Think tanks: Behind cool bathroom design

From the November 15, 2012 edition
  • Brent Lacount/Design Collective Incoporated photos

Cool restrooms make such an impression that it’s a wonder more businesses don’t think to design a memorable lavatory.

“Often this is a missed opportunity,” said David Cooke, a principle at Design Collective Incorporated, the architecture firm behind Milestone 229, Level and Mezzo. “Many designers will spend the money creating a theme in the dining room, and you leave and the rest of the experience is completely detached.”

Rather than a utilitarian dead zone, the restroom should be seen as part of the “wow factor” of the experience, Cooke said.

“We try through color, interesting materials, unique fixtures, to create an experience so somebody comes back to the table and says, ‘You’ve got to see that,’” Cooke said.

For instance, Short North lounge SushiRock located the sinks for the men’s and women’s restrooms together as an extension of the socializing that happens at the bar. Just across High Street, Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse implemented gold and black to conjure classic elegance.

Fancy night spots aren’t the only establishments that can benefit from a smartly designed restroom. Ashley Puckett, who runs interior design business Opal Stackhouse, said many of the best ideas come from small business owners.

“It’s little independently owned places where the owners are there are a lot and they recognize every little area of their space is important,” Puckett said.

Puckett painted the striking animal parade mural in the restroom at The Angry Baker in Olde Towne East. She said such spaces offer a chance to take more risks.

“It’s a really great way to reflect the personality of a space in a really small area and be a little bolder,” she said.

Puckett learned that lesson while running Chop Chop Gallery in Olde Towne East.

“We had this picture of a terrier, some sort of Airedale, above the toilet,” Puckett said, “and that thing showed up on Facebook all the time.”

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