Photo: Getty Images

We think... • October 2015

Hotel bathrooms are boring (or are they?)

The traditonal sink and shower bathroom combo no longer cuts it for Henrietta Thompson, editor-at-large of Wallpaper*

To begin with, let’s clarify: bathrooms are not just boring, they are over. Just like kitchens before them, which slowly blurred into an airier, open-plan lifestyle merging with dining and diners alike in restaurants, loft apartments and country cottages, so the bathroom is the latest room to receive an extreme modern makeover. In place of the traditional fitted suite seen the world over, a whole host of new ‘spathroom’ (yes indeed) concepts are emerging.

The spathroom is the new ‘It Room’ – in a home it’s a space beautiful enough to show off to guests, and lovely enough to want to retreat to for hours. In a hotel, it’s more worthy of an instagram than the bedroom it’s attached to.

Wherever it is, the spathroom is a space in which privacy is still an option. I don’t mean from people necessarily – please invite who you like to entertain you and share in your bubbly bliss – but from technology. It’s the one last hiding place which the smartphone hasn’t yet fully invaded (though it’s trying) and where you can shut the door on real life for a soak.

Whether it’s indoors, outdoors or (ideally) a little bit of both, the spathroom must always have a view. Over fields, forests, a mountain range or rooftops, no matter, but there must be something to look at. If the space is entirely enclosed (perhaps underground) then it’s the designer’s job to create something extraordinarily aesthetic through abundant space, magical lighting, stunning materials and lovely accessories. 

“The spathroom is more worthy of an instagram than the bedroom.”

Hotels are still experimenting with the spathroom idea. Perhaps not wanting to displace their own spa offering, or perhaps it’s just that the layout of their existing rooms takes too much investment to shift. But while the move to a more experimental washroom is a slow one, it’s happening.

Among those making changes, there are various approaches being taken. Some take inspiration from the traditional Japanese ryokans, encouraging ritual and relaxation amid bamboo baths and pretty screens. Others simply move a picturesque bathtub into the bedroom (or sometimes the garden or terrace), for a more social and instagrammable experience, leaving more room for a sizeable shower in the loo.

Both ideas are more fun than the old style built-in tub and bidet closet for certain. But are we still missing an opportunity? Standards are rising higher than ever as a hospitality-happy, well-travelled generation becomes ever more demanding – but it’s debateable whether the bathroom, or even the spathroom, has fully caught up with demand.

What to do? Well it is said that people get their best ideas while in the bath, the shower or on the loo. Maybe it’s just a case of focusing those brainstorming sessions on the task at hand. 

This article has been tagged Opinion, Hotels