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A Nurturing Oasis in Our Bustling Chaos
by Nirmala Nataraj on Jun 06, 2008
Sometimes, a haven away from home is necessary, especially if you’re plagued by officious roommates, a couch-potato significant other, or a floor plan that pretty much precludes luxurious lounging. Getting a facial or massage while you’re at it doesn’t hurt, either. Enter Marion Pernoux Henderson, the lovely, astonishingly grounded proprietress of Ensoma Spa.
So you say you’ve become chary of the one-size-fits-all, clock-watching mentality that suffuses most establishments with the word “spa” affixed to them. A date with Marion’s hands is in tall order, then. And that’s not just because of the oodles of personalized attention you’ll get from this hidden luminary and Jill-of-all Trades--who waxes, exfoliates, and soothes ergonomically tortured limbs back to tip-top condition like it’s no one’s business--it’s also because Ensoma is the kind of congenial, unpretentious space where you can kick off your shoes and, very likely, take a teeny post-pampering catnap.
Sure, you have to walk through blocks of concrete jungle before arriving at the unassuming loft space (which doesn’t have so much as a placard on the door, making the sojourn that much more satisfying given the surreptitious hiding spot), but the contrast between Ensoma and the sidewalk just outside is immense -- especially considering Marion’s finical eye for aesthetic details. Forget the sterile bliss of your typical spa. Sun-kissed hardwood floors, artfully placed black-and-white photographs, cushy slabs of minimalist-inspired seating, succulent potted plants, filmy curtains, occasional video projections (Godard, anybody?), and trays of delectable snacks are just some of the treats at Ensoma.
Aside from the chic, homey digs, a visit to Marion’s lair leaves little to be desired. For about four years -- amid gigs at major spas -- Marion has been applying her own uniquely holistic method of beautifying and bliss-making, one client at a time. Most of her takers pop in for a combo of services -- waxing, facial, and massage -- and unlike other multi-tasking therapists who tend to be better at one thing, Marion’s equally adept at extractions and alleviating chronic pain. Given her “bodywork/and skincare as healing” raison d’etre, she’s one of those therapists who harks back to the days when your beautician was also your sworn confidante. Simply put, she puts you at ease. The combination of, say, a Brazilian (aided by Marion’s pain-curtailing hard wax) and her endlessly soothing demeanor is almost akin to a long session of yoga.
When I visited Marion, it was for some seriously purr-inducing bodywork and skincare. While she uses a plethora of bodywork modalities--from Shiatsu to Swedish to Thai to regular ol’ deep tissue--there’s a huge emphasis on customizing, in accordance with what her clients need rather than what they want. This means you don’t get to point to a menu of services and choose what’ll be done to you--all you need to do is surrender to Marion’s intuitive knowledge, lie back, and enjoy. As Marion tapped out a distinct rhythm over my achey back and shoulders (always reminding me to breathe, natch), I was roused by the fact that the lightness of her touch was complemented by its depth. I’m not sure if this had to do with her knowledge of pressure points or simply her focus on “encouraging energetic interactions and supporting psychosomatic awareness,” but the session definitely reminded me to make a mental note to give referrals to the chronic-pain complainers in my life.
Marion’s facials -- also administered to the accompaniment of aromatherapy and the same eclectic mix of music softly wafting from the speakers -- are similarly effective. Using a variety of products ranging from organic blends to clinical-grade formulas for problem skin, Marion customizes all her facials, offering everything from nourishment for dehydrated skin to zit-zapping potions for acneic visages. Her choice skincare lines include Japanese line Pangea Organics, the delectable chocolate and shea butter offerings of Aquadessa, 100% Pure, and Ideal essential oils, which are hand-crafted by San Francisco-based Ayurvedic expert Marie Bourdier. A plethora of warm towels, yummy botanical cleansers and lotions, cucumber slices, and eye pillows were applied with the utmost fastidiousness. An oxygen mask swathed onto my face pre-extractions opened up my stubborn pores and made the subsequent picking-away at dead skin cells surprisingly bearable. Of course, as I emerged from the warm cocoon that is Ensoma, I was hardly taken aback when strangers complemented my ethereal glow. The thing that really surprised me was that I’d spent over three hours getting thoroughly pampered, without nary a sense of the time that had passed.
At press time, dozens of stress-addled clients are guilty for keeping Marion a well-kept secret from spa-sters on the hunt for great brows and a little R&R, but the word is quickly trickling out (psst…Ensoma’s the perfect anodyne, girl!) well beyond the confines of her makeshift urban oasis. Of course, if Marion’s looking for roommates, I’m calling dibs.
by Nirmala Nataraj on Jun 06, 2008