Lifehouse is a contemporary spa set in English Heritage-Listed Thorpe Hall Gardens close to the pretty Essex town of Frinton-on-Sea. The spa has a large, dramatic pool area with grey, almost industrial, pillars, and huge twisted ropes decorating the walls. If you’re looking for cocooning quiet, try The Hidden Sanctuary for a more private experience. As well as traditional spa treatments, Lifehouse offers health and wellbeing consultations from resident specialists including fitness, life coaching, nutrition, weight loss and holistic therapies.
- XXL robes available
- 18.5m indoor swimming pool
- Hydrotherapy pool
- Salt inhalation room
- Steam room
- Plunge pool
- Sleep pods
- Light and dark relaxation rooms
- Resident Naturopath, Healer, Reiki Master, Life coach and Physiotherapist
- Summer houses and suntrap patios
- Couples massage rooms
- Spa Boutique
Our Spa Spy review
Lifehouse Hotel and Spa is a modern retreat; as you drive into the grounds, you're welcomed to this "escape for adults". The building itself looks like a solid white cube, but it's set in listed gardens with links to Churchill, JM Barrie and Rudyard Kipling. You can peek out over, or wander in, the gardens during your spa time.
When you arrive at the main reception, someone will take you through to the spa where you can check in for your day, stay or tailored retreat. You can detox, lose weight, recover and recuperate, or just use the time as a break from the outside world.
What's on offer?
Lifehouse Spa is in the right half of the building; the hotel rooms are to the left. A glass walkway leads from the hotel to the spa. The reception opens out to a multi-storey space with a ring of windows high up in the ceiling, letting in the light. A circular reception desk sits in the middle, alongside a spa boutique, and manicure and pedicure lounges decorated with hundreds of colourful varnishes.
A spiral staircase leads up to a mezzanine which houses the pre-treatment waiting lounge, treatment rooms and relaxation room. The spa takes its design cues from modern Scandinavia with straight lines, greys and whites, and splashes of colour in soft furnishings and stripy carpets.
The changing rooms aren't particularly luxurious, but they're well designed and well stocked. The four changing areas are cleverly broken down by lockers and showers so you're never exposed in a wide open space. Your wrist fob opens your half-sized locker. The rooms have bench-style seating, private changing cubicles, showers with shampoo and conditioner, and vanity areas with hairdryers, straighteners and skincare products. There's only one loo, but there are more in the spa.
The pool and thermal facilities are dark and moody, even on the sunniest day. The grey slate floor, grey-tiled walls and two industrial-size pillars are accented by full-height windows with views over greenery and trees. The 18.5-metre pool is free-form with a straight edge to swim lengths and a bulging end which makes it perfect for drifting in. Brown loungers surround the pool.
The thermal facilities are separated by a glass wall. The large hydro-pool could accommodate 10-12 people and has swan jets, airbeds and bubbly seating. The traditional wooden sauna would comfortably seat ten, as would the relatively moderate steam room with twinkling blue lights and grey-tiled seats. The salt inhalation room better matches the large, almost industrial feeling with an orange and white salt wall, high ceiling, and beautifully scented citrus steam. When you're ready to cool down, try the chilly plunge pool and two experience showers. Driftwood and heavy ropes decorate the otherwise minimalist space.
The dry relaxation areas are upstairs; there's a lift as well as stairs. The open-plan waiting area has six sets of very comfortable seating; in good weather, you can also head outside to the balcony which overlooks a small lake. Help yourself to fruit-infused water and plenty of magazines if you want to settle in for some pre-treatment chill-out time. Just along the corridor, the deeper relaxation room is very low-lit with flickering candles and free-standing lamps. The walls are black and grey and there are lots of leather loungers. Snooze after a treatment or pick up a magazine and some fruit and enjoy the quietness.
Lifehouse also has a gym and a studio class with a wide selection of fitness and more holistic classes including yoga and Pilates.
Tell us about the treatments
We enjoyed a medley of treatments: a Lime and Lemongrass Salt Scrub (25 minutes; £40), a Himalayan Back Massage (30 minutes; £45) and a Carita Neomorphose Facial (90 minutes; £90).
My first therapist, Annalise, led me to a pleasantly-decorated room with sage green walls and stone-hued towels. I lay face down so that Annalise could apply the tangy scrub, which was sufficiently exfoliating without being abrasive. After a warm shower, I returned to the bed for my Himalayan back massage.
Annalise massaged a relaxing Clarins oil with a fresh orange scent into my skin. She then used a pre-warmed, heart-shaped Himalayan rock to ease knots out of my shoulders. My mind began to switch off.
For the facial, my therapist, Jana, led me to the Carita house on the lower level of the spa, a large room starkly decorated in black and white, with two treatment beds. Jana began by cleansing and exfoliating my skin until it felt smooth. Next, she used a Cinetic Lifting Expert Machine to stimulate my skin and increase tissue firmness. Dubbed "an alternative to cosmetic surgery", the machine emits micro-currents and light technology from a flat metal head. My eyes were shielded as the machine emitted a series of blue and red lights, in conjunction with a hydrating mask.
To finish, Jana donned gloves and, pushing a button to emit a current, massaged the contours of my face. This was admittedly uncomfortable but the results were worth it. A dab of eye cream, slick of serum and a good amount of moisturiser completed this results-driven treatment.
Afterwards, my skin looked firmer and some of the fine lines around my eyes had vanished. As facials go, the Neomorphose facial comes highly recommended.
Lifehouse has an extensive, varied treatment menu with options to relax and promote wellness, with specific treatments for men and mums-to-be. Choose from Clarins, Decleor, Carita, Natural Spa Factory, Spiezia or Thalgo. Lifehouse has a dedicated area for OPI manicures and pedicures. You can also book consultations with a resident naturopath.
Lunch is served in the Brasserie between the main reception area and the spa. You can choose to sit inside or, if it’s warm, out on the terrace. Still in our robes, we enjoyed a three-course buffet lunch with a mix of hot and cold dishes including soup and salads. Our courgette and potato soup was light and warming. Afternoon tea is also available if you want to celebrate an occasion.
That evening, we returned to The Brasserie and enjoyed a fresh chicken salad with a glass of Pinot Noir, followed by a moreish chocolate torte.
We loved / we didn't love
Our treatments: All three of our treatments were delivered by friendly, capable therapists.
The hotel grounds: The pretty gardens are a far cry from city living.
We didn’t love
The foot traffic: We visited on a Saturday afternoon and struggled to find a free lounger; the thermal facilities were at capacity, too.
Who do you think would like it?
Couples: We saw plenty of couples enjoying some quality time together.
Friends: The vibrant atmosphere at Lifehouse makes it a great place to catch up.
Anyone looking for wellness: Lifehouse offers seven retreat programmes including de-stress, detox and recovery.
The Restaurant at Lifehouse offers breakfast, lunch and dinner with a Mediterranean influence, all created with local produce. The bar is open all day offering cocktails, champagne, lite bites and afternoon tea.
Lifehouse Hotel offers 89 en-suite rooms, featuring views of the historic gardens.
06:30-22:00 Monday to Friday
06:30-21:00 Saturday & Sunday