Menla Mountain Retreat

where good design serves a greater good

CJ Dellatore Menla Mountain Retreat


Some days life holds great surprises.  This past weekend I was graciously invited to visit and partake in the activities and experience first hand a very special retreat nestled high in the Catskill Mountains.

The Menla Mountain Retreat and Conference Center is an oasis of tranquility amidst vast natural forest preserves.  Situated in the valley of the Panther Mountain, the site was once held as a sacred place by the local Native American inhabitants of the region.  This valley was not inhabited by these people but used for ceremonial purposes…..

. The story continues to tell that the area was originally formed by the impact of a massive meteor, and is considered the oldest known impact crater on the Earth.  Needless to say, the area holds a very special aura and energy which you can’t help but be affected by.  In the present day Menla Mountain Retreat is on the site, and is affiliated with Tibet House.

The Center is ideal for retreats, conferences, and workshops, and is being developed as a wellness spa incorporating Tibetan, Ayurvedic, and Western healing arts.  All groups are welcome to come and enjoy Menla, healthcare groups, families, yoga devotees. Meetings and gatherings of all types are easily accommodated here.  Open year round, you can experience the natural beauty of the valley’s magnificent landscape, abundant in wildlife and with opportunities for hiking, tennis, swimming, fitness and wellness services.

The staff is engaging, and very talented in providing spa services.  I experienced one of the most exhilarating massages ever given by a massage therapist who specializes in cognitive muscular reintegration – which derives its therapy principles from Arawak Indian practices combined with traditional reflexology and cranial sacral techniques.  Three days later I am still enjoying the therapeutic effects.

.CJDellatore Menla Mountain Retreat

Mahasukha Spa at Menla

A major part of this weekend’s significance was my being re-acquainted with one of interior design’s great ladies, Clodagh.  Herself a force to be reckoned with, her personal involvement with Menla is a fascinating story.

.CJDellatore Clodagh and Carl Lana


Clodagh has always been intrigued and passionate about Tibet, as early as her teenage years.  She feels happy and very much at home there. Robert Thurman, President of Tibet House, came to Clodagh’s studio for a brief meeting, approximately 7 years ago – shortly after the Tibet House received the donation of land in Phoenicia, NY.

At that time, Robert and his wife Nena knew that the retreat required the addition of a spa to complete their dream of a healing center, but they thought that Clodagh would be too expensive to hire for the design. Nena Thurman and Clodagh met approximately 3 years ago, when Nena was ready to create the spa.  She admitted that she knew nothing of spas and needed help, but knew she was interested in a holistic approach to a retreat beyond the physical, yet addressing the physical.    She had already secured the help of a fine architect and the building was under construction.  She came to Clodagh for a consultation as a spa expert and they drove up to Menla together to look at the property and the rising building.

Clodagh thought that the property was extraordinary and she was falling in love with these exceptionally passionate people who work so hard and care so much, and she just could not say no. Shw donated her design expertise and worked closely with Nena to develop the spa, as Nena has strong opinions and knows what she likes in color.   Clodagh also called upon her favorite vendors to donate services, materials, supplies and products, including Kohler and Ann Sacks.   Materials were donated or sold at huge discounts for this wonderful cause.

Clodagh says,  “I like to work with any budget and with a not-for-profit you try to provide an extraordinary experience for very little money.” Since then, Clodagh has been involved with and supports a variety of Tibet House efforts including their annual auction.  Theirs is a deep friendship based on trust and the appeal of passion.

.CJ Dellatore Robert & Nena Thurman

Robert and Nena Thurman

“Robert and Nena are the kind of people who inspire total dedication.  The kind of authenticity with which I want to align myself and my studio.  It’s the ‘red thread’ around the world.”, says Clodagh. Along with this she told me that during one of our many activities that this project was not about interior design, but about experiencing the alignment of space to the environment.  So well said.

The creative process, and design in general, are universal gifts.  The spirit moves the designer to act and to implement by interpreting the needs of the community and bringing about solutions to make our lives more fulfilling.  There in lies, for me, the principle that the role of design is to compliment and enhance the life experience. I found it refreshing and rehabilitating from the moment I arrived, and was enraptured by the grandeur of nature and how its subtleties and nuances can be utilized when considering the creative process.  You come to realize that everything great or small is derived through nature.  I have come away a better person and I dare say a more sensitive designer.

.CJ Dellatore Menla grounds

The grounds at Menla Mountain Retreat

I would extend the invitation for you to experience this special place for yourselves.  Only three hours north of New York City – yet you feel so far removed from everyday existence.  My favorite thing about the weekend was that cell phones don’t work there.  Don’t be alarmed, there is internet and wi-fi available in the guest quarters so you can still feel connected, but on your own terms.


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  Written by Carl Lana