The completely renovated hotel enjoys spacious surroundings with golf, spa and culinary luxuries, all inspired by the Black Forest setting. Central to the concept is a sense of wellbeing, stillness, authenticity, simplicity and open spaces with room to breathe.

JOI-Design completely renovated the four-star, family-run Öschberghof golf and spa resort, taking inspiration from the natural environment of its Black Forest location in Donaueschingen, Germany. Their concept focuses on the growing need of guests for “deceleration” and brings the relaxation of the golf course and outdoor world into all of the hotel’s spaces, including its 5000-square-metre spa, multiple restaurants and conference areas.

Formerly the residence of art-lover Karl Albrecht, founder of Aldi grocery stores, a creative touch was required that would preserve the original character of the property while infusing into it a new, modern, innovative design which would make the guests feel at home. To maintain a coherent style, JOI-Design created custom pieces inspired by the materials and forms from the hotel’s existing fixtures and its Black Forest surroundings. For example, roof shingles are similar to ones from local farmhouses, and in the quietly elegant lobby, handblown glass pendant lights hint at the “pinecone” pulls used to wind the region’s famous traditional cuckoo clocks, creating an authentic sense of place. High-quality FF&E from companies like Lasvit, Walter Knoll and Max Alto are used in lively and more private spaces so that guests can have a sense of wellbeing in their preferred atmosphere.

Each floor of the hotel is dedicated to a different artist, with standard guest rooms decorated with prints and the suites featuring original artwork. Many pieces have been created by regional artists, a reflection of the operator’s goal of supporting local enterprises and therefore strengthen the hotel’s community relations. A curated collection of books related to the ancient German territory of Baden can be checked out from the library, and the giftshop sells local products and copies of the hotel’s artwork.

The guest rooms were designed with a relaxed fusion of nature and luxury to create a residential atmosphere in which all areas have views of the landscape outside. A spaciously-designed dressing and changing space leads to a living room where the connection with nature lessens the stress of from working from a small desk or the sofa.  Solid wood, oak floorboards, virgin wool, and carpets made from natural materials create an understated atmosphere of luxury and wellbeing – a stage to experience the nature outside.

The Ösch spa connects golf resort’s guests and locals with elegant layers of wellbeing, different worlds that complement the Black Forest’s restorative nature. Here, guests can forget all that is digital and recharge their internal batteries. Quiet design details inspired by the treatments themselves highlight the textural, acoustic and sustainable integrity of four zones that together form a journey of progressive healing. The spa extends the hotel’s focus on shared healthy activities, yet also gives guests and locals different experiences tailored to personal preferences. User-friendliness is the top concern in the layered design of the Harmony, Energy, Asia and Ladies zones. Spatial flow, how materials feel, temperature, lighting levels, furniture styles, fabric textures: all were considered for their physical, sensual, psychological and mental effects upon guests. The ability for people to relax in comfort and feel good about their naked bodies was essential. The Ladies’ area offers women greater privacy with many specialized treatments. Overlapping rows of sheer curtains, for example, offer degrees of light transparency so highly modest women can still enjoy social bonding in the relaxation lounge. Technical convenience means mobile devices and their owners can recharge simultaneously. In the fitness rooms, running competitions can be digitally streamed with gym-goers across the world. The former residence of an art-loving retail magnate, the hotel features creative works everywhere, including the spa. Local artists are intentionally represented to strengthen community ties, with replicated pieces sold in the gift shop. Extensive use of local manufacturers also reduces the spa’s carbon footprint. Granderbrunnen mineral water, famed for its health benefits, is used for treatments and is also on tap for free, which encourages post-treatment rehydration and helps eliminate the use of plastic bottles.

The most important aspect of the project is the idea of having design features inspired by the spa treatments themselves. A thorough understanding of the treatment processes and benefits allowed the creation of spaces with stronger immersive qualities. Guests enjoy a deeper sense of the healing effects as they “design” their own sequence of experiences amongst the four zones.

In the Harmony space, a backlit salt rock wall casts a warm amber glow, while the Microsalt air diffuser strengthens immunity, skin health and respiratory systems. Salt rocks have a reputation for naturally cleansing the air, particularly from pollutants from digital devices, as well as enhancing mood and promoting restful sleep.

Inspired by elements of fire and earth, the revitalizing Energy zone’s foot bath prepares the body for the ice room and saunas, including a 388 sqft central event sauna with full-height glazing and natural timber. Discreet lighting enhances the Asia area’s focus upon body and mind. Decorative lanterns, an ornate gate and backlit bamboo pillars set a dramatic stage for immersion into Asian spa culture, including an onsen pool filled with heated Grander water. The Ladies’ zone features a steam bath, various showers, an ice fountain and a relaxation room. Adjustable semi-transparent sheers in the open-plan space provide an additional layer of wellness – privacy – while tranquil hues and soft textures create a cozy, living-room feel. The calm of private living spaces extends to the 82 ft indoor pool and 67 ft outdoor saltwater pool, the high-tech 5920 sqft fitness space and the changing rooms, making workouts feel less stressful. The spa also includes numerous treatment rooms, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and outdoor sauna, a hammam, relaxation spaces, a hairdresser, a fitness area and a reception lounge with a shop.

It was important to avoid pastiche and a “Disneyland” effect when developing the design concepts for the four different spa zones. Equally, the designers wished to convey the underlying inspirations in a sophisticated manner that would emphasize wellness. Although each area’s design in distinctly different and complete in itself, the concepts also needed to harmonize with other zones so guests could enjoy pleasant transitions in their spa journeys. Careful coordination of natural materials, muted palettes and adjustable lighting levels while refraining from the use of obvious motifs and references, resulted in a conceptualized, but not overtly thematic, range of cohesive spa immersions.

The designers also needed to preserve the original character of the former residence yet infuse it with a sense of modernity. Inspiration for the design vocabulary was drawn from the existing property’s fixtures and fittings as well as materials used in rural Black Forest homes and their natural terrain. This is particularly evident in the outdoor sauna. The greatest efforts went into perfecting apparently minor details. For example, rooftop shingles similar to those used in regional farmhouses reappear in a lighter, more restrained interpretation in the interior gabled roof.

Biophilia was central to the spa’s concept. The designers’ aim was to instill a sense of wellbeing inspired by connections with the elemental forces of nature, the restorative effects of stillness, the freedom of spaciousness, the calm of simplicity, and an appreciation of the Black Forest locale through authentic references. It was essential guests could get away from it all and unplug from the digital matrix. They also wanted to create opportunities for guests’ enrichment, using design to pique their interest in trying new kinds of treatments without being overwhelmed by the sheer variety. The result is a story of transformation where guests can not only explore the repertoire of spa services but also carve out the time to discover their internal worlds.

Project: The Öschberghof
Location: Donaueschingen, Germany
Design Studio: JOI-Design