In conversation with Sense of Self

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Plunge into this week’s 'In Conversation with Sense of Self,' as we explore the origins and ethos of this unique wellness space with Director, Freya Berwick.

07 December 2023

Discover how Sense of Self transcends traditional spa concepts, offering a sanctuary for individual wellbeing and self-connection.

Freya, what inspired the transition from your background in botanical science and hospitality design to co-founding Sense of Self?

After completing my degree and beginning work in botanical research, I soon realised that despite my deep appreciation for nature, plants, and conservation, the field was not the right fit for me. So, I returned to what I knew and excelled in: hospitality, in its truest form.

I have always loved cooking, hosting, and the magic of bringing people together. Embracing this passion, along with my love for exploring new places, led me to Norway. There, I managed Fjærland Fjordstove Hotel & Restaurant, nestled by a fjord. My time there was marked by considerable trust and freedom to contribute, allowing me to delve into aspects ranging from design and branding to operations, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

It was this experience in Norway that crystallised my desire to start my own venture, one that would be dedicated to gathering people. I am deeply passionate about merging design, customer service, branding, and operations to create extraordinary experiences for both staff and guests. Bathhouses, I believe, perfectly embody this ethos, serving as ideal venues to realise such an ambition.

Your time in Norway and the influence of Scandinavian sauna culture are evident in SoS. How have your personal travel experiences shaped the vision and offerings at the spa?

In so many ways! I love design, bathhouses, hospitality, beautiful fitouts, local food cultures, and considered service, along with nature (especially mountains and water!), and all of my travel experiences orient around seeking such places out. Norway obviously ticks a lot of those boxes, which is why I spent so much time there! This experience was also very healing, for which I thank the mountains, rivers, fjords, and saunas.

How did you and your all-female design team decide on the materials used in SoS, like terracotta and travertine to capture the essence of global bathing traditions?

We wanted the place to feel warm, welcoming and timeless, qualities to which the Mediterranean palette naturally lends itself. Additionally, we wanted the area to command a presence that encourages people to feel embodied, something those heavy materials accomplish very well. And since bathhouses resemble one large bathroom, the extensive use of tiles and stone is almost unavoidable!

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Bathing, as an ancient tradition, is anchored in community and inclusivity. How does SoS nurture these values in today’s fast-paced world and counteract rising social isolation?

As a space specifically designed for connection and presence, we view ourselves as an antidote to the ever-busy, always-on, and increasingly disconnected spaces we inhabit. Rather than explicitly telling our community what we are about, we aim to imbue a true sense of hospitality and warmth in all our guest touchpoints, so our guests simply ‘feel it’. Alongside this, we are very intentional in our representation of bodies and our use of language.

Amongst your wellness offerings is a traditional Hammam. Can you share more about your recently launched “Sud & Mud Kit”, and how it enhances the Hammam experience –

We are incredibly excited about this! Our Hammam, a feature always present in our bathhouse, is a space we truly enjoy for its highly sensory and all-encompassing nature. The Sud & Mud Kit is an optional addition to the bathhouse experience, specifically designed for use in the Hammam. It’s a self-guided, multi-step cleansing ritual that begins with steeping your body in a unique type of oily soap, followed by a scrub with an exfoliation mitt and a mud mask. Focused on enhancing the sensory experience and the simple pleasure of a thorough cleanse in a communal setting, it’s a great way to further elevate your bathhouse visit. And the bonus is that guests get to keep all the components of the kit.

The treatments at SoS, from massages to gua-sha facials, offer a holistic experience. How do you curate these treatments to cater to the unique needs of your clientele?

We like to keep our menu very simple, allowing guests to come as they are and take what they need, so to speak. In the bathhouse, this means that access to all facilities is included in the entry price, with add-ons like the Sud & Mud Kit available, should they desire it. And in the massage studio, we have a paired back menu coupled with highly trained staff and very considered details, all designed to help our guests feel deeply relaxed.

As Sense of Self draws from global practices to meet modern needs, how do you envision the future of the contemporary bathhouse and spa industry in Australia?

I believe wellbeing means different things to different people, and I hope that the diversity of businesses in this space continues to cater to that. At Sense Of Self, we are deeply committed to not conflating wellbeing with beauty or performance. We aim to consistently create interesting and delightful ways for our guests to connect with themselves in a manner that feels right for them.

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