Portable Pampering

Is it still an escape when the spa comes to you?

When Tola Spa makes a house call, the technician looks like she’s ready for a camping weekend in Big Bear.

There’s the duffle bag, filled with bath salts, creams and essential oils. There’s a contraption that resembles a rice cooker, the Steamy Wonder. And then there’s the tent, a nylon canopy stiffened with a metal and PVC frame that looks like nothing so much as an all-white iron lung.

“It’s tough to not get steam in an entire room,” says Tola owner Laura Doughty, “but this keeps it to just the tent, like if you were an Eskimo.”

Once assembled, the client lies back on a portable massage table, hands at her sides. Claustrophobia isn’t a problem — the tent stops at the neck — and the Steamy Wonder opens your pores as effectively as anything made from redwood.

The most extravagant spas aren’t in Malibu or Beverly Hills; they’re in your front yard. For an extra fee, Los Angeles’ finest pampering compounds will beat a path to your home or office door. Portable indulgences were once limited to manicures and the house-call masseuse, but technology now permits clients to get microdermabrasion, steam therapy or a spray-on tan.

Fred Segal’s Cindy Levin says even non-celeb clients appreciate the luxury of staying home. “People have beautiful houses with these amazing views of the Hollywood Hills and great pools,” she says. “They want to enjoy their homes.”

The red Samsonite suitcases wheeled along by Fred Segal Beauty’s mobile technicians are a familiar sight for award-show attendees, but the services are available to anyone willing to pay 50% above standard rates for any of the salon’s services. This puts a basic manicure and pedicure at $125.

Like Tola, Fred Segal’s technicians come armed to the teeth. The suitcases are stuffed with candles, CDs, plush robes, Bumble & Bumble and Kerastase products and house-brand mineral water. However, it counts on its clients to provide the soothing atmosphere. The accoutrements of the mobile experience alone can’t match the chic vibe of Fred Segal’s brick-and-mortar spa in Santa Monica, replete with mahogany and brushed aluminum.

Champagne on wheels

It is possible to be transported without transportation. Spa on Location looks like a typical 36-foot RV, but inside are handmade silk curtains, ultrasuede pillows, fresh flowers and a bottle of chilled Veuve Clicquot along with the means to provide facials, massages, spray-on tanning and nail treatments.

Even while parked at its home base in Torrance, where it’s surrounded by railroad tracks and the 405 freeway, clients hear nothing but the soothing murmur of an ambient CD. Its electricity is powered by a silent battery.

“When we’re on sets, there are always people moving around, things being dropped, says owner Maria Aparis, who’s taken the rig to “CSI: Miami,” “Numbers” and Paradigm’s offices. “Being in the RV is actually a lot quieter than being outside.”

With its four-hour minimum, a visit from Spa on Location runs $1,250. “With L.A. traffic as bad as it is nowadays,” Aparis says, “many people will say it’s worth it.”

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