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September/October 2014 Issue

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72-Hours and $500, Decorate Your Practice!

By Hannah Levy

What would you do with $500 and three days to re-imagine your massage therapy room?

That’s what I was asked to do. I graduated from massage school earlier this year, but haven’t yet had time to focus on creating a viable home office space. When I took a part-time position with a local spa, I further delayed thinking about those four bare walls at home. With almost a year of practice experience, and an empty room waiting to be re-imagined, the editors at Massage & Bodywork challenged me to take the advice of authors Kayse Gehret
(“Create the Perfect Massage Space,” page 56) and Susan Epperly (“Style, Storage & Designing on a Dime,” page 64), and see if I could create a client oasis.
This is my story.

Day 1
Inspiration and Ideas
I just read Kayse’s and Susan’s articles. Could I really transform my dull, empty space into an oasis of relaxation in just three days?
Looking at my home office, I see four cream-colored walls and a massage table. This is hardly a place I feel proud to showcase to potential clients. If I ever want to take my private practice to the next level, I need to create a space that embodies the energy of my practice. Could it really be as easy as the articles make it sound?
Kayse Gehret’s article inspired me to start with a “Need” and “Want” list. I also took stock of the items I already have that fit my theme and style.
My “Need” list:
• Blankets and table linens
• Clock
• Lampshade
• Window curtains, curtain rod
My “Want” list:
• Chair for clients
• Chest or ottoman to use as a side table
• Chest of drawers for storage
• Additional décor—wall hangings and paint to add color
My “Already Have” list:
• Massage table
• Thai massage mat
• Pillows and bolster
• Music player
• Flameless candles
• Lamp

I want my space to evoke thoughts of being on a beach in Thailand, as I integrate both Western and Eastern massage modalities in my practice. I already know the color palette I resonate with—a blend of blues and greens. It’s the same color palette I used to create the logo for my practice. Functionality must include being able to transition my room from table to Thai mat at a moment’s notice.
I’m going to take my theme and color palette and start searching online for room decorations and ideas at some of my favorite stores. First, I need to measure key areas in my space: the wall to be painted, the closet for storage, and the window for curtains.

Day 2
I never thought I had the best sense of design or the skills to decorate a room, which is probably the reason I haven’t decorated my massage space until now. I can’t let this stand in my way! I realize I know more about how I want my space to look than I thought I did; I just don’t know how to fit all the pieces together.
Yesterday, I called on my friends Kelsey and Tiffany to help me think this through. Together, we found images on Google and Pinterest, and a mobile app that has inspiration for color palettes and room décor. We discussed ideas: Tiffany helped suggest a paint color and Kelsey drew a picture of the room for inspiration and came up with a shopping list to fit the color palette and theme. Kelsey had décor items she no longer needed and she gave me some floating shelves in the perfect blue to fit my room, as well as some standing bamboo. That will help me save money as I go shopping today.

I bought curtains, a curtain rod, a poster frame, and a lampshade. I bought the curtains first; my thinking was that the right curtains are harder to find than other accessories, so if I found a pair I liked, I should get them. Then, I could easily find accessories to complement them. I took the curtains with me while I browsed the other stores; it was very helpful to have inspiration from my color palette with me during the shopping day.

Cost Plus World Market
I found a fabric shower curtain here that works much better with my colors and theme than the curtains I just bought! Two of these will work for my window size. I bought them and some shower curtain hooks. I will set up my space and then decide which curtains to keep.
There was an end-of-season sale at this store, with discounts on accessories, furniture, and pillows that fit with my colors and theme. I debated between purchasing a bright green chair or a bright green storage ottoman for clients to sit on. There were pros and cons to both pieces. The chair filled the need for adding a larger item of furniture to my room, but cushions were sold separately. The storage ottoman was smaller, but would serve a dual use as additional storage space, and it came with a cushion. In the end, I chose the ottoman; a smaller piece that offers a bright, bold statement. I also bought two décor items: a pillow with an elephant (my favorite animal), and a sculpture of two intricately carved wooden hands, perfect for a massage therapist’s space! I might use the hands to hold business cards. Or maybe they will offer a place for clients to leave rings and hang necklaces.

I went here to look for inexpensive artwork, but didn’t find anything I liked. I found other things on my list, though: a clock that complements my theme and live bamboo with a vase to decorate my floating shelves. I’m going to use stones from the rock garden in my front yard to anchor the bamboo inside the vase.  
I bought a chest of drawers to organize my books, linens, and lubricants. I’m lucky to have a closet in my space, so I can hide the chest of drawers in there, out of sight, to keep the room looking polished and professional.
I also bought two frames for my massage school graduation certificate and my ABMP Certified Member certificate. I think it’s important for clients to see those.

The Home Depot
I went here earlier looking for paint samples, and returned to purchase a gallon of paint. Yesterday, I taped paint samples to my wall to study the color in different lighting conditions. This was helpful, as I realized one of the grey-blue colors appeared purple in the daylight. When I returned to The Home Depot to purchase the color I liked best, the paint experts helped with my questions, like how much paint to purchase for my accent wall. I also realized I didn’t need a primer since my walls were already painted cream.

Artwork can be expensive and I have a large, empty wall to fill. The Costco Photo Center is a great resource if you are a Costco member, and other office supply stores offer the same service. Costco has a gallery of images for customer use; you can print their images onto a canvas, poster board, or poster paper. I chose an image that perfectly embodies the theme for my space. I wanted it on canvas, but canvas is much more expensive. I opted to print it on poster paper ($9 versus $60) and decided I could upgrade to a canvas print later if I still loved the poster after it had been hanging in my space for a while. I found a dark wood poster frame and liked that look, and the poster and frame together cost less than the canvas print would have.

The Container Store
I stopped here to see if there was anything that would fit my space, but soon realized I didn’t need more storage than the chest of drawers I already purchased. I did buy some wall hangings to go with the poster print.

Day 3
Final Touches
Yesterday was a long day of shopping. My accent wall paint is almost dry, so I am going to start putting everything together and get the room set up. I’m so excited!
Later: I placed the storage ottoman in the corner with the decorative pillow so clients will notice the pop of color when they enter the room. In looking at my curtain choices, I’m going to keep the shower curtains instead of the traditional window curtains. The poster goes on my largest wall, with the two decorative panels on either side. My final step will be dressing my table with the new sheets and blankets I purchased. Having a table skirt allows me to store my Thai massage mat underneath my table so it won’t be visible to clients receiving table work. I can easily move my table up against the window to open space in the middle of the room for Thai massage on my floor mat. I’ve got everything assembled and I love it!
Kayse’s article recommended revisiting my room with fresh eyes, as a client would. I walked into my space and looked at each element. I undressed in the room to ensure it feels comfortable, safe, and private, and that it’s easy to store clothes, belongings, and valuables. I laid on my table, face down, to test my new sheets and blanket, and then face up to see what is noticeable to open eyes. I asked myself: Is anything unnecessary or overdone that I could remove? Or is everything in its place and ready for an amazing session?
I am so incredibly excited to share my space with friends and clients. A little décor goes a long way toward making a space inviting for clients and inspiring for the therapist. I’m planning to host a party in my redesigned room for friends and existing clients, with some healthy snacks and tea. All of my friends who knew about the room redesign challenge are excited to see the finished space. The party will allow me to show off my new massage space and hopefully help me fill up my appointment book!

Hannah's Tips
• It’s important to set both a budget and time frame, and stick to it. This will help you stay creative and ensure the project gets completed.
• Talk to your family, friends, and long-time clients about your room makeover and let them know you are open to hearing their ideas. You will receive advice, encouragement, perpectives on what they like in a massage space, and maybe even donations of décor items.
• Decide what statement piece will inspire your room. For me, it was the curtains. If you don’t have a window, maybe it’s a piece of furniture that sets your tone.
• Don’t hesitate to ask for help. I made the decision to hire a painter, because I have never painted before and was nervous to have a DIY paint job. I received a referral from a friend and found the painter’s rate ($70) was reasonable, compared to the cost of supplies and time it would have taken me to paint.
• Some things are easier to get online, like massage table linens. I ordered mine earlier in the week to arrive in time for my redesign. Check out for discounts on sheets, décor, tables, tools, and more.

Hannah Levy is the advertising coordinator for ABMP and Massage & Bodywork magazine. She is an LMT with training in Western modalities and Thai massage. In addition to her full-time work at ABMP, Levy works part-time at a local spa and takes appointments in her newly designed home studio. Contact her at

To read this article in our digital issue, click here.

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