Mary Minas and Freya Berwick met while studying a Masters of Entrepreneurship in Melbourne. But their backgrounds couldn’t be more different: Minas, a filmmaker, was planning to shoot a documentary about bathing through the ages, and Berwick, a trained botanist, had been working on the redesign of a boutique hotel and restaurant in Norway.
Together, they dreamed up a wellness destination – one where visitors felt welcomed, safe and uplifted, rather than rushed out the door when their time was up.
“I had a real love of bathing,” says Minas, “and Freya had a real love of experience-curation from her work in hotels. I really wanted to ... bring generosity of spirit, and create something that could enrich people.” Berwick agrees: “There is a binding philosophy that we want to deliver wellness without a performative or beauty lens.”
Their new massage and mindfulness studio Sense of Self, which opens today on the top floor of a converted Collingwood warehouse, does just that.
Ascend the stairs into an airy, ethereal space with a series of arched doorways, through which you’ll find delightfully dark and moody treatment rooms.
Here, the team is offering three core massage options. “We wanted to create a really simple menu, a simple experience, so people could just relax a little more – and then choose their own adventure with little enhancements,” Minas says.
The Hiatus is for ultimate relaxation, combining Swedish massage techniques, meditation and aromatherapy; the Heavy Hand is a sore-spot-releasing remedial massage; and the Expectant is a pregnancy massage aimed at relieving pressure.
Add-ons include scalp massages, dry body brush treatments, and – when restrictions allow – gua sha facials.
But here’s the best bit: you can stay as long as you want (within opening hours). A beautiful, curtained-off area has cosy pillows and a swing chair for anyone keen to while away the afternoon in post-treatment bliss.
“When we say you don’t have to leave, you really don’t have to leave … you can sleep here if you want to,” Minas says with a laugh.
Below the massage and mindfulness studio will be a Roman-style bathhouse, which is scheduled to open early next year after some Covid-related delays. (Expect mostly mixed-gender bathing with swimmers on.)
During our visit, we get a sneak peek of the under-construction space, which is extremely open plan with ultra-high ceilings and a ton of natural light. “We’re bringing back that ancient style of bathhouse that [isn’t] necessarily what you would see here in Australia,” says Minas. “Big spaces that … give you time to let go and imagine and dream.”
Sense of Self’s massage and mindfulness studio opens today. Bookings and gift cards are available online. The bathhouse will open in early 2021.
Sense of Self
30–32 Easey Street, Collingwood
Wed to Fri 4pm–9pm
Sat & Sun 10am–6pm