Real Lives: Did I say we were going out for dinner?
Don't fancy braving the cold? You don't have to. A new industry is devoted to meeting your every desire - on the settee. EMMA COOK reports
Sunday 28 November 1999
Our own homes can now make Holmes Place look like Somerfield on the scale of luxurious pampering. Can't be bothered to drag yourself from the sofa? One of London's leading masseurs, Nari Sadhuram, based in Maida Vale, will let you sleep on it with his full body massage and Indian head massage. Naturally you pay a little more - Nari charges pounds 110 an hour. "I'm travelling to the client because his time is worth a lot of money. It's not my time they're paying for - it's their own." Not exactly logical perhaps, but who cares when you can languish in front of the TV while Nari drains your lymph?
Caroline Aston, based in Notting Hill, will charge pounds 60 for an aromatherapy session, pounds 50 for a Swedish massage and pounds 40 for a facial. In the past three years her "home delivery" service has flourished. "After a massage, the last thing you want to do is get in a taxi," she points out. You can even hold your own aromatherapy parties. Knots Elementals will visit your home and show you how to create shampoos and conditioners from various unguents and oils.
The availability of these services reflects our growing desire to take serious self-indulgence behind closed doors. This appetite for couture cocooning makes holing up with a takeaway, 10 Silk Cut and a bottle of wine look positively primitive. And you can forget pyjamas and woolly socks: if you're being visited by a mobile therapist, you need the wardrobe to match.
Toast, the Welsh mail-order company, has around 45,000 regular customers buying into its luxurious lounger range: embroidered slippers, velvet drawstring trousers and cashmere bedsocks. "We're interested in the whole idea of closing the door and pulling on some cashmere," says Jamie Seaton, co-owner and designer of Toast. "It's a sensual thing and it's also nice to draw the line between the work day and the evening." The internet has enabled us to retreat into another world from the comfort of our desktop, and it seems fashion and beauty have followed suit.
According to Chris Bates, associate director with youth marketing agency Informer Interactive, this phenomenon is another symptom of an increasingly individualised society. "We want instant gratification and we want it on our terms, on our patch," he says. He cites an upmarket takeaway in London's Battersea that offers every type of food, from Chinese to Indian, Malaysian to French and Italian. "It's a home service culture and it's only just started. I see a time when you can phone one number for everything: food takeaways, dry-cleaning and massage."
Tann-Rokka, another mail-order company and shop in Camden, London, can't keep up with the demand for fluffy beanbags and silk pyjamas. "There's definitely a market here," says owner, Lisa Lee. "People don't want to answer the door in scruffy old pyjamas. They want to relax and look good."
Meanwhile, Ilse Crawford, vice president for Donna Karan's homes collection, has published a homage to this sybaritic nesting tendency, The Sensual Home. She points out in the book that where once the kitchen and the sitting room were the home's focal points, the bathroom and the bedroom now take centre stage.
Charlotte-Anne Fidler, beauty and style director of Elle, agrees that the market for home comforts reflects our desire for a tailor-made service. "Beauty is becoming more personalised," she explains. "If you go to somewhere like Clarins you're having what everybody is having. These days we want our therapies to be designed just for us - we want couture massages for our individual needs. It's also about wanting a unique service where you're on a limited client list and very few people have the number of the person who's treating you."
Prestige is certainly a key factor. Nari has travelled to Paris and Bombay to see clients in their homes. "I visited a famous Bollywood actress in Bombay recently and it was very much about her being able to say that she had her own masseur in London who was visiting," he says.
It's great to be able to boast to your friends about a one-to-one with the best masseur in town, but there are potential downsides. As I sat in my living room and waited for Nari to give me a taste of home indulgence, I realised I wasn't thrilled at the prospect of stripping off in my home for a complete stranger. He's well aware of potential anxieties - "I always give people the choice of what they want to wear and try to put them at their ease," he told me as he unfolded what looked like a hospital bed. I lay and stared at the ceiling, cursing the cobwebs and the cracked plaster I'd never noticed, while Nari got to work with a dry skin brush. He started the deep massage, climbed over me to knead my back, while I felt a little disoriented, naked on my stomach, staring at the fridge and last night's washing up. It didn't help that I was freezing - my central heating clicked off half way through. Still, by the time he left, it was all I could do to stagger to my bedroom and collapse.
Which is, presumably, the appeal. Cath Kidston, a furnishings designer, enjoys regular visits from a mobile masseur. "It's nice to be at home and potter around in a stupor after the massage," she says. "Being at home makes it more relaxing." Luci Morgan says the same of her personal trainer. "You can have a workout, have a bath and do the washing up - all in the space of an hour. It's so much more enjoyable."
Until you have to get your chequebook out. Luci pays pounds 100 a week for two sessions. Think how many pizza deliveries you could get for that. I know which I'd prefer.
PERSONAL SERVICES - PUT YOUR FEET UP
5 Nari Sadhuram offers full-body massage in your home from pounds 110 (tel: 0831 818846).
5 The Shiatsu Society will put you in touch with practitioners who do home visits (tel: 01733 758341).
5 Knots Elementals offers home tuition sessions in aromatherapy for a bargain pounds 7 per person. (tel: 0181 941 0759).
Clothes and comforts
5 Tann-Rokka, shop (in Camden, north London) and mail-order company, is dedicated to luxury lounging (tel: 0171 722 3999).
5 Toast, mail-order company, specialises in sensual home comforts (tel: 01558 668800).
5 The Association of Personal Trainers can provide a nationwide list of trainers prepared to come to your home (tel: 0171 836 1102).
5 If you want to brag about who you share your trainer with and are prepared to join a waiting list of the well-heeled and famous, Matt Roberts, based in Mayfair, London, will visit your home for pounds 55 per hour (tel: 0171 491 4232). Or try Anastasia, who counts Ben de Lisi among her clients and charges around pounds 40 per hour (tel: 0958 520082).
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