Take A Look At Melbourne’s Newest And Largest Bathhouse

We spoke to Sense Of Self founders Freya Berwick and Mary Minas about Mediterranean Brutalism, bathing nude with your neighbours and inclusivity in the wellness industry.

Sense Of Self brings a touch of the Mediterranean right to the heart of Melbourne. Founded by duo Freya Berwick and Mary Minas, the space draws on ancient practices to meet modern needs with its bathhouse and massage studio.

Australia is currently listed as the 9th worst in the world when it comes to work/life balance, and Freya thinks a format like a bathhouse provides an opportunity to reconnect with our bodies in new ways.

“I think ancient bathing offers a lot of things we’re missing out on in wellbeing. Things like being socially connected with each other in a space that isn’t a cafe or a gym,” Freya said.

The facilities include saunas and hammams, which patrons pay a casual or membership rate to use for two hours. These spaces have a “bather on” policy unless explicitly told otherwise. Mary jokes that unlike other cultures, Australians are not ready to sit nude with their neighbours, just yet.

“I think there is a willingness to get naked when you’re in a foreign country and no one knows you, and you’re discovering a little bit about yourself. Not so much if you’re going to be in your local neighbourhood and have the potential to run into your barista,” Mary said.

Freya uses the term Mediterranean brutalism to describe the aesthetics of the space. It’s a term she slashed together, but it works.

“The Mediterranean aspect, other than the traditions we are integrating into the program, is the soft, warm and timeless colour palette. They make you feel calm and relaxed like you’re on a Greek holiday. The brutalism component is that it’s a space that demands a presence.” Freya said.

Upon entering the upstairs massage studio, clients are met with voluminous curtains, which are likened to clouds. Downstairs, there is a red travertine shower wall with living brass taps from local tap brand, Sussex Taps. They are designed to change over time and will give the space a lived-in feel.

“We want the space to feel like it’s been there for a while. We are trying to make decisions that make you feel grounded in that way,” Mary adds.

Mary says she wants clients to feel welcomed upon entering the space, as belonging is a big part of their business values.

Sense Of Self is unique from other ‘spa’ offerings in where patrons can walk in off the street. There is an element of inclusivity, and it’s wildly refreshing, almost like plunging into a cold pool after a session in a steam room.

“It’s important that people don’t feel like they are someone who could not enter a space like this, because I think there are spaces like that, that exist in terms of the luxury bracket of spas.”

“What we want is to bring back a more open, convivial community centred wellbeing that invites people of all shapes, sizes, genders and backgrounds, to come and feel like they have the opportunity to that little piece of relaxation that they feel like they can’t do elsewhere,” Freya said.

“Part of what we are doing is de-coupling the beauty piece from the wellbeing piece. Not to say we don’t love grooming, I love grooming, but there is also a place for your wellbeing existing without you feeling like you have to change yourself.”

“There is room and need for both.”

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