Craving calm


April 30, 2021

Cristina Wilson created Mood House to make it easy for others to carve out time for self-care.

by Cathy Martin

Cristina Wilson knows a thing or two about feeling stressed. The Davidson College graduate spent nine years working in local media, including five as president of Charlotte Agenda (now Axios Charlotte). In all those years of chasing deadlines and working nonstop to help build a burgeoning media brand, there was little time left for self-care.

“I found myself going months and months without a massage,” Wilson says. “The truth is that I’m less effective — as a businesswoman, as a leader, as a parent — if I don’t create time for myself.” 

So in 2019, she left the media business and a job she loved to develop Mood House, a massage studio with a sleek, minimalistic vibe and a membership program that makes it hard for stressed-out Charlotteans to make excuses.

Wilson spent time in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, Calif., to zero in on the aesthetic she wanted to create in Mood House. Charlotte architect Perry Poole helped her realize her vision. “Perry wouldn’t let me show him any inspiration photos — not one,” Wilson says. “It allowed the design to be completely original and based organically on the experience we wanted to create for clients.”

Stark white interiors and soft lighting evoke a sense of calm as you enter the studio, which is tucked in a Dilworth shopping center on Park Road. A slim, curved corridor lined with oversized windows leads to Mood House’s seven massage suites; another wing houses a private infrared sauna and an area for upper-body massages, ideal for on-the-go clients who don’t have time for a full treatment. At the center of the 4,000-square-foot space is a large meditation room for events and workshops, where low-hanging pendant lights emit a soft, warm glow.

Cristina Wilson | photograph by Jamey Price

When you arrive at Mood House, you’ll choose your experience based on how you’d like to feel when you leave: Calm, for those seeking deep relaxation; Clear to enhance focus and creativity; Abundant for an upbeat take on a Swedish massage; Awake to feel energized. 

Each experience is defined by its own massage techniques, aromatherapy and playlist. Wilson teamed with two local brands, Pretty Honest Candles and perfumer Jules & Vetiver, to create the aromatherapy candles, which can also be purchased for $34 each. But the music might be the most distinguishing part of the Mood House experience. Instead of New Age mainstays or nature sounds, Wilson created curated playlists for each of the four moods.

“I’ve danced my whole life, so I’ve always been aware of how music can change your mood instantly and powerfully,” Wilson says. “I try to approach it like a movie score or soundtrack — what songs make you feel truly joyful (abundant) or absolutely relaxed (calm)? ‘Clear’ is inspired by a California coffeehouse vibe to boost creativity. I think our unique take on music will be an important part of the brand as we grow.”

While guests can still opt for traditional relaxation tracks, Mood House’s playlists seem to be a hit among its 350 members (and counting, as of early April). “We’ve gotten feedback that for people who have trouble with their thoughts racing, having music with lyrics to latch onto is actually a super helpful part of the relaxation process,” Wilson says. “It takes the pressure off of your own thoughts in a way.”

While operating a massage studio bears little in common with running a media company, Wilson knew she needed to follow her instincts. “I feel like deep down, building things was more the fulfilling part than building something in media, specifically,” she says. 

“For me, as a client, this was just what I was missing.”

How it works: Mood House members receive discounted rates for signature massages — $85/month for a 50-minute massage ($105 for nonmembers) and $115 for an 80-minute massage ($135 for nonmembers) — along with discounts on sauna sessions and access to meditation events. Unused massages roll over from month to month; you can also gift a massage credit to a friend.

SP Mother’s Day pick: Aromatherapy candle ($35) and gift certificate for a 50-minute signature massage ($105),

photo by Laura Sumrak

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