If you’ve been going to the Hamptons for a while, you’ve probably been lamenting how much it’s changed. The traffic, the crowds—did we mention the traffic? It’s been decades since the favorite New Yorker’s getaway has actually been a place where you can actually get away. But this summer, there’s a new way to retreat from it all. We’re not suggesting you skip the South Fork spectacle altogether—that would be social suicide!—but we do recommend you check into the Shou Sugi Ban House to recharge.
Shou Sugi Ban House is a new destination spa and retreat that embodies global wellness and healing arts practices. Surrounded by over 250 deciduous and evergreen trees, as well as 20,000 grasses of five different varieties, Shou Sugi Ban House is a private, three-acre sanctuary which encompasses thirteen guest studios surrounding the main pool, the Main Barn with a demonstration kitchen; Healing Arts Barn with a tea bar; treatment spa with hydrotherapy pools and roof deck; open-air Movement Pavilion; ceremonial fire circle; fitness center; autumn cherry dining orchard; organic vegetable and herb gardens from which the dining menus are sourced; and a curated library of books. Programming integrates holistic living, fitness, nutrition, skin and body care, hydrotherapy, yoga, healing arts and meditation. Personalized wellness journeys are led by resident and visiting experts to meet the individual intentions of each guest and create an intimate and transformative experience. All-inclusive four-, five- and seven-day itineraries are offered for overnight guests, in addition to half- and full-day spa rituals, without the need for accommodations.
Shou Sugi Ban House is located in the Hamptons, a mere two hours from New York City, an area celebrated for its nearly 50 miles of pristine beaches, sprawling farms, vineyards, and estates. The property is adjacent to the Parrish Art Museum, in the pastoral hamlet of Water Mill within the Town of Southampton, which moved to this site in 2012, and was designed by the internationally renowned architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron to create a space respectful of the landscape and reflective of the area’s natural beauty.
Amy Cherry-Abitbol is the visionary founder and creative force behind Shou Sugi Ban House. A former corporate attorney, she and her business partner, Kathleen Kapnick, purchased the land in 2015. The House was born from their vision to create a sanctuary outside of the everyday, and guided by a belief that each person walks a unique path to wholeness. Amy set out to establish an innovative experience that blends global wellness philosophies with state-of-the-art practices – programs that merge wellness, culture and science. She states, “We’ve created an experience that brings people back to a simple appreciation for their natural surroundings, allows for quiet contemplation and introspection, and fosters meaningful human connection in a tranquil setting.”
While Amy has called the Hamptons home for the past two decades, Shou Sugi Ban House also reflects her life-long connection to Japanese culture and appreciation of Wabi Sabi principles, in ethos and design. The House takes inspiration from Amy’s formative years living by the ocean in New England and her connection to Japan that spans three generations: her parents lived in Japan, Amy herself lived in Japan, and her two sons were born there. Amy’s point of view reflects a considered way of living that honors minimalism, and a deep respect for the natural world and its healing properties.
When Amy first visited the site, she fell in love with the main barn which endured an electrical fire soon after the property was purchased. The fire reminded Amy of the Shou Sugi Ban technique: an ancient Japanese weathering method which involves charring a wood surface, scraping it down, and then oiling it to make it more resistant to fire and decay. Amy was inspired by the idea of transformation and a quote from the 17th century poet and samurai Mizuta Masahide: “Barn’s burnt down, now I can see the moon.”
Amy built an all-women team: local architect Debbie Kropf, who designed each of the spaces at Shou Sugi Ban House with consideration for the effect of the building’s design and construction upon the occupants and the aim of nurturing sustainable and holistic experiences; Nela Grigoras for project management; Jodie Webber for creative direction; and, Sat Darshan Khalsa for programming. Other collaborators with ties to the community include RLW4 for construction and furniture, Orsman Design for lighting, arborist Julian Kohl of Coastal Arborcare, and Araiys Design for site planning. Amy also engaged New York City-based Studio Lily Kwong, who partnered with Topiaris of Lisbon, Portugal for the landscape design (Lily’s résumé includes landscape projects with Grand Central Terminal and The High Line); Elena Colombo of Fire Features for the property’s sculptural firebowl; and Anthony Chase Studio for artisanal wall finishes.
Tranquil and Sustainable Design
The property boasts two Hamptons architectural vernaculars – renovated old barns and modern beach cottages – which have been cohesively integrated. Winding pathways, reflective pools, fountains, and a landscape inspired by the local dunescape and Japanese gardens, allow guests to connect with the natural world around them. Shou Sugi Ban House has solar energy, geothermal heating and cooling system, and structured water filtration.
Thirteen 400-square foot guest studios with floor-to-ceiling windows underscore the project’s highly considered design: clean in aesthetic and abundant in material choice, natural elements and artisan details. Each studio features a white oak Kobe-style bed made by local design firm, All Things Dirt. Sleep experience is improved by lighting that is designed around circadian rhythms; an organic mattress from Suite Dreams, another woman-owned company that supports small businesses; and organic cotton bedding from Coyuchi, an eco-minded company that uses plant-based formula to eliminate the need for harsh chemicals.
The color scheme focuses on monochromatic tones and incorporates a predominantly stone and biscuit color palette. Guest studios are equipped with a gas fireplace adjacent to a tokonoma – a raised alcove that is a traditional fixture in Japanese homes – as well as chairs made with certified recycled wood.
Studio bathrooms are part of the multi-layered Shou Sugi Ban House experience with Hinoki ofuro (Japanese soaking tub), replicating a rejuvenating and energizing hot spring experience. Bathroom accessories are by Tina Frey whose hand-crafted resin pieces store organic skincare products by Kyoto-based brand, Kotoshina, as well as seven types of exclusive soaps carefully crafted by Shou Sugi Ban House in collaboration with Southampton Soap Company. Elegantly-sculpted and highly-absorbent Morihata Lattice Linen towels are provided along with Sasawashi slippers that blend traditional Japanese paper and leaves of the Kumazasa plant. Each studio has its own private garden patio for meditation or massage.
Spa and Healing Arts
The stand-alone spa welcomes guests with its custom-designed Shou Sugi Ban clad reception area. In addition to the five treatment rooms, a thermal suite is equipped with a far infrared sauna that is highly effective in detoxifying the body. The space also encompasses: Ashiatsu massage rooms; Watsu and plunge pools; a chromotherapy shower that uses colored lights for relaxation and stress relief; a solarium deck; and an indoor/outdoor relaxation lounge. Signature treatments include: Deeply Relaxing Watsu Water Massage; Micro-Needling Facial by Paris-based Biologique Recherche; Vibrational Sound Healing Treatment; Chakra Balancing Reiki Treatment with Customized Aromatherapy; and Full Body Deep Tissue Massage and Cupping with In Fiore, a natural botanical beauty line from Japan.
At the heart of Shou Sugi Ban House is its thoughtful and ever-evolving program that is intended to inspire a return to the Simplicity of Self. Individualized experiences integrate physical, mental and spiritual aspects of well-being. While the programming is highly personalized, a full-day might start with a 7 a.m. tea ceremony, continue with body alignment and meditation, a guided beach walk, holotropic breathwork for increased vitality, and end at 9 p.m. with a fire ceremony, seasonal soak and sleep tonic back in the guest studio.
Nourishment for Mind, Body & Soul
The culinary philosophy is born from the belief that true health is grounded in nature, and food is medicine. Meals are designed by Chef Mads Refslund, the co-founder of Noma in Copenhagen, the four-time winner of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and two-time Michelin star recipient. Along with a resident nutritionist, he has created balanced and hyper-seasonal menus that are inventive, plant-rich, and locally-sourced. A tea lounge invites visitors into the ceremonial world of teas, tonics and elixirs, allowing for individual consultations and customized creations. The menu offers 25 different types of tea including a custom Shou Sugi Ban House herbal blend created with Catskills-based company Tay Teas; hand-crafted teas from Southampton’s Plain-T; and several green teas, including Matcha, Gyokuro, Sencha, and Bancha from Kyoto-based Ippodo Teas, which has been providing the highest quality Japanese green tea for nearly three centuries.