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Are Home Saunas Worth the Investment?

Hadley Mendelsohn
Photo credit: Nicholas Worley

From House Beautiful

The history of saunas is a little murky, but the general consensus seems to be that the Finns created the first sauna some 2,000 years ago for bathing and staying warm during bitter winters. Fast-forward to the present moment: Technology has evolved quite a bit, wellness is all the rage—can I get a "hell yeah!" for celery juice?—as is the Taurian lifestyle of treating yourself, and the rest of the world has caught on to the relaxing effects of sauna bathing.

To define them briefly, today’s saunas are high-heat, vented rooms for relaxing and perspiring. And they’ve become increasingly popular in home design—“and not just because it feels great to sweat it out,” says California-based designer Alison Pickart. A 2018 study published by Mayo Clinic found that sauna bathing produces the same physiological responses as moderate exercise, and can reduce hypertension risk, stress, and other chronic illnesses. So what’s the catch?

None that we can think of, thanks to a world of heating and design options. And installing a home sauna is easier than adding a new shower, since no plumbing is required (you just need a heater), Stephen Straughan of KAA Design assures us. So now that you're ready to invest in a good sweat, here’s what you need to know to get one at home.

3 Things to Consider Before Getting a Sauna

A cheat sheet for smoother planning and installation.

And now, for the fun part...6 stylish home sauna ideas to steal:

Make It Moody

Photo credit: Sharyn Cairns; Designer: Studio Griffiths

Studio Griffiths gave this wooden paneling an inky stain, and then back-lit the walls for added drama (heat-resistant lights are a sauna essential). This ensures an easy transition to the edgy concrete materials used in the adjacent space.

Go Blonde

Photo credit: Pauliina Salonen

On the other hand, why not take a lighter approach? This modestly-sized home sauna designed by Laura Seppanen has a similarly sleek and modern aesthetic, but it leaves a laidback, sweet impression, thanks to the blonde wood.

Take It Outside

Photo credit: Tessa Neustadt

Don't want all the fuss of ensuring your interiors are sufficiently ventilated? Customize a freestanding sauna outside. You can buy one prefab (like this one from Jacuzzi), or you can take notes from this outdoor sauna by Alexander Design and create a more architecturally unique structure that beautifies the garden.

Set Up a Cool-Down Spot

Photo credit: Applied Studio

Applied Studio transformed this London backyard with a sauna, but they didn't stop there. If you're building a sauna in the garden, consider adding a nearby lounge area—kind of like a pool house—so you have somewhere to cool off after before heading back inside the house.

Put It Near a Shower

Photo credit: Katie Hodges

In this bathroom designed by Los Angeles-based decorator Katie Hodges, the sauna blends in with the space beautifully as a result of the consistent floor tiles. And installing yours near a shower makes it easy to rinse off afterward.

Add a Steam Room

Photo credit: Ryan Garvin

In this master bathroom by Blackband Design, a glass door on the sauna lets in additional light. You could also opt for frosted glass doors and also build a steam room next door for a whole host of other benefits.


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