Sauna design ideas, inspiration & pictures

What is a sauna?

Most of us have come into contact with (or at least heard of) a sauna – that small house or room designed for undergoing an extreme heat session for relaxing and/or health benefits. Saunas were created in Finland more than 2,000 years ago (the word means “bathhouse” in the Finnish language), where they were exactly what they are today: a small wooden hut filled with either dry heat or steam at temperatures reaching between 70°C and 100°C.

Today, the sauna enjoys popularity basically worldwide, with South Africa being no exception, as numerous spas, gyms, public pools, holiday resorts and even a few residential homes sport high-end sauna facilities to help drive toxins out of one’s body.

And just in case you were wondering, the main difference between a Turkish bath and a sauna is the fact that a Turkish bath relies on hot, wet steam, while a sauna uses drier heat. 

The different kinds of saunas

The main categories for saunas are classified as ‘wet’ and ‘dry’, even though they are very similar to one another. A wet sauna refers to the practice of adding water over the hot stones of the sauna heater, creating bursts of steam to conjure up moisture. The user controls the room’s humidity via the amount of water that’s poured.

Although use of water is the most popular, a lot of users tend to opt for saunas with no water for a very dry atmosphere (and a humidity level of about 10-15%).

But a third category has also emerged: an infrared sauna, which is, technically, more of a therapy room, seeing as it does not use water, does not get exceptionally hot and generates no steam. The infrared sauna is also a room constructed of softwood (as it gathers almost no heat and, thus, doesn’t become a scorching surface for the user), yet has 4 – 7 electric heating panels surrounding the user. The temperature inside generally doesn’t exceed 57°C and the users position themselves in front of the heating panels to allow heat to focus on a specific area of the body.

The main difference between a sauna and steam room is their heat levels; a sauna usually operates at a temperature that varies between 80°C and 100°C, whereas a steam room runs at about 40°C. 

The pros and cons of using a sauna

Like most things in life, a sauna should be approached with caution, which means a look at the pros and cons of using one.


·         A sauna provides a natural deep cleansing, with the increased sweating provided by the sauna meaning a simple acceleration of your body’s natural mechanism for ridding itself of impurities.

·         The increased heat and intense sweating can do wonders for the skin, not to mention the mind – taking a 15 – 20 minute session relaxes one’s thinking and helps to alleviate stress.

·         Saunas increase circulation. While inside, your pulse rate can jump by 30% or more, allowing the heart to nearly double the amount of blood it pumps each minute. Most of the extra blood flow is directed to the skin.


·         Heat dries out the skin, and the body’s natural reaction to this is to produce more oil to balance moisture levels. Thus, using a sauna too often could lead to an increase in breakouts and dry skin patches.

·         Doctors caution to never exceed 30 minutes in a sauna, as the extreme heat can raise one’s body temperature to unhealthy levels. Rather keep a session between 15 and 20 minutes.

·         With a sauna’s intense heat, the body’s circulation is directed away from vital organs. In addition, blood pressure changes vary between people, as it can rise in some but fall in others. 

Costs of a sauna

Fancy enjoying your own little sweating station at home? The sauna and steam room is one of those must-have elements if you want your home to flaunt an ambience of luxury, and unlike in the past, today they are in the financial reach for many more people.

Saunas are available in numerous designs and sizes, not to mention prices, with a finished-built, one-person, infrared creation clocking in at about R23,367. Then again, a steam sauna portable tent can have a much more reasonable price of R7,000, depending on your choice of supplier. It definitely pays to shop around! 

How homify can help

If a built-in sauna is one of the essential luxury items on your list, then sit right back and start scrolling through homify’s extensive list of sauna designs, as well as our host of other must-have elements such as steam baths and swimming pools. In addition, we also help to put you in contact with a range of professionals in the building- and design world, such as architects, carpenters, pool and spa experts, landscape designers and many more, to ensure you have the best pro by your side in the search for the perfect spa.