I’m not sure who holds the title of hotel-bathroom design guru for the current generation, but I hope whoever it is will take a moment to think about the true practicality of maneuvering around a hotel bathroom. There are designers out there who need a lesson about planning, if my recent experiences as a guest are any indication.
Now, I understand that hardware for showering and bathing is always changing. But some of those new fixtures are not intuitive to operate. I wish hotels would place a manual — or even some sort of signage — in the bathroom detailing how to turn on the cold water and the hot.
When I was a child, I learned that the hot-water faucet was always on the left and the cold on the right. Today, it is more difficult to discern when circular faucets have only one handle — or worse, several, with upper and lower handles and faucets to turn on and around.
And please don’t get me started on hard-to-understand handheld shower attachments. How often I have wished for instructions on feeding water into such devices.
Believe me, sometimes simpler is better when it comes to a bathtub or sink.
I traveled a lot over the summer and discovered all varieties of bathroom fixtures, from steel to brass to bronze. And showers themselves have gotten an upgrade, too. Steam showers are not uncommon at better-quality hotels, these days.
There’s a lesson here for homeowners with houseguests. If you have a complex faucet system in your guest bathroom, take a moment to give your guests a brief how-to when you show them to the rooms. And if your guests are lucky enough to be using a bathroom equipped with a steam shower, you certainly want to make sure they know how to operate and enjoy it, right?
Steam showers aside, many hotel bathrooms no longer offer those terrific deep bathtubs in which one could relax after a hard day of travel. I would urge those who design hotel baths to keep in place those deep tubs.
And while they’re at it, they must always plan for a wall-mounted bar to help guests get in and out of the tub. A tub — especially an unfamiliar one in a hotel bathroom — can become a dangerous spot to soak in without a properly hung bar.
Recently in a hotel bathroom, I found a glass panel affixed to the tub in place of a shower curtain. The panel had a small oval-shaped opening set into the glass. The opening was about 8 inches tall and 3 inches wide, just large enough to accommodate the hand of a bather in need of a bar of soap!
And although the bathroom did have a tub — the old, deep kind — it was missing a wall-mounted bar that could be used by someone standing or shaving. That shower-and-tub combo, in my view, was dangerous and clearly not well thought out.
Today’s bathroom designers must truly study how bathing works. Function should always be a priority. Who is going to care about beautifully crafted glass doors if he or she can’t figure out how to turn the hot water on or doesn’t feel safe?
Decorating is not only about pretty. It’s about practical, as well.
Palm Beacher Carleton Varney is president of Dorothy Draper & Co., an international design firm with offices in New York, West Palm Beach, London and White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. His new book is titled “Romance and Rhododendrons: My Love Affair with America’s Resort — The Greenbrier.” Visit CarletonVarney.com or email him at [email protected] Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.