In the past few decades, the concept of “taking the waters”—or spa’ing, in more general parlance—has changed drastically. Gone are the days of cucumber eye patches, green mud masks, and face and body treatments heavy on oil and light on efficacy. “It’s a very well-traveled spa-goer these days,” says Naturopathica founder Barbara Close as she hands me an herbal tea spiked with her Stress-Relief tincture featuring relaxing oatstraw. The tincture is available on tap, one of four formulas offered in the entryway of Close’s newly revamped East Hampton Spa & Healing Center; it’s positioned a few steps from the bespoke bulk tea and incense library (“great for gifting,” per Close) and catty corner to the early 1900s herb-drying table she had shipped to New York from France.
Close herself is one such spa-goer. The herbalist and aesthetician has had a bird’s-eye view of the evolution of personal pampering, having been in the vanguard of merging naturopathic and herbal medicine with beauty treatments long before the word “wellness” even entered the cultural vernacular. “I had no idea what the Hamptons was,” Close recalls with a laugh, revealing that Martha Stewart wandered into her East Hampton storefront, right off Montauk Highway, the first day she opened in 1995 to sample her apothecary menu when natural skin care was still considered “very nut and granola.” (Locations in New York’s Chelsea and Upper East Side neighborhoods soon followed.) The herbs and bulk teas Close applied to a broad-reaching line of elevated products and face and body treatments were similarly ahead of their time, which has helped the highly recognizable blue glass bottles earn legions of fans (her Manuka Honey Cleansing Balm is the stuff of legend). The rest of the industry has finally caught up, of course, which is not lost on Close. She notes the uptick in brands that are starting to look quite similar to her own in ingredient composition, and in their holistic approach. “But that which adapts, thrives,” she says. “This is our vision of what we have all agreed will be the future of wellness.”
The physical manifestation of this vision arrives via a complete and total renovation of the East Hampton flagship spa, which officially re-opens today. A joint effort between Devon Lodge, Naturopathica’s executive director of spa sales and marketing, interior designer George Kolasa, and architect Anthony DiGuiseppe, dark wood details and a moody version of the brand’s signature blue—both in place since the spa’s opening over 25 years ago—have been replaced with custom trim painted with a punchy shade of azure and floors that have been stripped and bleached to achieve a precise shade of ash blonde. An additional 2,100 square feet of space adds to the overall airiness of the former spa, which now features a curated retail area with a rotating list of local brands (Mark Cross‘s beach-ready rattan and raffia bags are currently in residence), ten total treatment rooms, and an additional seven at the original space across the courtyard. Navy Pierre Jeanneret chairs, Noguchi lighting and a farmhouse sink from the 1700s speak to Close’s core philosophy of intertwining ancient healing techniques with modern modalities—something that is now essential at any spa worth its weight in citrus-infused water and ambient music.
The idea, she says, is to combine customized therapies and ingestible remedies with advanced technologies that work in tandem with the body’s natural healing abilities, which Close and her team are hoping to achieve with additional updates to the spa’s menu: contouring facial treatments with skin-refinishing nanofractional radio frequency to help boost collagen production are paired with skin healing herbs, such as marshmallow and lavender, while an Intense Pulse Light (IPL) treatment combats breakouts with bacteria-killing blue light and anti-inflammatory red light. Some particularly good facial massage techniques round out the new offerings.
“It’s a risk,” Close says of the overhaul, which includes a packaging refresh and an updated digital presence to showcase the brand’s virtual education sessions (which took off during the pandemic), as well as new functionalities designed to help customers select bespoke tinctures and teas online, coming this fall. “But we were really ready for this update.” The self-care seeking locals and tourists who are about to descend on Long Island for the long weekend are no doubt ready as well.