Bathrooms are a make-or-break experience

Grievances with a guestroom’s physical space can include nearly anything, and the onslaught of online reviews has certainly helped broadcast our pratfalls — no matter how subjective or esoteric. Sometimes they’re complaints about issues you simply cannot fix without a bulky capital infusion. Other times these pesky problems are the elusive obvious, staring right back at us through the mirror.

Today, I want to address the bathroom. It’s a private, personal space, and therefore, its design can evince a highly emotional response. Given this parameter, there are dozens of reasons — whether cognizant or blindly irrational — where you can go awry and hamper a guest’s overall experience. Some of these are blatantly simple, snap-your-fingers fixable. Others should be tallied and red-starred onto your long-term renovation slate. Either way, by impeding a pleasurable bathroom experience, you’re embargoing return visits and positive word-of-mouth.

For starters, let’s talk cleanliness. If a guest is going to turn up their nose in disgust or write a hygiene-centric diatribe online, it’s most likely to occur as a result of less-than-flawless housekeeping. Think small yet incredibly irritable offenses — smudges on the mirror, hair snaking out from the shower drain, orange-brown rust stains in the porcelain toilet bowl or jaundiced mold crusting over grout. You are probably saying to yourself, “Not in my hotel.” But when was the last time you conducted a personal inspection? Use TripAdvisor and other guest review sites to identify problem areas. The goal is obvious: absolute flawlessness.

Second, let’s discuss supply — headlights on the towels and cleaners. The former is a straightforward issue with one or two small puzzles. Everyone knows that towels should be in ample stock, yet many rooms just aren’t making the cut. What if there are two people and both plan to take multiple showers per day? That’s four towels minimum, plus two more for drying the hair separately. Of course, turndown service (if you perform this) may reduce the in-room inventory requirements. But I digress: At no point should a guest be interrupted while half-naked to call down for extras.

Two concerns also in the realm of rags are hand towels and floor mats. The former here follows the same logic as their larger counterparts. Big faux pas if guests have to rummage through soggy washcloths to find one that may be clean and dry enough to wipe their hands. Bathroom mats are a tad pricklier as safety becomes a key issue. Materials should be thick, large, absorbent and adhesive to the tiles. Keep a spare as well so guests can replace a damp one on the fly.

The main objection I’ve encountered to stocking excessive textile is that it crowds the space. For this, I leave it your discretion; you have to work with the allotted space. Think of a smart way to rearrange or use the closet for storage surplus, much like you would for bathrobes and extra pillows. Ultimately, when it comes time for a large-scale remodel, plan for additional cabinets to be installed.

I have often been asked just how long a towel should last. Clearly, anything frayed, ripped or damaged is a natural candidate for the trash. The approach I recommend for ongoing usage replacement is simple: keep one of each towel as a comparative standard. When a towel has noticeably deviated from this original, it is no longer of use.

On to so-called amenities: soaps, lotions and all in-between. Given their size, they’re much easier to dish out in excess. Congratulations to any and every hotel that’s getting creative with their selection — aromatic, colorful samplers from boutique merchants or in-house brands. Just make sure to house reserves for every shampoo, body wash or conditioner bottle you provide — a definite no-brainer. (I have a lot more to say about this subject from a branding perspective, but I’ll save that for later!)

Moving on to some more pet peeves that deal with the more immovable aspects of this oh-so-crucial room. The cardinal rule for all of these is: Function trumps fashion. If you’re renovating or building, don’t let a flighty interior designer get the best of you; stand firm in your demands for ergonomic space as priority numero uno. The space must be copacetic before it can be cool. Here are a few examples of what really irks me:

Poor lighting. This is kid stuff. Bathrooms should be bright with the correct hues and a focus towards the mirror. If you are looking to upgrade, think halogens and LEDs as they are very radiant as well as energy-efficient.

Small mirrors. The partner-in-crime for poor lighting, it’s always nice not to have to twist and writhe every half-second to see what I’m cleaning or grooming. Women may also require a suitable vanity mirror at the right height. And need I mention that small mirrors are a strain on the lower back?

Cramped countertops. Is it too much to ask for a little space to spread out the contents of two cosmetic travel bags? The biggest culprits here are small washrooms, terribly dominant sinks or a lack of cabinetry.

Perplexing shower heads. Which way is hot, which way is cold? No guest wants to spend 10 minutes figuring out how the shower works before he or she can use it. Some are so radically counterintuitive that signage or a user guide should be provided. I’ve even come across Cerberean two- or three-headed spouts (read: really?).

Always hot or always cold. I don’t want to play Goldilocks with my shower or faucet. Give me one that can deliver a range of temperatures with sensitive enough controls so I won’t be immediately scalded or scaly from pseudo-frostbite.

Difficult doors. A struggle to close, a struggle to stay closed or partly see-through. This seems to be more of a problem for sliding bathroom doors, as every time I’ve encountered one — whether by design or by lack of lubrication — they are an utter chore to move. And I work out, too!

These six obviously necessitate a much larger commitment than increased housekeeping oversight. But, that doesn’t mean you should dismiss them. For each of these six instances, I felt compelled to lower my overall rating of the accommodation based on a tiny inconvenience. So, what are your washroom pet peeves?

A final note: We live in a world of infinite competition. Why would a guest return to your property if the lavatories — a personal and emotional space — weren’t up to par? Don’t give them a reason to shun you — don’t give them a shoddy bathroom!