Flushed with success

When designing any commercial space, be it a restaurant, hotel lobby, golf club or shopping mall, most guests will visit the restroom.


When designing any commercial space, be it a restaurant, hotel lobby, golf club or shopping mall, most guests will visit the restroom. Countless surveys have shown that if a customer is unimpressed by the toilets then 75% will not return to the restaurant/hotel again. So what constitutes a great public washroom? Is it simply an issue of cleanliness, or is it also about style and elegance?

A thoughtfully designed restroom tells the customer that the company cares; it is another opportunity for brand promotion, and it should be an extension of the main space. Many moody, atmospheric restaurants are ruined by overly bright, plain toilets that say clearly to the customer that so much inspiration and money went into the principal area, both were in short supply when it came to fitting out the accompanying bathrooms.

There are plenty of examples however, of designers that do inject a unique touch into the restrooms. How about Bar 89 in New York where transparent glass doors to the Unisex cubicles alarm even the most nonchalant of New Yorkers until the glass frosts as soon as the locks are turned? Or the toilet hidden behind a secret door embedded into a bookcase in the eerily-themed London Stone pub in the UK capital? For pure decadence, it's hard to beat the 3D Gold Store in Hong Kong where the toilet bowls, basins, wall tiles, doors, even the toilet brushes are solid gold with 6,200 diamonds, rubies, sapphires and pearls embedded into the ceiling.

The Philippe Starck designed male toilets in the Felix restaurant in Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel are globally renowned for the bold positioning of the urinals directly in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows, towering high above downtown Kowloon.

Over the next four pages are two regional, and two international examples of public washrooms that showcase more thought and creativity than most.


The flamboyant Moroccan-inspired interior of Almaz by Momo in Mall of the Emirates is echoed in the restaurant's restrooms where sultry black and gold are the dominant colours. Black mosaic tiles line the walls, mirroring the Arabesque 'zellige' tiling in the restaurant, while bright gold basins, faucets and showerheads provide a dramatic contrast. Eccentric additions to the restroom design include golden swan faucets that were chosen to add humour. The bathrooms were designed by Beirut-based interior designer, Annabel Karim Kassar along with restaurateur Mourad 'Momo' Mazouz, best known for his London restaurants, Sketch and Momo.

Grosvenor House

The restrooms in Grosvenor House Hotel in Dubai Marina have often been heralded as among the best in Dubai. Designed by LW Design Group, the bathrooms were conceived to be actual rooms in their own right, complete with seating areas and wall mounted flatscreen TVs showing fashion programs in the ladies toilets and sports channels in the mens. LWD Associate, Pia Sen offers an explanation for the public reaction: "I think people are just generally taken by surprise when they enter and see the make-up areas and again the more decorative elements. Normally toilets in Dubai are just toilets and not room settings."

Sen adds: "The Buddha Bar washrooms mirror the feel and theatrical aspects from the main areas. They are very decorative and in total keeping with the rest of the moody design theme in the restaurant." Brushed concrete walls adorned with golden painted Asian characters provide the backdrop to a selection of Asian accessories sourced from Exotica in Al Quoz, Dubai.


Previously the thought of using a public toilet on one of the world's busiest high streets was a less than pleasurable suggestion, but thanks to the clever invention of a lavish ladies-only powder room, freshening up on London's Oxford Street is now a prospect to look forward to. The 'WC1' toilet is designed to be a sanctuary for shoppers and businesswomen alike, combining practicality with luxury, with most of the furniture, chandeliers and sanitary ware sourced from Italy. The Marchhare, headed up by Charles Longbottom, is the brains behind this innovative business idea, which cost an incredible £1 million (AED 7.4million) to fit out. After paying an entrance fee, customers enter the pink and white colour themed entrance hall complete with large poppy emblems. Guests can use the opulent powder room with atmospheric lighting, a large seating area and a mirrored wall. The toilets, which all have their own plumbing and electrics, feature an air extraction unit which is programmed for five air changes per minute. The two storey, 4,000ft² building also has beauty therapists on hand at all times.


Based on the desire to produce a statement design that would become a signature for the Sofitel in Queenstown, developer, Perron, created a humorous visual wall in the male toilets behind the urinals manufactured by UK-based Sissons. The internal space has no windows so the initial concept was to create a mock window complete with local scenery. This idea then progressed to trying to include the users as part of a simulated scenario such as standing on the edge of a mountain precipice or about to bungee jump. Perron then played with the idea of using stock photography such as an audience at an opera applauding the bathroom user. This evolved to a 6m long backdrop of life size models in various poses directly behind the urinals, which are back lit by a glass wall. Queenstown Signs, who made the poster, change the models on a regular basis to support local events and celebrations. Past themes have included Christmas and Jazz.

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