The Hottest New Home Amenity? ‘It’s Brutal.’ | Kanebridge News
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The Hottest New Home Amenity? ‘It’s Brutal.’

Homeowners are spending tens of thousands of dollars to outfit their properties with cold plunges

Fri, Jun 2, 2023 8:34amGrey Clock 8 min

Most mornings after Stephen Garten wakes up at his home in Austin, Texas, he goes into his backyard and starts pacing, preparing himself for what’s next. “It’s brutal,” says Garten, 37, the founder and CEO of social impact company Charity Charge. “It’s a real challenge every day.”

He’s talking about lowering himself into a 66-inch-long and 24-inch-wide stainless steel tub clad in customised zebrawood and submerging himself up to his neck in water that he sets at 39 degrees Fahrenheit, with water circulating at 1,400 gallons a minute. “It’s like being in a river,” he says of the flow rate produced by this particular vessel, a Blue Cube cold plunge.

It’s an experience that Garten typically tolerates for less than two minutes at a time, once or twice a day. And it comes at a price of $19,000. Blue Cube, based in Redmond, Ore., makes cold plunge units that cost between around $18,000 and $29,000.

“Cold plunging has made a profound difference in my life,” Garten says. He says it has brought him health benefits including stress management.

Previously the domain of athletes, bathing in cold water or ice has become a mainstream wellness trend across the U.S. The practice goes by many terms, like cold plunging, ice bathing and cold-immersion therapy. Water temperature below 59 degrees Fahrenheit is generally considered cold immersion. People who swear by it say they have experienced wide-ranging health benefits, like reduced anxiety, alleviated joint and muscle pain and boosted energy and focus.

But while many people are experimenting with do-it-yourself methods—like taking cold showers or filling kiddie pools, horse troughs and unplugged chest freezers with cold water or ice—some enthusiasts have levelled-up their at-home cold plunging setups with sophisticated receptacles priced at tens of thousands of dollars and up.

Developers, meanwhile, are adding cold plunges to amenity-rich luxury complexes like 53 West 53 in New York and Cipriani Residences Miami, betting that cold immersion is here to stay.

“Ice bathing seems like a trend, but people have been doing this for thousands of years,” says Jonathan Coon, co-founder of Austin Capital Partners, which is the developer of Four Seasons Private Residences Lake Austin, 20 minutes from downtown Austin, slated to open in 2026.

Stephen Garten and Katie Snyder’s Austin home. PHOTO: AMY MIKLER FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The couple in their house’s kitchen and main living room. PHOTO: AMY MIKLER FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
They turned a downstairs room into a spare bedroom and family room. PHOTO: AMY MIKLER FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

In addition to 188 residential units starting at $4.1 million, the Lake Austin property on 145 acres will have 76,000 square feet of indoor wellness and sports facilities, including a 12,000-square-foot orangery, 82-foot swimming pool, sauna, steam room and, of course, cold and hot thermal baths.

Amenities covering 100,000 square feet is a key reason that Onyx W.D. Johnson and Cristian Santangelo bought a $2.2 million two-bedroom, 1,123-square-foot apartment in New York’s One Manhattan Square, an 80-story building located on the Lower East Side. Facilities include a spa with a tranquility garden, 75-foot saltwater swimming pool, hot tub, sauna, steam room and hammam with a cold plunge set between 55 and 58 degrees Fahrenheit. The couple moved into the apartment in May 2021.

Johnson and Santangelo quivered at the idea of cold plunging until they started seeing other people dipping and discussing the health benefits. “We decided to give it a try,” Johnson says.

Cristian Santangelo and Onyx W.D. Johnson cold plunge in their building’s wellness area. PHOTO: RAYON RICHARDS FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Now cold plunging is part of their wellness regimen. Johnson, 50, who runs a management consulting firm, uses the hot pool, steam room and sauna, and then cold plunges for 45 seconds to a minute. He says this routine speeds up his training recovery time, helps him think clearer and improves his alertness and mood. Santangelo, 45, who is a management consultant, says the ritual helps him calm down and fight anxiety and stress.

Diamond Spas & Pools, based in Frederick, Colo., is a custom manufacturer of luxury pools, spas and soaking tubs for homeowners globally. The company added cold plunges to its portfolio in 2015 and saw one or two orders annually until 2019, when it experienced a sales surge. “Our cold plunge projects have increased 10 times since then,” says Mitch Martinek, the company’s design manager.

Martinek attributes the uptick to several factors. Today’s homeowners want gym and spa amenities at home and on-demand, cold therapy health benefits are better known now, and there are lingering pandemic concerns over public wellness facilities.

Onyx W.D. Johnson and Cristian Santangelo’s two bedroom apartment in One Manhattan Square, in New York. PHOTO: RAYON RICHARDS FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Cristian Santangelo, left, and Onyx W.D. Johnson at home. PHOTO: RAYON RICHARDS FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The company’s cold plunges, which chill water to between 40 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit, are made from stainless steel or copper and can be camouflaged in tile, stone or wood. The pools can go indoors or outdoors, come in any size and can work with home automation systems. The average cold plunge costs about $45,000, with elaborate projects running closer to about $65,000.

One of the company’s more unique cold plunges had an acrylic bottom and was in a high-rise building. “It was on a deck with a fire pit below,” Martinek says. “The homeowner wanted to be able to look up through the cold plunge.”

John Thorbahn bought a four-bedroom, 5,500-square-foot single-family home in Hingham, Mass., south of Boston, in March 2020 for $1.6 million. He owns a cold plunge from Phoenix-based company Morozko Forge, founded in 2018. Morozko Forge’s entry-level unit costs $12,850; its upgraded version costs $19,900.

Morozko Forge’s ice baths make ice. While the stainless steel tub is filled with cold water, an ice slab starts building at the tank’s bottom. At about 1-inch thick, the ice detaches and floats to the water’s surface. The ice can be broken up with an implement like a rubber mallet if needed.

Thorbahn, 63, who is the managing director at consulting company NFP, ice bathes most days for two to three minutes at 33 to 34 degrees Fahrenheit. His wife, Jana Thorbahn, 59, ice bathes, too. “The older you get, the more you want to live longer,” says Thorbahn, whose home also has a gym, sauna, red light therapy room and hot tub. “You start investing in protocols to help you be healthy.”

While many cold plungers have developed their own ice bathing rituals, choosing everything from their preferred water temperatures to time limits, Dr. Susanna Søberg, a Danish Ph.D. metabolic scientist and founder of the Soeberg Institute, is one of the world’s experts on the health benefits of cold immersion, which she has been studying for nine years.

In 2021, Søberg published research on cold exposure and hot exposure, which is called “contrast therapy” if the cold and hot exposures are performed in succession. Studying Danish winter swimmers, Søberg identified that a short plunge in cold, moving water combined with sauna use shifts the body’s nervous system and creates physiological changes, like boosting metabolism, lowering inflammation and releasing neurotransmitters that improve cognitive performance and mental health. “You are activating your whole body system,” Søberg says.

In a field that hasn’t been widely studied by the medical community, Søberg has developed what she says is the only scientifically backed cold immersion protocol for reducing stress using contrast therapy and breathing: 11 total minutes of cold immersion combined with 57 total minutes of heat, across two to three days a week. The goal of her method is to expose the body to the smallest amount of healthy stress needed to reap health benefits. “Staying in cold water or heat longer may not be beneficial or necessary,” she says.

Søberg says cold immersion carries the rare risk of cold water shock that can cause confusion or fainting, but the risk increases if a person does hyperventilating breathwork before or during cold water immersion. She also says cold plunging might not be good for people with heart disease or high blood pressure. Søberg advocates for cold plunging with others, and practicing slow, nasal breathing in the water.

The backyard pool at Tobias and Christine Lawry’s 1963 Midcentury Modern house in Dana Point, Calif. PHOTO: NATASHA LEE FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Their master bedroom opens up into their backyard. PHOTO: NATASHA LEE FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The Lawrys converted a bedroom into a wellness room that turns into an indoor-outdoor-fitness space. PHOTO: NATASHA LEE FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Contrast therapy is why Sausalito, Calif.-based company Yardzen says most of its cold plunge projects involve saunas. Yardzen is an online landscape and home-exterior design company that works with homeowners across the U.S. The company’s co-founder and CEO Allison Messner says wellness yards—encompassing everything from cold plunges to saunas to meditation spaces to forest bathing—is one of Yardzen’s top 2023 trends.

“Peak luxury is having both a cold plunge and a sauna in your yard so you can experience cold and hot therapy,” Messner says.

Tobias Lawry, 51, and his wife, Christine Lawry, 50, live in a three-bedroom 1963 Midcentury Modern house in Dana Point, Calif. They purchased it in October 2018. Between July 2021 and October 2022, they worked with architect Chris Light, designer Frank Berry and builder Crawford Custom Homes to renovate their 3,000-square-foot house to honor its original period intention while modernising it. This included turning a bedroom into a wellness room, which opens into a backyard with a pool, sauna and Blue Cube cold plunge.

The Lawrys, who run an estate-management and concierge services company called LPM, keep their Blue Cube at 47 degrees Fahrenheit. They typically cold plunge in the evening and on weekend mornings.

Stephen Garten in Austin also has a tricked-out wellness yard: In addition to his Blue Cube, he has a barrel sauna from Almost Heaven Saunas, which are manufactured in West Virginia and start around $7,500. He also has a stock tank pool from Cowboy Pools, an Austin-based company that has pool packages starting around $2,000.

He was inspired to create a backyard oasis where he and his fiancée, Katie Snyder, can have friends over. “It’s wellness,” Garten says, “but it’s entertainment too.”


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

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Designing Dreams: David Charette’s fascinating Spaces for Children’s Adventures

David Charette has teamed up with CIRCU Magical Furniture to design spaces that capture the essence of childhood wonder.

Tue, May 21, 2024 4 min

This collaboration between David Charette, founder and principal of Britto Charette, and CIRCU Magical Furniture aims to stimulate the imaginations of children, encouraging them to invent their own tales of adventure. Drawing on his extensive travels, Charette believes that journeying through different cultures can spark creativity in young minds.

His latest venture uses a mix of luxury elements and magical themes, incorporating products from CIRCU, Covet House, and other vendors to create unique, enchanting children’s rooms. These spaces are designed to reflect the excitement and mystery of exploring new worlds.

The Sleeping are:

David Charette has transformed a Montreal residence into a magical sleeping area where time seems to pause, and adventures await. Known for its long, cold winters and short days, Montreal served as the perfect backdrop for Charette’s vision of a space that remains warm and bright throughout the year.

Central to the design is the concept of “light and bright,” brought to life using de Gournay‘s hand-painted wall coverings in fresh mint, decorated with flying butterflies. These elements beautifully complement the original shapes of the KOKET Nymph Wall Lamp and the organic curves of the CIRCU Tristen Bed.

Charette’s attachment to the Tristen Bed stems not only from its youthful appeal but also from its ergonomic design, which makes it easy for children to climb in and out of, enhancing both its functionality and charm.

The Bed:

Charette paired the modern lines of the bed with the unique design of the Boca do Lobo Wave Nightstand and the funky style of Delightfull’s Billy Table Lamp. By blending these contemporary pieces with the classic elements in the decor of this luxury kids’ room, Charette has crafted a unique space that breathes a natural breeze of inspiration into any child’s environment.

This combination not only adds aesthetic appeal but also stimulates the imagination, making the room a perfect sanctuary for creativity and dreams.

The seating area:

The room also includes a cozy seating area perfect for young readers. Centred around the CIRCU Dainty Armchair, this space is tailored for kids, with the chair’s delicate structure and elegant design enhancing the room’s charm. Its pink velvet upholstery adds a vibrant pop of color, enriching the room’s palette. To distinctly separate this reading corner from the rest of the sleeping area, Charette chose the Boca Do Lobo Gold Folding Screen from Covet House, which not only adds an element of privacy but also contributes a touch of sophistication to the space.

The Play and Study area:

David Charette aimed to create a space with an “Out of Africa” vibe to spark a child’s imagination and inspire a passion for lifelong adventures and travels. Drawing from fond memories of camping during his own childhood, Charette incorporated a Teepee Tent into the room’s design, allowing children to feel as they are camping in a forest right within their own bedroom.

This nature-inspired theme is beautifully complemented by the Fornasetti wall coverings from Cole & Son and the Filigree Cricket Wall Lamp, which are insect-shaped sconces by Boca do Lobo.

Adding to the ambiance, Charette notes, “The clouds on the ceiling further the idea of camping (in this case “glamping”) and dreaming, and the Circu Cloud Suspension lamps add to the dreamy camping vibe.”

To maintain this adventurous theme, Charette selected the CIRCU NODO Suspension Chair. It not only brings a hint of outdoor fun indoors with an elegant flair but also offers a comfy spot for kids to unwind and lose themselves in their favorite stories.

In his design, David Charette, of Britto Charette, focused on enhancing the sense of freedom and sparking children’s imaginations in their own space. He chose one of his favorite pieces from CIRCU, the Sky Desk, for its playful design and inspirational form. Shaped like an airplane, this desk not only becomes the central feature of playtime but also transforms homework into an exciting adventure. The unique design aims to captivate and motivate young minds, turning everyday tasks into a flight of imagination.

David Charette designed this luxury children’s room with the hope that it would inspire children to dream, play, and develop a deep respect for nature as they embark on their own adventures.

He crafted the room to be “transitional,” capable of evolving with a child from toddler years into adolescence. This design approach not only aims to create a lasting, imaginative space for children but also to show parents the value of investing in unique, high-quality pieces like those from Circu. These carefully chosen items stand out from mass-produced children’s designs, offering both aesthetic appeal and long-term utility.


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

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