Published on May 7, 2020

Dana Gallagher never had much time to draw a bath, but these days the Brooklyn-based photographer, who has been sheltering at home with her 12-year-old daughter, has been slowing down. “I’m taking drastic measures to relax,” she says. Finding ways to carve out a personal sanctuary amid the chaos has been a personal project for Gallagher. So she and Frances Boswell, a licensed acupuncturist and food stylist with whom she runs the blog Kitchen Repertoire, collaborated to create SOAK, a series of tea, scrub, spritz, and face-mask recipes inspired by different climates of the earth. “I love the idea of creating a space that takes you away,” says Gallagher. 

You don’t need fancy waterfall features or even a luxurious tub to channel spa-worthy vibes. It’s the little things, such as a healing drink and a nice-smelling candle, that make a difference. “Even displaying foraged, oversize branches in a vase instantly makes you feel like you’re somewhere else,” says Gallagher. From antiviral teas to rejuvenating masks, here Gallagher reveals eight DIYs to make your next bubble bath session extra-special. 

The Desert

white bathroom with tan rugPin It
Photography by Dana Gallagher; Interior Styling by Hilary Robertson

This vibe has an overall sparseness to it, but there’s still plenty of room to embrace color. Set the scene with sandy-toned woods and woven accents, then get to the fun part: a vibrant rose powder, which acts as a natural exfoliant and soothes and cools the skin. 

purple salt scrubPin It
Dish from Clam Lab. Photography and Concept by Dana Gallagher; Food Styling and Recipes by Frances Boswell; Interior Styling by Hilary Robertson
ginger tea in a glassPin It
Photography and Concept by Dana Gallagher; Food Styling and Recipes by Frances Boswell; Interior Styling by Hilary Robertson

The Scrub

  • 1 tbsp rose powder, sifted
  • A handful of dried rose petals
  • 2 cups sea salt 
  • 2/3 cup almond or jojoba oil
  • 5 drops Bulgarian rose essential oil
  • 5 drops neroli essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir well. Transfer the mixture to a 16-ounce glass jar with a lid or divide it between smaller jars. When you’re ready to use, wet your palms and place a generous amount of the scrub into your hands (you can also use a washcloth). Don’t allow any water to get into the jar, as this can cause the scrub to break down. Use the mixture within a month. 

The Tea

This wild sage tisane has strong antibacterial and antiviral properties, and it also helps open up nasal passages. Here’s what you need: 

  • 1 cup dried wild sage leaves
  • 1 tsp dried culinary lavender
  • 2 tbsp dried chamomile blossoms
  • Local raw honey, for sweetening

Blend the sage, lavender, and chamomile together in a 16-ounce container with a lid. To serve it, add two tablespoons of the mixture to the bottom of a tempered teapot. Fill it with hot water and let it steep for about five minutes. Sweeten it with honey as desired.

The Mountains

metal tub in a cabinPin It
Photography by Dana Gallagher; Interior Styling by Hilary Robertson

There’s something almost witchy to this darker setup. Picture yourself sinking into a galvanized metal tub at a log cabin in Northern California or a modern A-frame somewhere in Scandinavia. Then light a candle that reminds you of a secret tree house and sip on a blueberry shrub that’s high in antioxidants.

red cocktailPin It
Thumbprint Glass by Elsa Peretti from Tiffany & Co. ($40) Photography and Concept by Dana Gallagher; Food Styling and Recipes by Frances Boswell; Interior Styling by Hilary Robertson
black charcoal scrubPin It
Photography and Concept by Dana Gallagher; Food Styling and Recipes by Frances Boswell; Interior Styling by Hilary Robertson

The Shrub

  • 2 cups blueberries, wild if possible
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Seltzer water, for serving

Combine the blueberries and vinegar in a glass jar. Cover and refrigerate for three days. When it’s ready to be taken out, pass the mixture through a cheesecloth, pressing down with a rubber spatula to collect as much of the liquid as possible. Discard the solids and transfer the rest into a small saucepan, add sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let mixture simmer for a minute or two—just long enough to dissolve the sugar. Let it cool and return the sweetened liquid to the refrigerator until needed. To serve, pour a tablespoon of blueberry concentrate into a drinking glass and top with seltzer.

The Scrub

  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1/2 cup black salt
  • 1 tsp activated charcoal
  • A handful of dried calendula flowers
  • 2/3 cup oil (avocado or almond work well)
  • 5 drops mountain laurel oil
  • 5 drops pine essential oil
  • 5 drops juniper essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir well. Transfer the mixture to a 16-ounce glass jar with a lid (or divide between smaller jars). To use, spoon a generous amount of the scrub into your wet palms—this is best done in the shower. This one is messy, so you will need to wipe it off with a cloth after using. Do not allow water into the jar, as this can cause scrub to break down, and use the product within a month.

The Forest 

tub in a forestPin It
Photography by Dana Gallagher; Interior Styling by Hilary Robertson

In a foraging mood? Get back to Mother Nature by surrounding your tub with greenery before donning a matcha face mask that reduces inflammation and acne. Follow up with a fruity scrub that’s designed to boost spirits and render one completely carefree.

watermelon scrubPin It
Photography and Concept by Dana Gallagher; Food Styling and Recipes by Frances Boswell; Interior Styling by Hilary Robertson
green mixture in white bowlPin It
Photography and Concept by Dana Gallagher; Food Styling and Recipes by Frances Boswell; Interior Styling by Hilary Robertson

The Mask

  • 1 tbsp matcha
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp warm water
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 small cucumber or a small piece of a large one

Whisk together the matcha, baking soda, water, and honey in a small bowl to form a paste. (Psst: A cucumber makes for a good stirring tool.) Smooth the mask over your face. Slice the cucumber into thin rounds and place over your eyes, as well as your cheeks, chin, and forehead. Let the mask dry for 15 minutes. Then rinse it off with warm water and gently pat your skin dry. This mask is best made immediately before use.

The Scrub

  • 2 cups watermelon chunks
  • 1 cup sea salt (more if you need to adjust for consistency)
  • 3 tbsp jojoba oil
  • A small handful of fresh verbena or 10 drops verbena essential oil

Place the watermelon in a small bowl. Use your hands to gently squeeze juice from the flesh. Add salt, oil, and verbena (or essential oil). Transfer everything to a glass jar and use it within 24 hours.

The Ocean 

tub in a white bathroomPin It
Oval Vase by Sheldon Ceramics from Bloomist ($88); Selva Basket from Intiearth ($60); Belgian Waffle Towel from Mungo (from $24); Glass Jar from Bloomist ($66) Photography by Dana Gallagher; Interior Styling by Hilary Robertson

Replace the sounds of loud neighbors with crashing waves and a light breeze by channeling this seaside arrangement. One of Gallagher’s favorite ways to transform a so-so rental bathroom is by filling large glass containers with sea sponges and Epsom salts. Top this scene off with an aniseed, ylang-ylang, and bergamot essential oil candle.

shells areound a bowl of seaweedPin It
Kam Pitcher by Eric Bonnin from Bloomist ($28); Seaweed Mix from The Seaweed Bath Co. ($12) Photography and Concept by Dana Gallagher; Food Styling and Recipes by Frances Boswell; Interior Styling by Hilary Robertson
glass containers filled with seaweedPin It
Honeycomb Dish by DBO Home from Bloomist ($30); Sea Vegetable from iHerb ($9) Photography and Concept by Dana Gallagher; Food Styling and Recipes by Frances Boswell; Interior Styling by Hilary Robertson

The Soak

  • 2 cups Epsom salts
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1/2 cup dried kelp
  • 2 tbsp kelp powder (sifted)
  • 10 drops jasmine essential oil
  • 8 drops ylang-ylang essential oil

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Transfer into a clean 32-ounce jar with a lid. Use about 1/3 cup per bath. This soak should be used within six months. 

The Tea

  • 1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 piece organic kombu

Combine eight cups of water and ginger in a large pot and bring to a boil. Place the kombu in a 2-quart glass jar and top it with ginger water. Let this steep for 30 minutes. Then when you’re ready for a sip, gently reheat the desired amount in a small saucepan (being careful not to boil). You can keep this tea refrigerated for up to one week. Rich in minerals such as iron, potassium, and magnesium, it has some nice sleepy-time properties, so it’s great for a late-night soak.

It’s hammer time: Follow @reno_notebook for easy rental updates, clever DIYs, and tips to nail your next project.

Discussion