Since 1997, interior designer Colum McCartan (mccartan.com) has intermittently worked on renovations for Le Parker Meridien(119 W 56th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves; 212-245-5000, parkermeridien.com), and his latest task for the property was creating the upscale lodging’s first-ever spa, Moonshine, which opened in March. Furnishings from various design periods—ranging from the Baroque and Victorian eras to more modern epochs—are layered together to give the appearance of a long history. “It’s the idea that over time, this organically developed,” notes McCartan. “As if [the space has] been here for 20 generations of a family.” To play off the six-room spa’s basement location, the decor also makes subtle references to underground mining culture, caves and Prohibition. “The story comes from these random fantasy ideas, which are based on building something in the bowels of the earth,” he explains. As a counterpoint to the rustic, dimly lit setting, McCartan added extravagant trimmings such as plush throws, rich velvet seating and opulent mirrors. “When you’re doing a spa, you have to provide a sense of luxury,” he says. “It’s like Versace in the cabin.”
Before receiving a customized massage or facial (60mins $135, 90mins $190)—the only two services offered—all guests are given a gratis shot of Stillhouse Original Moonshine (moonshine.com). “We believe alcohol relaxes you,” explains public-relations and marketing director Marisa Zafran. A bottle of the clear corn whiskey takes center stage on a recycled industrial trolley from Olde Good Things(locations throughout the city; visit ogtstore.com), and is surrounded by remote-operated flameless candles in various sizes.
While working on the Marquis de Sade–themed interiors for Crimson Lounge (crimsonchicago.com) in Chicago, McCartan discovered North Carolina furniture wholesaler Old Hickory Tannery (ohtfurniture.com). “They buy all of the [chair] frames from Spain and then you can put your own fabric on it,” he notes. Although he chose to upholster the porter’s chair and armchair in crushed velvet and brocade, respectively, the seats were already sumptuous to begin with. “They are extremely ornate and feel almost Baroque—you can buy them with lion heads carved into the arms.” Footstools are tucked beneath each of the recliners for added comfort.
McCartan scoured flea markets such as the Brooklyn Flea(176 Lafayette Ave between Clermont and Vanderbilt Aves, Fort Greene, Brooklyn; Sat 10am–5pm • East River State Park, Kent Ave at North 7th St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; Sun 10am–5pm • brooklynflea.com) and West 25th Street Market (W 25th St between Broadway and Sixth Ave, hellskitchenfleamarket.com; Sat, Sun 9am–5pm) for old-timey decorative objects, such as this antique camera. “I looked for things that had been used and appeared as if they were collectible,” he says. “But there were no real rules, other than there had to be something reasonably authentic about it.”
All of the picture frames scattered throughout the waiting area contain photos of Tata Harper (tataharperskincare.com), whose high-end organic skin-care products are exclusively used by the spa for facials. “She didn’t know, and when she came to see the spa, she was like, ‘Wait, is that me?’” recalls Zafran.
Reclaimed barn-wood siding purchased at Olde Goode Things gives the space a rustic feel. “We didn’t polish it or clean it—we just stuck it right on the wall,” says McCartan. The paneling is juxtaposed against a Venetian mirror from Horchow (horchow.com). “It’s the contrast of something meticulously hand-carved from one of the most sumptuous eras in furnishing history with the roughest finish,” he explains.
As a nod to the classic animal sentinel of a canary in the coal mine, the spa features a live bird named Whiskey. Her cage rests atop a recycled antique wine barrel.
Old steamer trunks are stacked in a corner to hint at the idea of a world traveler. “A lot of decisions aren’t deliberate so much as they are iconic representations of luxury,” remarks McCartan. “There can’t be too much deep thought, otherwise it looks overdone.”
Prior to their appointments, patrons can choose a music genre—anything from techno or rap to jazz—to listen to on an in-room iPod. Binders featuring the playlist menus are laid out on a trolley cart from Olde Good Things.
A mix of raw plaster, sand and a coloring agent was imperfectly applied to the walls to give them a cavelike appearance. “When the contractors did it at first, they used trowels and I said, ‘No, that’s too good, that’s too straight!’” jokes McCartan. “So I got them to use very rough nails and fingers.” One of the construction workers then hand-painted cave drawings in lieu of traditional wall art.
All six of the treatment rooms feature burlap wall coverings. “It’s good for acoustics and it keeps things damp,” divulges McCartan. A mix of decorative oil lamps and whiskey jugs are lined up along a wooden shelf.
Miniature whiskey barrels are hung from door handles to indicate when a treatment room is currently occupied.
Lamps Plus Grape Rhombus night-light hurricane table lamp, $200, at lampsplus.com
Horchow oval Venetian-style mirror, $175, at horchow.com
Restoration Hardware furniture factory cart, $995, at Restoration Hardware, 935 Broadway at 22nd St (212-260-9479, rh.com)
Soft Surroundings Elmwood 3’6” x 5’6” rug, $300, at softsurroundings.com
Robert Harding Lascaux, Aquitaine, France cave-painting photographic print, $30, at art.com
Abbyson Living Aris fabric armchair, $349, at qvc.com
Vintage iron-studded barrel, $188, at overstock.com
Urban Outfitters Ava velvet tufted sleeper sofa, $749, at urbanoutfitters.com
House Beautiful Marketplace 20-inch Flemish-carved distressed Arabi candlesticks, two for $118, at hsn.com
Wooden lantern, $41, at overstock.com
Z Gallerie votive cup set, 12 for $20, at zgallerie.com
Horchow Baroque decorative pillows, $235–$255 each, at horchow.com
Lamps Plus Regency Collection table lamp, $150, at lampsplus.com
Bombay embroidered decorative pillows, two for $52, at qvc.com
Z Gallerie Lazo aubergine throw, $60, at zgallerie.com
Renaissance three-piece book box collection, $84, at overstock.com
RELAX FOR LESS! Mention TONY to receive 10 percent off all treatments at Moonshine Spa through April 18.
Follow Cristina Velocci on Twitter: @cvelocci