October 1, 2012

Desert Flower: Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa

Although Oprah Winfrey was already a devoted fan of the Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa, majority owner—and AOL cofounder—Steve Case saw a need to exfoliate the property’s inessentials to install a Clarins brand Life in Balance spa. Brought in to perform the treatment, Interior Design Hall of Fame member Clodagh realized: “This wasn’t a hair and make up job. It was drastic surgery.” Fortunately Clodagh Design had already partnered with architecture firm Mithun in 2006 on the Sonoran Desert resort’s master plan, so the team was already familiar with the 400-acre, wind-sculpted setting.

Clodagh was inspired by the colors of the local landscape: sun-scorched clay, flaming orange sunsets, the vivid chartreuse bark of the native palo verde tree. She matched the last to the plaster covering the 16,000-square-foot spa’s circulating corridor, which connects 23 rooms, out door hot tubs, and a private treatment suite. Oiled oak-board millwork riffs on local mesquite bark. Mithun principal Antonio Pares says the brief was to make people feel comfortable in the harsh, dry environment where, he states, “The plants are spiky and natural elements are eroded through wind and rain.”

Steel surfaces were patinated with a combination of muriatic acid, salt, and water. In the private treatment room, the technique was used on a two-sided steel fireplace to create a pulp like texture. Clodagh says the stripped-down surface offers a primal experience— a minimal yet comfortable sense of “stealth luxury,” echoing the spare, sensual allure of the desert itself.

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