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Spa lighting solutions

Author: Glenn Harper
Published: May 23, 2013

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The word ‘spa’ is sometimes erroneously said to be derived from a Latin acronym, but is actually stolen from the Belgian town of Spa - a veritable ‘water city’ known for its healing cold springs since the 14th century. Spas became fashionable in England during the 18th and 19th centuries when the upper classes were finally convinced of the benefits of bodily cleanliness, but by the turn of the 20th century they’d dwindled in popularity again, with seaside resorts such as Blackpool, Brighton, and Margate being more fashionable places to splash about!

The carnage of the First World War created a brief though ill-gotten resurgence in spa popularity, as innumerable maimed and afflicted soldiers ‘took the cure’. By that time, though, many disused spas had already been commandeered as military hospitals. It wasn’t until the 1990s that spas truly made their comeback, and they continue to thrive today, perhaps fuelled by our frenetic lifestyles, longer working lives, greater stress levels, and a general disconnect with nature and our own well-being. There’s a need to occasionally detoxify, reboot, get more in touch with who we are, and be shamelessly pampered!

Types of Spa

The various types of spa are many, but they can be primarily broken down into two categories: hotel spas (also known as resort/destination spas) and day spas. The former is a spa with stay-over facilities, or indeed a hotel with spa facilities, whilst the latter specializes in treatments that can be administered in just a few hours.

Services typically offered in either type of spa include: saunas, steam baths, bathing, hot springs, mud baths, body wraps, massages, hairstyling, manicures, pedicures, makeup application, facials, skin treatments, waxing, and aromatherapy. Many spas offer ‘signature services’, comprising of complementary combinations of these and other treatments.

Spa Style

When planning to open a spa you’d generally be well advised to engage the services of a spa consultant, who will lend expert advice on specific markets, viability of services for your area, physical layout, and often interior design. Depending on the services you intend offering, you’ll need equipment such as a reception desk, computer system with scheduling software, massage tables, salon stations and stools for hairstyling, manicure tables, pedicure chairs, facial equipment, linens, mirrors, pillows, plants, slippers, robes, and heating.

To help create exactly the ambience you require, and one that accentuates the style of your spa, particular care should be taken when choosing light fittings. Spa styles can vary considerably, with themes such as glamour, contemporary, traditional, organic, wood, and Zen. Remember that spa customers tend to gauge their experience as much by the way they feel as they do by the services themselves, so it’s vital that you create an experience that customers will want to return to.

Spa lighting areas


As your customers enter into the reception of your spa, so they're also gaining a first impression of your establishment and its ambiance, so lighting can be a mixture of task-oriented and decorative. The Endon Harmony Wall Light fulfils the role of decorative lighting perfectly, with its diminishing geometric pattern very restful in its effect and ideal for contemporary or ‘Zen’ settings. Also contemporary in its appeal, the stunning Aperture 65 Shade by award-winning designer Claire Norcross is a great centre-piece pendant that’s guaranteed to steal attention. With its adjustable apertures you can modify the output of this paper-made lightshade to provide just the right amount of light for your needs.

With the Fireguard LED6 Tilt Dimmable Downlight from JCC you get a practical downlight with relaxing warm white output, ideal for putting customers at ease whilst also providing directional light for reception desks. Compatible with dimmer switches, you can control the output of these lights to create ambience and simultaneously make them even more economical to run. With an IP20 rating this light is suitable for the dry areas of a spa, but being fire rated it safeguards the integrity of a ceiling in the event of a fire. Thanks to its tiltable light head the Fireguard is also effective for accent and feature lighting.

Swimming pools

Pool areas in spas are sometimes outdoor, often indoor areas where discreet downward lighting is ideal. With an IP65 Ingress Protection rating the Fireguard LED6 Dimmable Spotlight is ideal as over-pool lighting; the dimmable light provides plenty of scope for setting mood, with the warm white version particularly good for a relaxing evening swim. Choose cooler lights for an enlivening feel closer to daylight. These lights are fire-rated, and comply with Part B (Fire Safety) of UK building regulations, so in the event of a fire the intumescent filling within the fitting expands to help prevent flames immediately taking hold.

Use of colour in a spa is vital – as it helps customers to relax. Coloured lighting is especially effective in conjunction with water, so you might like to consider the Deltech 5M LED Flexi Strip. Resistant to jets of water, these low-powered strips are suitable for poolside use and are colour-switchable and dimmable when used with a separately available controller and amplifier.

The Garland LED Walkover Lights are great for illuminating decking, but with an IP68 rating can also be submersed around the edges of a swimming pool or used in conjunction with water features. Use of LEDs in these lights makes them extremely tough, so they can be walked over and are shock resistant. Please note: the accompanying transformer is weather-resistant but is not submersible.

Changing rooms

Ideal for conserving energy, the Carina LED Flush with Microwave Sensor only switches on when it detects movement, and unlike a PIR sensor the microwave sensor is unobtrusively concealed within the fitting. With its IP65 rating this wall or ceiling-mountable light is suitable for installation in areas exposed to water, so it’s ideal for pool changing rooms, for instance.

An alternative offering ideal for changing room installation is the Horizon Low Energy Bulkhead from ASD Lighting. With an IP65 rating this fitting is suitable for wet changing room areas on either walls or ceilings. The Horizon is supplied ready-to-go with a 16W low-energy 2D bulb with a GR8 2-pin cap.

Another Lyco recommendation is the Zodiac Mirror Light from Dar Lighting, which divides 16 LEDs between the left and right of a mirror. One of the particular advantages of this product is that it provides balanced illumination for the face, and avoids the harsh, unflattering shadows that can occur with more directional lighting. This stylish mirror-light is also IP44 rated, boasts an LED lifespan of 50,000 hours, and integrates a convenient on/off pull cord. Alternative 20-light versions and shaver socket options are available.

Treatment rooms

Ideal for enhancing mood in a treatment room whilst also being unobtrusive and discreet, the Hove Wall Light from Dar Lighting casts an attractive up-and-down pattern of wall lighting. Finished in white plaster, this fitting comes complete with two G9 halogen capsules for a crisp yet warm and relaxing output of light.

Capable of taking a 300W double-ended halogen bulb, the Opus Uplighter Floor Lamp delivers strong upward illumination ideal for larger rooms or for reflecting off a ceiling for a softened overall spread of light. This attractively priced lamp is available in a choice of finishes, and comes complete with an energy-saving linear halogen 230W bulb (300W equivalent) producing a relaxing warm light. Even better, the Opus comes with a sliding dimmer switch so you can control strength of output to suit the mood whilst also reducing energy consumption.

For those task-oriented treatment rooms and salon areas of a spa, a halogen downlight is ideal. The illumination is bright and crisp, and despite a typically warm output halogen is inherently colour accurate with a continuous spectrum of light. The Eon Directional Downlight with its 15° swivelling head is ideal for tasks such as hair styling and makeup treatments whilst also being attractively priced. An IP65 rating means this light is also suitable for wet areas (unsuitable for submersion or steam rooms) whilst its fire rating tells you it will protect a ceiling against flames for up to 90 minutes. The Eon comes complete with a 35W mains-powered GU10 halogen bulb.

Form and function

When designing and equipping a spa it’s worth considering what it is exactly that visitors want from such a place. Of course they are interested in the services and facilities, but more than anything else frequenters of spas are looking for a sensory experience through sound, sight, smell, touch, and perhaps taste. The five senses.

Our motives for visiting a spa have altered. Around the year 1800, Bath in Somerset became one of the largest cities in England, largely through its association with good health and habitation by a comparative legion of pharmacists, doctors, and surgeons. Nowadays we live in a different, more secular society; we’re longer-lived and likely to be seeking spiritual refuge rather than a miracle cure.

Lighting has an invaluable part to play in creating all-important atmosphere in a spa. If you think of Chinese yin-yang philosophy where all things in the universe are perfectly balanced by their opposite component, so it is with lighting. Shadow cannot exist without light, and contrasting areas of light and dark create ambience — just watch a film noir movie for proof!

With that in mind, wall-mounted uplights, downlights, and bi-directional up-and-down lights are great for accenting décor and creating mood. Discreet recessed ceiling downlights - often tiltable - can be directed onto the many embellishing features of a spa, such as plants, urns, tables and chairs. You can use light to define space. Dimmer switches are great for setting the overall mood of a room; it might be said, somewhat pretentiously perhaps, that this creates a canvas or foil for subtler, gentler effects from decorative lights such as candles.

The colour of white

It’s also worth considering the colour temperature of light, which causes an emotional response in humankind. Calling upon the Kelvin scale of a theoretical black body radiator, a traditional wax candle has an extremely warm temperature of 1800K, which has a wonderfully calming effect on us. A cosy log fire has similar soothing appeal.

Slightly cooler in colour than a natural flame is an incandescent light bulb, with a typical temperature of 2700K. This is also considered a warm light, more suited to relaxing than lamps with cooler temperatures of 4000-5000K. But in areas where you might like to induce a feeling of invigorated alertness, a cooler light may suit, and will blend more harmoniously with ambient light.

Steam room lighting

Unfortunately Lyco do not stock any products suitable for lighting a spa steam room or sauna. This is a very specialist area owing to the sheer pervasiveness of moisture and extreme fluctuations in heat, with dedicated vapour-proof, low-voltage downlights and fibre optic systems being typically required. We advise consulting with an established sauna and steam room supplier for your needs in this area.

For more options, our indoor lighting section offers a few alternatives to the above selections.

For more advice, inspiration and news take a look at our Lighting Advice section.