Bathroom Design: Privacy or Open Plans?

By Anthony DiGuiseppe Principal, DiGuiseppe Architect | November 01, 2015

So a man walks into bar…no lets change that, a couple walks into a hotel room and immediately they look at the bathroom and make an evaluation, what are they considering…..small, large and luxurious, is there space for my toiletries, lighting, outlets, shower size, and then there is the wc, where is it….and is the bathroom private or is it open to the rest of the room…? Well I have seen them all, as a designer and have probably made some of the same decisions other designers have done to make the bathroom special, unusual, chic, etc.
In the past a typical hotel gets refurbishments every eight to ten years for "soft elements" and every fifteen to twenty years for the public spaces and bathrooms; that had been the normal trend, but those time factors have changed. Today with the hospitality market as hot as it has ever been in the past twenty years, more and more properties are changing hands and more boutiques are being launched by the major brands than ever before….even the conservative Marriott Corporation has introduced their Spanish brand AC, Moxy, etc… therefore the conversions and the refurbishments are being done more like every five years with the major changes of the hard elements each time the property changes hands or a new brand is introduced.

The ownership is relying on the architects and the designers to come up with solutions to these renovations that are cost effective yet interesting and evocative to the guests. These solutions in design are all over the spectrum when it comes to the renovation of the hotel or resort, and especially when you are talking about the bathrooms, which in this article we are focusing on.

There is a definite trend from ownership and developers to make properties distinctive, to stand out from others, to create a brand that others do not have and offer an experience that they feel will attract more guests from the hotel next door. Even the brands that had always prided themselves on consistency are looking to differentiate one location from another and have that property indigenous to the locale. One of the biggest differentiations is the bathroom of these properties, and they run the gamut in scale, finishes, style and use.

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The bathroom of a hotel is one place where the guestrooms experience either a wow factor or a disappointment, and the ownership knows that…it doesn't matter whether you are a baby boomer, Gen x or Y or, a millennial. The bathroom in the lower tier of the hotel chain, three star and below, typically has a minimal amount of space devoted to the bathroom . This space is located just inside the entry to the room and all the fixtures are in plain view of the user. The designer has very little room to manipulate the space. The one factor that has changed in these properties is the elimination of the bathtub for a larger shower, but basically in the same space as where the bathtub occupied the 30" x 60" space. We have seen these configurations modified slightly with the addition of glass walls or panels that either peek into the bedroom spaces from the sink and vanity or a more exhibitionist view by having a glass shower wall looking into the bedroom area… are these for everyone? I would say a majority of those polled want the privacy or at least a way of closing off the obvious view to the naked body…and unless you have the buff model I don't think the view is worth the effort…with a curtain, shade, frosted glass etc…which begs the question is privacy in the bathroom of a hotel wanted by the guests or do they want what they don't have at home; the voyeur sense of exhibitionism with an open plan?

When it comes to the three stars and below property where space is at a premium and standard bathroom sizes the "de rigueur", these spaces were designed for one person to use the bathroom at a time, and privacy ensues in most cases. Yet guests want the bathrooms to be special in all cases, and the designer has the ability to get this right by making the bathroom function as an "out of home body experience" for the guests. People want what they don't have at home, a spa like experience; luxurious towels and robes, great lighting and mirrors, large showers with rain heads, interesting finishes and counters. The design of the bathrooms can be luxurious within the confines of these spaces, and the developers and owners have been pushing the envelope and their designers to make these typical bathrooms more unique. One hotel in NYC, The Kitano, even with typical bathroom sizes, added the Toto washlet for the WC's for all the rooms, bringing European flair with a combination of toilet and bidet. This is one which I personally love, as do my guests and staff. The Toto washlet brings more positive comments on that hotels' web site than any other service or amenities and differentiates it from the competition.

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