Tropical, peaceful spas provide relaxing escapes

04/25/2014 1:00 PM

04/27/2014 8:17 PM

In winter, a spa is an escape from frigid temperatures and snow. In the spring and summer, it’s a mecca for athletes with sore muscles in need of a massage.

And any time of the year, it’s the go-to spot for those in need of a facial or a bit of pampering. Vee Osborne, owner of Plaza West Massage Day Spa, says phone calls come in steadily throughout the year.

“I took this 70-year-old house, and we renovated it from top to bottom,” Osborne says. “When we were working, we were going for an island mantra. I’m from Hawaii and that’s influenced the decor.”

Hula dancers might not greet you at the door, but there’s an unmistakable tropical feeling to the spa, which offers everything from couples massages to body wraps; Reiki to waxing.

Take a seat in the waiting, or “quiet” room on a comfy cushioned wicker couch or chair and admire the painting of a Hawaiian seaside. Bamboo, which brings peace and longevity, Osborne says, decorates tables and corners as it does in the spa’s satellite office, a more modern-looking space in the Hotel Sorella on the Country Club Plaza. Mint green and peach-colored walls add to the tropical look at Plaza West.

Susan Heitmann, owner of Shine Spa in Westport, took a bolder approach to the color schemes in her spa — from an eye-catching orange couch in the waiting room to colorful touches throughout the space.

“I wanted more a bright, happy spa, with nothing too muted,” Heitmann says.

Even the entrance to the spa, tucked into a historic brick building in Westport, makes a bold statement. An enormous chandelier, which was there when she took over the space, is often the first thing people comment on. Wrought-iron gates and windows, part of the original structure, decorate the walls.

“Everyone likes the natural light,” says Heitmann, walking through the spa, which opened in 2006.

She points to an orange sofa with a midcentury modern appeal in the waiting room.

“I like those bright pops of color to create a warm, inviting atmosphere.”

Osborne also likes color; hers come from vibrant artwork along the walls of her spa on Plaza West.

“When I came here, I brought a lot of Hawaiian artwork with me,” Osborne says. “I love to collect things, so my home is filled with treasures that sometimes make their way here.”

Red linens with images of honu — Hawaiian sea turtles — grace every massage table. “The honu holds great meaning in Hawaii,” Osborne says, adding that they are a symbol of peace and luck.

On a chilly winter morning, Matthew Schaitel, a senior therapist at Plaza West, is getting his room ready for a client. Most of the harsh light of the day is blocked from the windows. The room catches most of its light from candlelight, which shimmers through blue and green sea glass in Schaitel’s creations.

“You take something like a hurricane lamp and insert a tall, narrow candleholder big enough for a tealight,” says the massage therapist. Put glass beads or sea glass in the space between to create the atmosphere you’re looking for.

Also key to setting his clients at ease is soothing music, Schaitel says.

“When I first started, it was Enya and Pachelbel, but then I started listening to what my clients wanted,” Schaitel said. “I’ve had good results with mellow electronic music, and solo guitar with soft female voices, often in another language so the client doesn’t focus too much on the lyrics.”

There’s a good reason for that, Osborne says. They’re visiting the spa to escape.

“We don’t want the client to intellectualize,” she says. “They’re here to relax and escape.”

Capturing the vibe

Whether it’s a sunroom, patio or bathroom, Vee Osborne, owner of Plaza West Massage Day Spa, and Susan Heitmann, owner of Shine Spa, have ideas to help create a spot to soothe the spirit.

Shine Spa



Bain Ultra air. Depending on size, they range from $3,000 to $7,000 at Kitchens Baths by Briggs of Lenexa, 913-387-4900 and Grandview Winnelson Co. in Grandview, 816-765-2555.



Twilight sleeper sofa in dark orange, $1,900 at Design Within Reach.


Chandelier: Elegante Etruscan chandelier by Maxim Lighting International, $570 at


Plaza West Massage Day Spa


Wicker sofa: Coco Cove settee, $279.95 at Pier 1 Imports. Five area locations and at



Decor: Tiki mask wall plaque, $12.90 and up,


Join the Discussion

The Kansas City Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service