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Down The Line | Resort & Spa


In Down the Line arrangements the most common furniture type in resorts and spas is the chaise lounge; its angled form and forward-looking orientation create a privacy barrier between a chair and its adjacent chair.


The most common furniture type in Down the Line is the chaise lounge, as its angled form and encompassing orientation act as privacy barriers. The length of the chair, particularly when two are facing each other, such as would occur in a conversation grouping, hinders conversation because of the distance between speakers. Furthermore, when lounges are placed adjacent to one another, the slope of the seatback requires too awkward a positioning of the head and neck to allow for sustained conversation. The distance between lounges further discourages conversation, and thus Down the Line is often a successful application in quite meditation or recuperation zones. Chaise lounges allow people to experience solitude in public spaces, as the spatial and budget constraints of most medical and hospitality facilities do not allow for individually unique accommodations. Therefore, identical furniture situated in an identical, aesthetically pleasing direction is a strategy for meeting patrons’ expectations of personal attention and indulgent experiences.

Although the earliest patents for adjustable, reclining furniture are attributed to English cabinetmakers in the late 1700s, demand rose steadily during the 18th and 19th centuries for furniture that enabled lounging and supported the bodies of people weakened by various illnesses.1 Beginning in Europe, with widespread outbreaks at the end of the 19th century that lasted until the introduction of advanced treatments in the mid-20th century, tuberculosis and other crippling diseases were treated with fresh air, minimal movement, and an expansive diet; patients were confined to rural sanatoriums until their conditioned improved or they died. High quality sanatoriums were reserved for those who could afford luxury; however, thousands of ailing bourgeoisie flocked to health retreats during periods of epidemic. Lounges served as both beds and chairs, alleviating the pain and inconvenience of movement, and their versatility enabled more patients to fit within a space, as less furniture was needed.

To provide the sick masses with unencumbered fresh air, most tuberculosis sanatoriums featured balconies and porches open to the elements, requiring furniture to be durable and lightweight for easy cleaning and relocation, as necessary. Furthermore, medical opinion at that time held that “reclining in the dorsal position was most beneficial to patients.”2 The material choices of wood and metal, and adjustable, angled configurations of lounge chairs made them good choices for sanatorium environments. For maximum patient comfort and physician accessibility, one-person reclining chairs and lounges were positioned in single rows along a wall. This also afforded patients uninterrupted views of their natural surroundings, such as the Adirondack Mountains in New York, providing visual stimulation for the ill that remained idle during the course of their treatment.

Health spas of the 19th and 20th centuries, such as the Fordyce Bathhouse, mimicked the single row of lounge chairs in gender-specific areas, in order to administer and facilitate body treatments, such as massage. As patrons were often swathed and immobilized by heat blankets or towels, accessibility for attendants was a required design factor. The focus of these health centers was on personal rejuvenation, further supporting the notion of isolated reclining chairs. Although the furniture configuration aligns with Down the Line traits, the factor of aesthetic views was deemed less significant in these bathhouses because people spent minimal time lounging between therapy sessions.

Conversely, teak chaise lounges were aligned in multiple rows on the ship decks of steamships and cruise ships of the early 20th century, such as the RMS Titanic, allowing patrons to recline and take in the moving scenery. Inspired by the elastic function of the chaise lounge, modernist chaise lounges, as designed by architects Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Marcel Breuer, among others, exemplified the lounge ideals of materiality, mobility, and anthropomorphism. Despite the eradication of tuberculosis epidemics, reclining lounges were produced en masse during the 1930s, as they re-entered private and public spaces as vehicles of health and relaxation, often positioned along “floor to ceiling windows leading to a sun terrace.” Design catalogues and furniture exhibitions, such as Serge Chermayeff’s 1934 ‘Modern Living’ exhibition for William Whiteley Limited of London, featured chaise lounges beside swimming pools, on terraces, and in gardens.3

As hospitality environments often take their design cues from residential spaces, lounge spaces and pool areas began to exhibit single rows of lounge chairs, allowing guests to relax at the facility in a similar manner to their relaxation at home. Although the chairs are generally offered in public areas, the form and configuration of chaise lounges invite guests to experience privacy. The influence of sanatoriums and health spas are evident via the functional aspects of arranging reclining chairs in a row, including the availability of identical exterior views, and accessibility of the guest to hotel or spa staff. Contemporary resorts and spas have reemphasized the importance of exterior views, with Down the Line prolifically occurring adjacent to clerestory windows that overlook rural or urban scenery, such as in Peter Zumthor’s Therme Vals (1996), and along indoor and outdoor pools, as exemplified by Philippe Starck’s Mondrian (1995) in Los Angeles.4 Regardless of location, Down the Line enables multiple guests to enjoy identical experiences that seem personal and private.5

end notes

  1. 1) Margaret Campbell, “From Cure Chair to “Chaise Longue”: Medical Treatment and the Form of the Modern Recliner,” Journal of Design History 12, no. 4 (1999): 328.
  2. 2) Campbell, “From Cure Chair to “Chaise Longue”,” 333, 336, 338.
  3. 3) Buckstaff Bathhouse [1916] Hot Springs National Park, Ark. Hot Springs National Park, The Fordyce Bathhouse, Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas (Harper's Ferry, W.Vir.: Harper's Ferry Center & National Park Service, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, 1988), 487.
  4. 4) Lounge, Therme Vals [1996] Peter Zumthor; Vals, Switzerland. Roland Bauer, Spa Design (Koln: Daab, 2006), 377; Pool, Mondrian [1995] Philippe Stark; Los Angeles. Tom Embry, "Mondrian," Hospitality Design Magazine 19, no. 2 (March 1997): 104-108.
  5. 5) Evidence for the archetypical use and the chronological sequence of Down the Line in resort and spa was developed from the following sources: 1830 Men’s Lounge, Fordyce Bathhouse, Hot Springs National Park [1832] Hot Springs National Park, AR in Hot Springs National Park, The Fordyce Bathhouse, Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas (Harpers Ferry, West Virginia: Harpers Ferry Center, National Park Service, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, 1988), 385 / 1890 BASF Sanatorium [1890s] Dannenfels, Germany in “From Cure Chair to Chaise Longue”: Medical Treatment and the Form of the Modern Recliner,” Journal of Design History 12, no. 4 (1999): 330 / 1910 Buckstaff Bathhouse, Hot Springs National Park [1916] Hot Springs National Park in The Fordyce Bathhouse, Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, 1988, 487 / 1990 Pool, Mondrian [1995] Philippe Stark; Los Angeles in Tom Embry, "Mondrian," Hospitality Design Magazine 19, no. 2 (March 1997): 104-108; Lounge, Therme Vals [1996] Peter Zumthor; Vals, Switzerland. in Roland Bauer, Spa Design (Koln: Daab, 2006), 377 / 2000 Lounge, Ananda Himalaya [2000] Chhada, Siembieda, and Associates; Uttaranchal, India in Spa Design, 78-79; Lounge, The Spa at Mandarin Oriental [2003] BBG and HBA; New York City in photograph by Rachel Goldfarb on location [2008]; Lounge, Loisium [2005] Steven Holl Architects; Langenlois, Austria in Christian Richters and Margherita Spiluttini, Relax: Interiors for Human Wellness (Boston: FRAME Publishers, 2007), 8-10; Spa, Attic at Hotel Puerta America (2005), Jean Nouvel; Madrid, Spain in Spa Design, 220; Lounge, Evensong Spa at Heidel House Resort (2006), CMD Architects and Testani Design Troupe; Green Lake, WI in “Little Spa in the Big Woods,” Interior Design 78, no. 2 (Feb. 2007), 61-2.

bibliographic citations

1) The Interior Archetypes Research and Teaching Project, Cornell University, (accessed month & date, year).

2) Goldfarb, Rachel. “Theory Studies: Archetypical Practices of Contemporary Resort and Spa Design.” M.A. Thesis, Cornell University, 2008, 83-91.