Sanctuary Is Yours with This Palette Inspired by Aire Ancient Baths
A 16,000-square-foot sanctuary hides in the heart of Tribeca. An Old World retreat from modern-day stressors, Aire Ancient Baths is a cavernous wonderland of inspiration and reflection. It is a romantic take on the urban day spa or shvitz tradition, packaged in quiet opulence and organic grandeur. But the award-winning spa wasn’t always the beautiful retreat it is today.
Restoring Old Beauty
While spas themselves are an ancient tradition, there are very few places in New York that can claim the same longevity. But Aire Ancient Baths managed to seek out the next best thing when scouting for its New York location: a hidden gem of an older building with high architectural value to NYC.
Architect J. Morgan Slade designed the building on Franklin Street, between Broadway and Church Street, in 1881. Slade was an up-and-coming architect in the New York scene who unfortunately never saw the building completed in 1883 due to his premature death. His Greek revival design has seen many forms—most notably a textile factory and an art gallery. But it was Aire Ancient Baths that sought to restore the beauty Slade originally envisioned.
It was Aire Ancient Baths that sought to restore the beauty Slade originally envisioned.
The spa enlisted architectural firm Alonso Balaguer to return the building to its former glory. When the group began working on the space, it was white-boxed and shuttered. The original building details and structure were covered in plaster and Sheetrock. The first thing Alonso Balaguer did was strip the facade to reveal the space’s original character, allowing the building to breathe.
“Since we started our first Aire project in Barcelona, Spain, in 2004, we understood the client’s premise: design a space that brings a full relaxation experience while also bringing an understanding of local architectural tradition,” said Ignacio Alonso, one of the architects on the project.
Respecting Slade’s original design, Alonso’s firm diligently cleaned cellar bricks one by one. It reused native source-building materials like beams and joists wherever possible, creating beautiful benches and tables in addition to gorgeous millwork and flooring. Alonso Balaguer also installed antique marble basins circa Slade’s same time period that were imported from Spain.
Aesthetics, Alonso said, were at the forefront of the firm’s design—a design that makes the spa distinctly one of a kind.
Aesthetics, Alonso said, were at the forefront of the firm’s design—a design that makes the spa distinctly one of a kind. “In order to maintain and highlight the building’s aesthetics, an HVAC system used typically in airports and office buildings was implemented so all ductwork is hidden, allowing the spa visitors to contemplate unobstructed ceilings in more open spaces,” he explained. “The white marble on pool basins and flooring was imported from a historical quarry in Macael, Spain. The marble was cut to specific sizes in order to create a randomized floor pattern, like a patchwork. The steam room located in the center of the space was designed as a reference to one of master Spanish chef Ferran Adrià’s culinary plates from El Bulli, known as the ‘foggy foam.’ A clear glass cube contains the steam, then—because the steam is visible from the exterior—it creates the feeling of ‘entering into the breathing fog.’”
The spa has a distinctly organic feel due to the natural materials used in its design—quite the contrast to the urban jungle in the Tribeca streets towering above it.
The spa has a distinctly organic feel due to the natural materials used in its design—quite the contrast to the urban jungle in the Tribeca streets towering above it. The marble flooring, glass, and wooden accents create a sense of being grounded, while the glowing turquoise-water features free the mind and spirit. Everything in the space was expertly coordinated to highlight its original character and charm.
Deep Traditional Roots
Since prehistoric times, people have believed in the curative power of mineral water. Thermal springs were often the site of contemplation and recharging one’s wellness. Thermal baths such as Aire are rooted in Roman and Greek tradition. Over the years, this method of healing one’s spirit and body transformed into steam rooms and saunas, but spas remain popular for their unique treatments and holistic offerings like massage and yoga—both of which are provided at Aire. If you need an excuse to book your visit, look no further than this list of health benefits. (We recommend the signature Red Wine Ritual, the height of indulgent relaxation.)
Yawning pools are lit in peaceful turquoise, deep azure, or purifying near-white.
Aire Ancient Baths offers peaceful rejuvenation via its salt pool (complete with underwater music as you float in Dead Sea–density aqueous suspension), jet bath, and range of thermal pools to suit every level of stressor. The glass hammam referenced above by Alonso features delicate eucalyptus aromatherapy to calm even the most anxious of bodies and minds. In between dips in various pools, visitors can rest on heated marble stones.
Aire is equally easy on the eyes. Atmospheric lighting and serene colorways further highlight the space’s ethereal, dreamlike qualities. Candles in genuine Moroccan lanterns from Marrakech flicker against original 1883 brick. Yawning pools are lit in gentle turquoise, deep azure, or purifying near-white. Gathering spaces like the lobby glow warmly, inviting visitors to unwind and rehydrate with a fresh juice or tea.
Designing a Sanctuary
Drawing inspiration from this NYC gem, breathe serenity into any interior design project with this handcrafted palette featuring Pratt & Lambert paint hues. Look to Snow Goose 23-1 and Ashford 2-27 for balancing neutrals that echo the charm of Aire Ancient Baths’ marble basins and stone features. Deep Taupe 2-21 provides a nod to the organic, Old World brick and lumber. This earthy shade keeps the palette (and your psyche) grounded while complementing the handpicked turquoise shades of the spa’s soothing waters. Whirlpool Blue 22-16 allows for deep reflection, and its contrast, Bambino 23-5, is the essence of relaxation.
This palette works well with copper metal accents, supple leathers in a range of natural shades, clear glass, and natural stone. To fully recreate Aire Ancient Bath’s decadently dim-lit refuge, opt for indirect, muted, and accent lighting. The flickering glow of a few well-placed lanterns is the perfect finishing touch on this calming design.