December 18, 2008

Luxe Life: Red Door Spa Sneak Peek

This is much overdue, but here's the peek at the new Red Door in the Willard Hotel. Headed there for the first real "treatment" soon, so stay tuned for an update!

Sneak Peek: Red Door Spa at the Willard Hotel

Economy, be damned. If you're already shelling out the big bucks to stay in a luxury hotel, you should at least take advantage of the amenities, right?

Unfortunately, most hotel spas are an overpriced bust -- sub-standard service and numerous surcharges generally indicate that the only thing feeling lighter at the end of a trip is your wallet.

Not so with the Willard InterContinental's newly re-vamped spa. Previously the privately-run I Spa, the facility was purchased by Elizabeth Arden's chain of Red Door salons earlier this year and debuted to the public just a few weeks prior.

We got a sneak peak inside the new facilities and were pleasantly surprised by what we found when Annie Gaye, the spa manager, gave us a private tour.


Many features of the original I Spa were maintained, as no additional build-outs occurred during renovation. The reception area features black stone floors and velvet-covered red waiting couches, plus a selection of Elizabeth Arden products by names like Prevage, the preferred Red Door brand.

Sleek cases in the front of the spa adequately display products, but the addition of ove

rsized glass cases makes the reception room a bit crowded. A small hotel brochure adorned the table, but no magazines were available for perusal.

Luckily, friendly receptionists, many recently rotated in from the larger Chevy Chase location, quickly escorted guest to changing rooms and service waiting areas.

D├ęcor is minimalist, with small red and zen-like touches throughout the spa, added to give an additional boost to the Red Door's traditional theme.

The waiting area for services (different than reception) features the magazines missing from the front desk area -- guests could peruse current fashion magazines or issues of Where, frequently found at area hotels. Low lighting, comfortable chairs, as well as complimentary hot tea, bottled water and snacks like oat crackers and mixed nuts are available for spa guests.

Changing Areas:

Individual male and female changing areas are similar to many h

igher-end spa and gym rooms. A central bank of electronically code-able lockers is available for product storage, and fluffy robes and towels are available for guests.

Showers and steam rooms are also available, with complimentary toiletries available upon request.

The only downside to the changing area that we could tell is that it is shared with those enjoying use of the hotel gym, also housed within the spa. Luckily, the small gym doesn't appear overly crowded, so it didn't appear to be an issue.


Services are comparable to those at other Red Door spas - with the exception of re-named packages to indicate Washington-related themes: a $177 "Secret Services" pairs an Express facial and massage with a Warm Cream Manicure, while the "Inaugural Indulgence" ($555) features the Ultimate Arden Facial, Signature Stress Melter Ritual, Seasonal Manicure/Pedicure and Spa Lunch.

Most services run on the standard side at this downtown-- no Thai Massage or Ear Candling here -- but facial services do include med-spa add-ons like Glycolic Peels and Dermabrasion if desired.

Prices are also slightly higher than the Chevy Chase outpost -- a signature manicure is $45, versus $42 in Chevy Chase, and the Signature 110-minute Stress Melter Ritual, which includes "a special integration of calming services" like a skin-softening, olive oil body exfoliation, followed by a nurturing aromatic body wrap and scalp massage and aroma-balancing massage is $230 instead of $215.

Guests also receive a complimentary mini-makeup refresher after all spa services -- an added generous touch.

Hair services are not yet available at this location, but spa manager Gaye says she plans to add them in the future.

Treatment / Waiting Rooms:

The treatment rooms truly top-notch. Each features ample space and low, adjustable lighting. Treatment beds are plush and heated.

But the best part about the rooms themselves is the in-suite showers with multiple Vichy-style showerheads. A girl could soak for days in that incredible water pressure!

Manicure and pedicure facilities are small, but adequate, with two tables each for manicure and pedicure offerings. In warm weather, guests can also choose to indulge in outdoor treatments on the spa patio, where spa lunches are served to guests purchasing day and half-day packages.

Couples enjoying one of the spa's many "aquatic" offerings also are offered oversized tubs for soaking. Gaye says those packages are especially popular around the holidays and Valentines Day.


Many of the staff from the original I Spa were retained, along with additional therapists brought in from other area Red Door salons, primarily the Chevy Chase location.

While we didn't have the opportunity to try a treatment on this recent visit, previous therapists have been both experienced and exceptionally nice.

Overall Experience:

Overall, the new Red Door seems to be on par with what fans of an Elizabeth Arden spa have come to expect, albeit in a slightly smaller setting.

Gaye explains that the revamp was about both selling the known Elizabeth Arden brand and making the spa more attractive to locals and hotel guests alike, but also facilitating an ease of use - appointments can now be booked online, and gift cards are transferrable to a variety of locations.

I would consider popping in for a late afternoon facial or massage (perhaps combined with the hotel's fantastical-looking tea presentation?), and certainly would find interest in booking a treatment during a weekend stay.

Location Info: Red Door Spas at the Willard InterContinental: 1401 Pennsylvania Ave., Downtown, 202-942-270;

1 comment:

Their Spa Gift Cards Rock as stocking stuffers! said...

Love it! Red Door Spas has some great services and of course with the holidays among us, they also have great spa gift cards that make perfect stocking stuffers. And, to top it off they're holding a holiday giveaway complete with a stay at Harrah's, massage, mani, pedi, and more for two. Everyone should enter Red Door Suite Escape.


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