Qua Baths & Spa – Las Vegas, NV

Qua Spa

The Las Vegas “Strip” takes on new meaning once you walk in to Caesar’s Palace and down the hall to enter their world-class spa, Qua.  As you head down the softly lit stone corridor, rain falls around you onto grass landings. Your casino callings are stripped away.  Your cash cares stripped bare.  You enter the warm, humid spa and strip off your clothes.  You slip briefly into a soft robe, until you strip that off as you slide in to the heated mineral pools in the Roman Baths.

Qua 1

The Qua is designed and engineered to recall the Roman bathhouse idea, the communal place for bathing, pampering and primping.  A full spa menu is available, with massages, facials, mani’s and pedi’s, styling, and a number of other fantastic spa treatments.  Every treatment is first-class, and with a treatment you are invited to use the spa all day.  And you really could stay there all day.

Qua 2

The Roman Baths area has a huge flowing infinity mineral pool, heated just right.  Bubbling with a calming airflow, built in lounge chairs invite you to relax and let the water drown your cares and stresses.  You can exit the pool and lay in the heated stone lounge chairs on either side, listening to the rain waterfall in the middle of the room.  Or you can go to the hot tub (caution: contents are HOT) or the cold pool for an invigorating plunge as a shock to your system.  Outside of the Roman Baths, the spa has another large hot tub, two steam rooms (one infused with Eucalyptus), one redwood sauna and my favorite the Arctic snow room.  With heated seats and walls, the room is cooled to 55-degrees, and foam snow falls from the ceiling while ice can be dispensed to cleanse pores opened from the tubs and saunas.

Qua 3

The experience is unrivaled, with every detail carefully caressed.  The soft, spaced lighting. The warm stone. The water flowing throughout the spa. The crisply folded towels. The rainfall full-body showerheads.  The lounge chairs inviting rest and relaxation. The well-trained staff, who will prepare fresh loose-leaf teas or coffee in the lounge. The constantly cleaned halls.  The specifically-selected soundtrack.  The architecture and construction is beautiful, and even the walk down the calming hallways is therapeutic.  Every detail enhances the spa experience, and the Qua is one of the best, most unique and refreshing spas in the world.

Qua 4


Elverson Farmhouse – Elverson, PA

Elverson Farmhouse

Outside of Elverson, Pennsylvania, there was an old farmhouse from the 18th Century settled among open fields and trees.  It was a stone home, just like so many scattered throughout the Keystone state.  Age crawling up its centuries-old cement, the home was chosen for an addition.  Karl Snyder, of Wyant Architecture was asked to build on a new, modern addition.  The addition was to include a new master suite and family room, while the original farmhouse would remain as the anchor, with the kitchen, offices and children’s rooms.  There is also a new patio, bridging the modern and the vintage.

From the press release on the house, Wylant says of the property, “The intimate scale and simple massing of an existing 18th century farmhouse and its outbuildings became informative elements in the design of this family room and master suite addition.  In contrast to the compartmentalized layout of the farmhouse, spaces in the addition are bright and expansive, with a strong physical and visual connection to the landscape.  The footprint of the addition acts as a threshold from a new entry to the site beyond, and functions with the existing house and adjacent guest cottage to capture space around a new patio.  Stone from adjacent fields was unearthed for the new construction, as it had been for the original house, and natural materials sympathetic to the existing house were used throughout.”

The sympathetic materials idea is easily seen throughout the construction, as rich woods and strong stone accent the modern build.  It is a beautiful bond between the old and new, bright and light, but bold and grounded.  While the addition does look new, it is so enveloped in the original style and materials, it does not look out of place.  It looks like a bridge, covering the space of nearly three centuries, and does so inviting everyone in to enter in.

Villa Vals – Vals, Switzerland

Off the grid. Escaping the compliant, complacent, commercial lifestyle of everyday Western living has long been a fantasy of mine. In a hill. Living inside a hill, or under one, or under a waterfall, or over a stream – that has been another life long dream to build a unique home, completely enveloped in natural surroundings.  Today I came across Villa Vals, a beautiful postmodern home, built into a large hill in Vals, Switzerland.  There,  the home is located near the famous thermal springs of Therme Vals – a hotel/spa complex that is built directly over the natural hot springs.

Completed after two years, in 2009, the home is a a joint-venture between Christian Müller Architects and SeARCH, Amsterdam.  Built as a holiday getaway for a very lucky private client, the home slices into the mountain in a way to draw no attention away from the beautiful mountain surroundings and breathtaking vistas.  The unusual cut into the hill, a rounded slice into a large living yard, is stunning and unique. The building itself may seem a bit bunker-like with its cement walls and linear flow, but the earthy elements of rough rock, warm woods and many large windows opening to that amazing view of the mountains all tie the design back to the natural theme of the conceptual design.

The concept question posed by its architects, SeARCH, was: “Shouldn’t it be possible to conceal a house in an Alpine slope while still exploiting the wonderful views and allowing light to enter the building?

Surprised that it was permissible to construct a pair of dwellings so close to the world famous thermal bath of Vals, the client seized the opportunity to develop the site, without disturbing the bath’s expansive views. The introduction of a central patio into the steep incline creates a large facade with considerable potential for window openings. The viewing angle from the building is slightly inclined, giving an even more dramatic view of the strikingly beautiful mountains on the opposite side of the narrow valley.

The local authority’s well intentioned caution, that unusual modern proposals were generally not favoured, proved unfounded. The planners were pleased that the proposal did not appear ‘residential’ or impose on the adjacent bath building. The scheme was not perceived as a typical structure but rather an example of pragmatic unobtrusive development in a sensitive location. The placing of the entrance via an old Graubunder barn and an underground tunnel further convinced them that the concept, while slightly absurd, could still be permitted.

Switzerland’s planning laws dictate that it is only possible to grant a definitive planning permission after a timber model of the building’s volume has first been constructed on site. This can then be accurately appraised by the local community and objected to if considered unsuitable. For this proposal, logic prevailed and this part of the process was deemed to be unnecessary.”

For more information on Villa Vals, for more photos, information on the design and construction, or if you would like to arrange a stay there, you can access more information on their amazing website here.

Kaweah Falls – Three Rivers, California US

A river runs through it. Through the home, under the dining room’s glass-bottom floor, to be exact.  Designed originally in the 1940’s by one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s students, Frank Robert, the second owners of the home built the addition which bridged the home over the Kaweah river.  Kaweah Falls is an amazing home, true to Wright’s idea of natural settings and nurturing home being fluid as a property. And at Kaweah, the ‘fluid’ is literally part of the home.  According to the promotional video on Youtube, the home is now being offered as a vacation rental.

With California’s Sequoia forest as your backyard, you have access to miles and miles of hiking trails, waterfalls, mountain climbing, cross-country skiing, horseback riding and the world renowned Sequoia trees. The fork of the Kaweah River that runs alongside the home offers seasonal white water rafting and kayaking, fishing, swimming, and bird watching.  In the home, there are four private living spaces for a total of 3,000+ sq/ft with 4 bedrooms, 4 full baths, 2 kitchens plus several private decks and porches all with amazing river views.  There is a detached 2 car garage with an office, deck, and a view of the river.

Not only available as a rental, but could be yours for just under $2 million.  While not exactly a small chunk of change, the home definitely seems for every penny. Brilliant modern design married with beautiful landscaping and breathtaking natural forest surroundings, Kaweah Falls is a property where Adam & Eve would have rolled out a Welcome mat.

For more information on the home, or to book this home away from home for vacation, visit the official website here.

Concrete House II – Madrid, Spain

On a property outside of Madrid, you will find a lake, a large elegant garden and a produce & herb garden among solar panels on the roof of a home made of… concrete.  I have seen concrete counter tops, floors and walls in modern homes, but rarely have I seen a home boasting head-to-toe concrete.  It could feel cold and hard, like a prison, community college, parking garage or bomb shelter.  But the result is surprisingly warm, feeling like slick slate sloping all around you – the modern, clean angles and open design flowing through huge windows to the green outdoors create a beautiful harmony to the home.  Concrete House II is designed by the A-cero design firm, and this house isn’t my ultimate dream, but it’s no nightmare either. It’s actually incredibly stunning, as the pictures below will show.

La Muna – Aspen, Colorado US

La Muna

La Muna property, a home in Aspen, Colorado features a clean, modern design and beautiful natural materials throughout the home.  Renovated by Oppenheim Architecture + Design, the home is an homage to the Japanese sensibility of wabi sabi – asymmetrical, simple, austere, and appreciative of natural objects and elements. The interior is immersed in reclaimed regional wood, stone and steel.  Like Jackson Pollack’s designs and architectural philosophies, the home is intended to make a minimal impact on the natural resources and merge effortlessly with its idyllic surroundings of forest, stream and mountain. La Muna adds to the resource resourcefulness by employing solar collectors  for power and hot water, and large insulated windows keep the home not only energy-efficient, but bring all of the modern lines and designs of the home right back in to the beautiful woods, rocks and streams creating a truly stunning property.

For more information and photos, click here.

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