Boys and bathrooms

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‘Power on’ said a disembodied voice from within the combination shower and sauna unit. Quite startling as you stand there naked and vulnerable, but this was just one of the hi-tech features of an attractive South Coast hotel. There is something about technology which proves irresistible to many male room designers.

We’ve come across hi-fi, TV, DVD, docking station and computer combinations which would delight our grandchildren but which we find frustrating in their sheer complexity when all we want to do is watch the news.

At one hotel there was no wardrobe just a rail on which to hang your clothes protected by a curtain, but this simple curtain had to be opened by an electric motor. At another, a staff member showing us to our room pointed out a state-of-the-art coffee machine. ‘That’s great’, we said, ‘now show us how it works’. He couldn’t and had to send for help.

In-house technology may be irritating but what makes us really cross is the apparent inability to design a decent, efficient, bathroom, possibly because most are designed by men. The most frequent complaint from women is that there is nowhere to put a vanity box or shelves on which to put make-up.

Mirrors are often badly lit, make-up mirrors are rare and shelves are sometimes over the wash basin at a height which means you bang your head when you straighten up after washing your face. Huge shower heads are fashionable but most are in a fixed position which means you have to wash your hair whether you want to or not.

One hotel we visited for The Good Hotel Guide made a special feature of a beaten copper bath in the middle of the bathroom. Looked wonderful in glossy magazines but the height was such that you couldn’t get in without risking serious injury and the shower was a thin vertical pipe which sprayed water over the room. The same hotel had stone wash basins with a flat base which meant that water never properly drained away. As so often the case it was a triumph of design over utility.

At least, the majority of bathrooms in UK hotels are clean and safe unlike an otherwise charming place in rural Italy where from out of the drain in a wet room emerged a snake…

Bill and Patsy Bennett, Good Hotel Guide inspectors