Travis Talmadge and Jason Goodman aren’t fans of the spa. That’s not to say they aren’t fans of relaxation (everyone’s, well, a fan of relaxation). They just couldn’t get behind the traditional American spa environment, with its pin-drop quiet atmosphere, winding corridors of secluded rooms, and focus on individual experiences. Throughout their travels, they realized a wellness destination could be different. For eons, other cultures have embraced a more social space for R&R: the bath house.
“The spa is often an isolated experience,” says Goodman, “but bathhouses are bustling, fun, engaging places.” So they decided to open one of their own. The result? The aptly named Bathhouse, which opens next week in Williamsburg.
They enlisted Jennifer Carpenter, whose projects include the Converse and Adidas headquarters, to transform the old Dr. Brown’s Soda Factory on Berry and N. 10th into an oasis of lively calm. An entry way of white exposed brick and pots and pots of leafy plants eventually leads to a subterranean spa with modish matte tiles and a aqua mural by artist Amit Greenberg. Treatment rooms are adorned with colorful Kilim rugs and vintage anatomical drawings, while a steam room’s ceiling is adorned with a light-up recreation of the night sky (stare up long enough, and you can find Orion’s belt). And there are still hints of an industrial vibe: one treatment room is tucked away in the old smokestack.
Talmadge and Goodman looked to the rich history of bath houses to determine what, exactly, their communal offerings should be. The wellness concept doesn’t belong to a singular people or place: Bath houses were used by the Romans and Byzantines, which likely inspired Turkish outposts in the 7th century. Russia’s banyas were well established by the 900s, and Japanese onsens date back to the 500s. Then there’s the lost city of Mohenjo-daro’s Great Bath, which archaeologists believe was built almost 5,000 years ago. “There's no real American bathhouse culture,” Talmadge tells Vogue. “So, we asked ourselves—what do we want to draw from for each culture? What are the most amazing aspects from each?” The result is a melting pot of experiences: there’s a cold pool, which is a concept with Russian roots, steam rooms, which originated in the Roman era, and distinctly Turkish hammams, to name a few.
Not that every offering is an ancient technique: patrons can get cryotherapy, or spend an hour floating in a sensory deprivation tank. Talmadge and Goodman also hired treatment specialists who worked with athletes at the Brooklyn Nets and the New York City Football Club, impressed by their deep physiological knowledge of the body. “We wanted people to look, feel, and perform better,” Goodman says. Services include massages, scrubs, and stretches.
When you’re done, put on a bathrobe and head up to the Bathhouse restaurant, where the partners behind Macao Trading Co. and Employees Only are serving up a Northern European-influenced menu. Some dishes? Crispy chicken skin with farmer’s cheese and salmon roe, torn pasta with duck confit, and steamed sea bass.
As winter creeps in, it sounds like the ideal Sunday agenda has already been set: just wade into thermal waters and wash your worries down with a glass of wine.
Originally Appeared on Vogue