For those fond of long weekends in the country, the Salamander Resort & Spa (Middleburg, VA) provides the ideal escape. Located less than an hour outside of Washington, D.C., the blissful, bucolic property is set in Middleburg, a charming town known as the “Nation’s Horse and Hunt Capital.” Sporting an equestrian theme throughout, the resort was founded by Sheila C. Johnson, who oversees a growing portfolio of luxury properties and serves as vice chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment and president and managing partner of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. A founding partner of Black Entertainment Television, Johnson has lent her Midas touch to the Salamander, which takes its name from a former owner of the estate, a war hero named Bruce Sundlun. After crashing over Nazi- occupied Belgium, Sundlun evaded capture and was recruited by a resistance group that gave him the code name Salamander. After returning to the U.S., he purchased a 200-acre estate in Virginia and named it Salamander. The farm was later sold and re-named. When Johnson purchased the property, she restored the original name and opened it to the public as an inviting resort, complete with 168 guest rooms and 17 suites, two restaurants, a state-of-the-art cooking studio, a first-rate equestrian program, and the Salamander Spa.
A relaxing reprieve, the spa welcomes guests with a soothing water feature upon arrival. Spa-goers will also notice one of Johnson’s signature scarves used as a decorative accent over the entryway. The scarves, part of the Sheila Johnson Collection, are changed based on the season. Each of the 14 treatment rooms have either a fireplace or a private outdoor treatment terrace and an exclusive Couple’s Suite features a private terrace, a whirlpool, a steam shower, and a pedestal tub. A highlight of the spa is the deluxe locker rooms, where guests can take advantage of the vitality pool, eucalyptus-scented steam room, heated stone lounge chairs, and experiential shower. For those who prefer to relax outdoors, there is a secluded spa courtyard with an infinity pool, a fire pit, a whirlpool, and private cabanas.
While the many amenities are impressive, it’s the menu that truly helps the spa to shine. “We incorporate an apothecary approach to each of our massages to customize the blend based on how the guest feels and would like to feel,” says spa director Penny Kriel. “We then give them the remaining oil in a two-ounce bottle to take home to continue the benefits. We use only high-grade eco-friendly and organic oils and infuse them with 100 percent natural essential oils.” Incorporating the popular farm-to-treatment-table trend, the spa offers the Salamander Seasonal Rituals (starting at $200, 80 minutes; $310, 1 hour 50 minutes; $460, 2 hours, 50 minutes). This winter, the spa will offer an invigorating full-body exfoliation to fight dry skin, followed by a red-algae wrap. The treatment will conclude with a full-body massage using hot stones and concentrated aroma synergies. “Our Salamander Seasonal Rituals incorporate essential oils derived from native Virginian plants and herbs, as well as organic produce straight from the farm,” says Kriel. “Our goal is to have these items grown in our culinary garden by next spring, so that we can have guests pick ingredients fresh from the garden. We will then mix them up and apply during the treatment.”
According to Kriel, the treatment menu is based on creating experiences that incorporate the local culture and surroundings. Because the spa is in “horse country,” the Riders’ Relief (starting at $150, 50 minutes; $200, 80 minutes), a massage geared toward equestrians, was a natural fit. It focuses on releasing muscle tension and mobilizing joints in affected areas. Riders aren’t the only ones who can benefit, though, as Equine Massage (pricing varies) is available for the horses. Spa-goers who want a real stretch can also opt for Yoga in the Stable ($20), a prerequisite for Equestrian Yoga ($150), a unique experience involving yoga poses on a horse. Of course, there are also plenty of options for those not interested in saddling up.
With 24 full-time and six part-time employees, the spa is able to accommodate up to 70 clients each day. According to Kriel, one of her biggest challenges is the spa’s size, as the distance from the reception area to the treatment area is rather far. The same can be said of the distance between the prep room and the treatment rooms. Despite such operational challenges, Kriel is focused on making improvements and planning for the future. “We are looking at incorporating medical services through the Inova VIP 360 program, as well as partnering with a plastic surgeon to offer a variety of services to our guests,” she says. “We will also look at bringing on additional product lines later in the year.” In the meantime, the spa is clearly not horsing around when it comes to wooing both guests and locals.
Owner: Sheila C. Johnson
Spa Director: Penny Kriel
Opened: August 2013
80% female, 20% male
23,000 square feet; 14 treatment rooms
aromatherapy, body treatments, chromatherapy, couples’ treatments, energy work, facials, fitness, hair and scalp treatments, hammam, hand and foot treatments, hydrotherapy, makeup application, massage, nailcare, nutrition consultation, outdoor treatments, prenatal services, salon services, yoga
Salamander Seasonal Rituals (starting at $200, 80 minutes; $310, 1 hour 50 minutes; $460, 2 hours 50 minutes)
MOST EXPENSIVE OFFERING
Time for Two (starting at $1,200, 5 hours 50 minutes)
Alchimie Forever, La Bella Donna, Laboratory of Flowers, Moroccanoil, Natura Bissé, Satin Smooth, Terreno Organics, Zents
Life Fitness, SpaSoft
Architecture Inc. (Reston, VA) and WATG (Irvine, CA)
Kent Interior Design (Atlanta)
Blu Spas (Whitefish, MT)
January 29, 2014
Heather Mikesell, American Spa Magazine
A new ESPA adds some sizzle to the Dallas spa scene with personalized treatments that take the stress out of decision-making.
Named for the international unit of energy, The Joule (Dallas) is electrifying the downtown area with its recent transformation. The hotel, occupying a revitalized 1920’s landmark building, underwent an expansion that included the debut of ESPA at The Joule, the first fully branded ESPA in Texas. According to spa director Virginia Acosta, the brand is the perfect fit for the Headington-owned hotel. “Both companies strive for excellence in all they do and place the guest in the center of everything,” says Acosta. “It is a perfect marriage of service, design, and style.”
Situated on two floors, the spa’s subterranean level features European-inspired heat experiences that encourage guests to take part in a healing journey of varying temperatures. According to Acosta, one of her biggest challenges is getting guests to allow enough time to fully enjoy the geothermal facilities. The spa also has six multifunctional treatment rooms, which enable therapists to perform a host of services. Multiple services and a customized experience are what most guests can expect with ESPA Time ($295, 2 hours; $440, 3 hours; $590, 4 hours), the spa’s most popular treatment. “With ESPA Time, decisions are unnecessary,” says Acosta. “Guests simply reserve time with the spa, and their therapists guide them through the treatments, ensuring their spa journey is tailored to their needs.” According to her, only highly skilled therapists can perform the spa’s most advanced therapies. “ESPA therapists are hand selected and trained extensively to ensure their skills and knowledge base are second to none,” says Acosta. “This rigorous training elevates the treatment experience at The Joule to new heights due to ESPA’s technically advanced, holistic, and personalized approach.”
The spa also offers a number of treatments that are unique to The Joule, including one that takes its name from the hotel. An indulgent body treatment, The Joule ($295, 1 hour 50 minutes) involves a dry-body brushing and exfoliation, a nourishing massage with essential oils and warmed volcanic and jade stones, and a comforting scalp massage using ESPA’s popular Pink Hair and Scalp Mud. Another signature therapy is Earth Inspired ($295, 1 hour 50 minutes), a deep-tissue massage that includes a ginger-root exfoliation and a shirodhara treatment. “ESPA was born from a deep-rooted belief that in order to progress, you need to stop, recharge, and reconsider,” says Acosta. “As the pace of modern life keeps accelerating, our products and philosophy are more salient than ever before. Our spa knowledge and heritage married with natural ingredient intelligence means we are a unique business with equally unique products.”
Staffed with 25 full-time and three part-time employees, the spa handles approximately 30 to 40 appointments each week and more than 60 on the weekends. The clientele is made up of local Dallas residents and hotel guests, most of whom are savvy spa-goers. “No one understands the mind, body, and soul synergies better than ESPA,” says Acosta. “This is not something we do, it’s everything we do. As the world around us changes, our focus and philosophy remain the same.”
ESPA at The Joule (Dallas)
Owner: Headington Companies
Spa Director: Virginia Acosta
Opened: October 2013
8,000 square feet; 6 treatment rooms
aromatherapy, Ayurveda, body treatments, couples’ treatments, energy work, eyelash and brow tinting, eyelash extensions, facials, fitness, hair and scalp treatments, hand and foot treatments, hydro-therapy, LED therapy, makeup application, massage, microderma-brasion, nailcare, prenatal services, reflexology, waxing
The Joule ($295, 1 hour 50 minutes), which includes an exfoliation, a massage with warm volcanic and jade stones, and a scalp massage
MOST EXPENSIVE OFFERING
ESPA Time ($590, 4 hours), which includes treatments geared to the client’s needs and a healthy spa lunch
Clarisonic, Chadsworth & Haig, Deborah Lippmann, ESPA, Ikaati, La Bella Donna, Living Proof, NuFace, Oka B.
Ageless Esthetics, Aquaovo, Comphy Co., Hebi Arts, Ionto-Comed, Living Earth Crafts, SpaEquip, SpaSoft, Ty Group, Via Motif
Forrest Perkins (Dallas)
(New York City)