How Online Interior-Design Classes Kicked Me Out Of My Décor Doldrums
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How Online Interior-Design Classes Kicked Me Out Of My Décor Doldrums

After two years of coming up with ways to make her house more livable during the pandemic, our décor columnist didn’t have any creative spark left.

By MICHELLE SLATALLA
Thu, Jun 23, 2022 4:08pmGrey Clock 4 min

I am not depressed. I swear. I have a very good reason for sitting here, watching TV in the middle of the day: I am trying to avoid thinking about my kitchen cabinets.

During the past two years—as I upgraded my home office, bought outdoor furniture and by the way became a binge-watcher with at least 11 Scandi-noir series under my belt—I failed to notice the most-used room of my house was getting used too much.

If I were to turn my head to look away from the screen, which I will not because Detective Wisting is examining a skeleton in a shallow, snowy grave, I would see an entire wall of built-in cupboards. Once, they were a lovely shade of charcoal. But now the colour has faded to ash, with paint worn away around the knobs, exposing the primer beneath.

Who wouldn’t be depressed?

There was a time when the challenge of a looming paint job would have sent me straight to the paint store for a billion swatches and tester pots. But after two years of focusing on practical ways to make my house more livable for the way life changed during the pandemic, I don’t have any creative spark left.

“How do I get out of this rut?” I asked my husband, who had just made popcorn in anticipation of countless hours in chilly Helsinki as Detective Nurmi tries to unmask a possibly corrupt and certainly venal real-estate development company.

“If only staring at a screen, being entertained, was the way to solve life’s problems,” he commiserated.

Wait. Maybe it is. Could I get some ideas from bingeing an online decorating class?

In fact, my friend Jennifer had recently binged—and raved about—a class that celebrity interior designer Kelly Wearstler launched in 2020 on MasterClass (where a $15-a-month subscription provides access to all 150 of the site’s classes).

It turns out there are many pay-as-you-go online crash courses aimed at amateur decorators like me—which go far beyond freebie YouTube channels offering bite-size house tours and questionable production values.

I could enroll in courses that ranged from practical—“How to Design a Room in 10 Easy Steps” ($13.99-a-month subscription at Skillshare)—to inspirational, featuring the British architectural historian Edward Bulmer taking you through his own home for “A Guide to Pigments, Paints and Palettes” (about $100 for 23 lessons at UK-based Create Academy). I even considered an $80 course in “Designing Your Home the Nordic Way” at Nordic Design Institute.

But out of loyalty to my kitchen, I wanted something practical. And the class had to be visually polished and highly entertaining—because after two years of binge-watching, I demand charismatic characters, strong plots and drop-dead backdrops.

Luckily, all the online courses offered free trailers, lesson-plan descriptions or teaser lessons. After bingeing the clips, I narrowed my options to courses at either Create Academy or MasterClass because they offered tantalizing glimpses of high-profile designers’ lives, homes and opinionated personalities.

“We try to create immersive experiences that are the closest thing to being with the person you are learning from,” said Olenka Lawrenson, the head of brand at Create Academy. “We want you to go into our instructors’ homes, have a cup of tea with them, go shopping together.”

At MasterClass, said Nekisa Cooper, vice president of content, “we try to find instructors who are the best in the world at their craft and then take you behind the scenes to see how they think and make decisions, as they give you practical instruction.” Ms. Cooper also said 75% of subscribers end up taking classes in categories—cooking, writing, music—other than the one that attracted them.

Among the MasterClass offerings: guitar with Carlos Santana, cooking with Yotam Ottolenghi, magicians’ tips from Penn & Teller.

“I’ve taken close to 100 myself,” she said.

“As a binger, I admit I am swayed by your all-you-can-watch subscription model,” I said. “I would rather take any one of those classes than actually confront my kitchen cabinet problem head-on.”

“I think you might like our new class with designer Corey Damen Jenkins,” Ms. Cooper said. “He teaches you hard skills. He helps people be courageous. He gets the creative juices flowing.”

Sold.

After subscribing, I devoured seven of Mr. Jenkins’s lessons in one sitting, learning that the Manhattan-based designer grew up in Michigan, where he tenaciously knocked on 779 neighbours’ doors to get his first client.

His lessons were addictive, and most under 10 minutes long, featuring an energetic and charismatic Mr. Jenkins leading a walk-through of a jewel-toned living room he recently designed, or expertly wielding a glue gun to create a colour board of fabric, rug and paint swatches. “Put large dollops of glue,” he said, adding, “This takes practice. I’ve been doing this since 1996.”

Did the lessons restore my creative spark? I’m not sure, because the next day I couldn’t really remember any of Mr. Jenkins’s specific tips.

“Why is this not working for me? I love watching the classes, but I’m not retaining any useful information,” I said to Alejandro Lleres, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign whose research focuses on the best ways to learn new material.

“You’re bingeing,” said Prof. Lleres. “One thing that happens with binge-watching a TV show is that sometimes six months later you’ve forgotten everything.”

“True, I can barely describe the plot of any Scandi-noir series. I think in one of them a body got cut in half on a bridge,” I said.

“Think about shows in the past where you had to wait for the next episode,” he said. “Between episodes you spent time thinking and remembering, and now you probably remember them better.”

He advised me to pace myself: “If there are any exercises, do them. That will help.”

The next day, I re-watched a lesson on coordinating color. It was just as interesting the second time around—and this time I took notes.

“Have you learned anything?” my husband asked.

“Paint colour is the last element you should pick in a room because it ‘locks you into a visual vernacular,’” I said, reading from my notes. “I’m pretty excited, though.”

“About paint?” he asked.

“And about enrolling in that Nordic design class as soon as I get back from the paint store,” I said.



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Clocking out to Turn Back Time—Vacations That Will Help You Live Longer
By TRACY KALER
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Booming demand for wellness tourism shows no slowing, with travel related to health and well-being projected to have reached $1 trillion last year and to hit $1.3 trillion by 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit based in Miami.

Curated wellness travel programs are especially sought-after, specifically holistic treatments focused on longevity. Affluent travellers not only are making time to hit the gym while gallivanting across the globe, they’re also seeking destinations that specifically cater to their wellness goals, including treatments aimed at living longer.

“I believe Covid did put a spotlight on self-care and well-being,” says Penny Kriel, corporate director of spa and wellness at Salamander Collection, a group of luxury properties in places like Washington, D.C., and Charleston, South Carolina. But Kriel says today’s spas are more holistic, encouraging folks to understand the wellness concept and incorporate it into their lifestyle more frequently.

“With the evolution of treatment products and technology, spas have been able to enhance their offerings and appeal to more travellers,” Kriel says.

While some growth is connected to the variety of treatments available, results and the digital world are also contributing to the wellness boom.

“The efficacy and benefits of these treatments continue to drive bookings and interest, especially with the support of social media, influencers, and celebrity endorsements,” Kriel says.

While genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, a diet free of processed foods, sufficient sleep, and human connection play essential roles in living well and longer, experts believe in holistic therapies to help manage stress, boost immunity, and ultimately influence length and quality of life.

Anti Ageing and Beyond

“For years, people have been coming to spas, booking treatments, and gaining advice on how to turn the clock back with anti ageing and corrective skin treatments,” Kriel says. However, today’s treatments are far more innovative.

On Marinella Beach in Porto Rotondo, on the Italian island of Sardinia, guests at the five-star Abi d’Oru Hotel & Spa can experience the resort’s one-of-a-kind “longevity treatment,” a unique antiaging facial using one of the island’s native grapes: Cannonau. The world’s first declared “Blue Zone”—one of five designated areas where people live longer than average, some into their 100s—Sardinia produces this robust red wine varietal, the most widely planted on the island.

Known as Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in France, Cannonau supposedly contains two to three times more antioxidants than other red-wine grapes. By incorporating Cannonau, Abi Spa says its unique 50-minute longevity session increases collagen production for firmer, younger-looking skin.

Maintaining a youthful appearance is just one facet of longevity treatments, which range from stress-reduction sessions like massage to nutritional support and sleep programs, Kriel says. Some retreats also offer medical services such as IV infusions and joint injections.

Keeping with the trend, Kriel is expanding Salamander Collection’s existing spa services, such as detox wraps and lymphatic drainage, to include dedicated “Wellness Rooms,” new vegan and vegetarian menu items, and well-being workshops. “Sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness will be a big focus for integration in 2024,” she says.

Data-Driven Wellness

Skyler Stillings, an exercise physiologist at Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort—an adults-only wellness centre in Lanai, Hawaii—says guests were drawn to the social aspect when the spa opened in November 2021.

“We saw a huge need for human connection,” she recalls. But over the past few years, what’s paramount has shifted. “Longevity is trending much more right now.”

Human connection is a central draw for guests at Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Billionaire co-founder of tech company Oracle Larry Ellison and physician and scientist Dr. David Angus co-founded Sensei. After the death of a mutual close friend, the duo teamed up to create longevity-based wellness retreats to nurture preventative care and a healthy lifestyle. In addition to the Lanai location, the brand established Sensei Porcupine Creek in Greater Palm Springs, California, in November 2022.

Sensei has a data-driven approach. The team performs a series of assessments to obtain a clearer picture of a guest’s health, making wellness recommendations based on the findings. While Sensei analyses that data to curate a personalised plan, Stillings says it’s up to the guests which path they choose.

Sensei’s core three-day retreat is a “Guided Wellness Experience.” For spa treatments, each guest checks into their own “Spa Hale,” a private 1,000-square-foot bungalow furnished with an infrared sauna, a steam shower, a soaking tub, and plunge pools. The latest therapies include Sarga Bodywalking—a barefoot myofascial release massage, and “Four Hands in Harmony,” a massage with two therapists working in tandem. Sensei Guides provide take-home plans so guests can continue their wellness journeys after the spa.

Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Sanctuaries for Longevity

Headquartered in Switzerland with hotels and on-site spas across the globe, Aman Resorts features an integrative approach, combining traditional remedies with modern medicine’s advanced technologies. Tucked behind the doors of the storied Crown Building in Midtown Manhattan, Banya Spa House at Aman New York—the brand’s flagship spa in the Western Hemisphere—is a 25,000-square-foot, three-floor urban oasis.

Yuki Kiyono, global head of health and wellness development at Aman, says the centre provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Aman’s customisable “Immersion Programs” consist of a three- or five-day immersion. “The programs encompass treatments and experiences that touch every significant aspect to create a path for longevity, from meditation and mindfulness to nutrition and movement,” Kiyono explains.

Banya Spa House at Aman New York.
Robert Rieger

The spa’s “Tei-An Wellness Solution” features 90- to 150-minute sessions using massage, cryotherapy, and Vitamin IV infusions. Acupuncture is also on offer.

“With its rich history of Chinese Medicine, modern research, and the introduction of sophisticated electro-acupuncture medicine, acupuncture has been proven to assist with problems and increase performance,” Kiyono says.

Resetting the Mind and Body

Beyond longevity, “healthspan”—the number of years a person can live in good health free of chronic disease—is the cornerstone of Mountain Trek Health Reset Retreat’s program in British Columbia, Canada.

Kirk Shave, president and program director, and his team employ a holistic approach, using lifestyles in long-living Blue Zones as a point of reference.

“We improve our daily lifestyle habits, so we live vitally as long as we’re meant to live,” Shave says of the retreat. He built the program from an anthropological stance, referencing humans as farmers, hunters, and gatherers based on their eating and sleeping patterns. Food includes vegetable-centric meals sans alcohol, sugar, bread, or dairy.

Guests wake at dawn each day and have access to sunrise yoga, several hours of “flow” or slow hiking, spa treatments, forest bathing, calming crystal singing-bowl and sound therapy sessions, and classes on stress reduction—one of Mountain Trek’s primary goals. The program motivates people to spend much of their time in nature because it’s been proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to inflammation and disease when elevated for extended periods.

While most guests aren’t aware of how immersive Mountain Trek’s program is when they arrive, they leave the resort revitalized after the structured, one-week program. Set in the Kootenays overlooking its eponymous river, the resort and adventure promise what Shave calls a “visceral experience of transformation.”

“They’re interested in coming to be in nature,” Shave says of the guests. “They hit a wall in their life and slipped backwards, so they know they need a reset.”

Banya Spa House at Aman New York provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being.
Robert Rieger

This article first appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Mansion Global Experience Luxury.

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