spa that also serves a social space with rooms for three to four guests, or couples to interact with one another, providing straightforward, effective treatments at very reasonable prices."
Ms Tan, who also runs a company specialising in designing show flats and started the Movenpick Heritage hotel with her husband, recalls how some customers who stepped through the doors of her 4,000sq ft establishment remark that the decor looks too posh for their budgets. Despite touches like an installation of glass bulbs cascading down from the ceiling of the reception, or custom-made double-size massage beds and private collection tea blends - sourced from the plantation of Ms Tan's Chinese partner, most of the massage treatments are priced just slightly upwards of $100.
Open until 1am, The Luxe House is already a regular haunt of businessmen who proceed to the spa with guests after dinner for some friendly negotiations over a foot rub. Forget golf courses and seedy KTVs, what better way to butter up a potential client than when he is in a heightened state of well-being through the manipulation of his meridian points?
The cosy establishment specialises in treatments that fuse time-tested Eastern techniques with Western elements of relaxation. There is a strong focus on foot therapies, as the technique is believed to be able to treat the entire body when applied by the right masseuse.
"Singapore has no lack of foot reflexology centres but to find treatments that aren't painful, in a very sanitary environment, is a challenge," says Ms Tan, who uses disposable towels in the facility. Her therapists undergo a two-month training session with the spa's "masters" from China and, unlike the slow, deliberate motions of most reflexologists, the treatment here involves vigorous rubbing to promote blood circulation.
Each foot treatment starts with a soothing and warm herbal foot bath. Guests can also choose from a specially concocted menu of five herbal blends, each tailored for a specific effect. Then, they may select a hand massage, traditional Oriental foot cupping technique and a body massage with a hot stone bag. The Royal Meridian Foot & Back Therapy is the heavyweight of the three, topping up the session with a hot stone treatment on the meridian points of the body.
"We took traditional Chinese techniques and adapted them for the local climate," explains Ms Tan, who oversaw the design of the outlet, which was formerly the John Erdos gallery.
"The weather here is very humid so we suffer from water retention whether in the feet or even in the face if we go to bed after drinking a lot of fluids. The cupping treatment helps to remove toxins and excess moisture from our bodies."
Complementing such treatments are practices more commonly associated with Western massages like aromatherapy and the use of hot stones. Exclusive blends of essential oils are used to address various ailments like muscular tension or even jet lag, while hot stones allow for better absorption of the essential oils and relieves all remaining tension.
Slightly distressed at the beginning of the interview, Ms Tan explained that a friend's husband has been in a coma for two months after suffering a stroke and that she was going to send a masseuse from The Luxe House to help with his rehabilitation. Massage helps those who are incapable of activity, serving as a form of passive exercise for the body and Ms Tan hopes to eventually bridge wellness and medical care through the treatments offered at the spa.
"Of course, money is an important consideration for the business," says Ms Tan. "But I have seen the results of massage therapy and traditional Chinese medicine, and want to do what I can to help others to be healthy. Massage isn't just for relaxation, it is an investment in one's health."
The Luxe House, 7A Dempsey Hill. Tel: 6479-9997