Have you ever dreamed of having your very own spa and wellness facilities, so that wholesome living is imbued within your home? Emma Clegg investigates the options
The first sauna experiences took place in caves hung with animal skins with a fire burning inside, beneath a pile of stones. After the fire was extinguished, the stones would warm the cave into the night for those who basked in the steam from the stones when water was poured on them. While the sauna continues to be relished worldwide as a wholesome and restorative experience, the styling and application has understandably had significant adaptations over the years.
No one knows this better than Ursell Pools & Wellness (UP&W). The company offers pools, spas, saunas, steam rooms and hot tubs, and has adapted through the industry’s technical and fashionable iterations over 30 years of business.
They offer advice, design, installation and maintenance services for high-end projects from thermal rooms to relaxation pools. Working for both domestic and corporate clients, Ursell Pools & Wellness – who rebranded from BOS Leisure in 2019 to better reflect their position in both sectors – have received industry awards for their work, including Commercial Project of the Year 2019 at Beaverbrook Golf Club, UK School Pool of the Year 2018 at Exeter School, and Natural Pool of the Year 2019 for a private client in Bristol.
The company, based in Saltford, has a spacious showroom (over two floors), which once featured a swimming pool, and is constantly adapted with the latest wellness options and a workshop in the back for construction. We were enchanted by the outdoor sauna with deck module (see right), decorated with twinkling lights and styled with table and chairs, which would easily fit in a small to medium-sized garden and establishes a lifestyle setting for the sauna. So saunas are not only for those with big spaces, big time and big budgets.
This demand also taps into the idea of enabling restorative experiences in the outdoors, in the garden and within nature. You may point out that this works well if you have a home with significant acreage and a heartstopping view of green cliffs and the sea, but it can also be brought to more moderate gardens and homes, where the addition of a sauna or a small outdoor pool will reinvent the space and make it feel spectacular.
It’s even possible to site a sauna in the understairs area typically used for brooms, wellingtons and coats. In this case, the sauna is made part modular and part site-specific, as it can’t be fitted as a single piece. “Every project has different challenges,” explains company director Adam Neill. “Nothing is ever square in a house, nothing is level, but the construction of a sauna works by building a new room inside a room, and this allows the air flow and the ventilation process to work.” Adam goes on to explain how people’s expectations of wellness experiences have shifted over the years: “What has changed the most is the demand for something unique. Twenty years ago saunas and steam rooms were more standard, and much less focused on design. But now people don’t want just a sauna box, they want something that’s personal and special.”
A sauna can be more flexible in its positioning than a steam room, which requires access to mains water, but a steam room with its tiled finish means that you can take the treatment and experience of the room in any direction – from dark, atmospheric and moody to glazed, airy and light. The lighting is key in a steam room, with options including LEDs and fibre optics in the ceiling, walls and benches. Adam and his team will advise on the design options, but are equally used to working with their clients’ design concepts and finding the solutions that will bring them to life.
The trend in swimming pools, Adam tells me, is increasingly for low-chlorine pools, with customers seeking a more gentle, natural experience. The chlorine system used in standard swimming pools sanitises the water effectively, but chlorine is a harsh product and there is a demand for something less aggressive. UP&W can offer an ultra-low chlorine system, allowing a swimming pool to be run with chlorine levels that are lower than tap water, meaning that the water feels far softer and much gentler on the skin.
The natural pool in Bristol that UP&W won the award for last year uses no chemical treatments at all – it is simply a natural pool, with a pump, filter and minerals automatically added to the water to maintain the balance. “It has been crystal clear since installation,” says Adam.
A no-chlorine pool is also better for the environment because the natural pool water that is discharged from the system can be reused. UP&W are also experienced in harnessing renewable energy, with options for pools heated using air source or ground source heat pumps.
Smaller pools are a growing area. The award-winning natural pool is just 6 x 3m, and has a little alcove to put the cover and the swim jet, so it has a counter current unit in the pool, allowing the owner to swim for hours in a small space. Another recent project in Bristol was for a 25 x 3m domestic pool, used expressly for swimming lengths.
If you like the idea of having your own personal steamy or water-bound experience, one that you can access whenever you like, then you know how to get with the flow.