In Praise of a Truly Glamorous Bathroom

My interest in immersive bathrooms was ignited early on. Having been raised along the central coast of California, visits to the historic Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo were commonplace when I was growing up (particularly for adolescent milestones like prom night dinner, where I was known to order a virgin piña colada or two). A late 1950s-era hotel, the property is fawned over on Instagram for its flamboyant interiors of unapologetic pink and gold—but the main attraction isn’t the 110 individually-themed rooms or the 1,000 sprawling acres of rocky terrain it sits upon. Instead, it’s the bathroom; the men’s bathroom, to be more precise. 

Upon entering, one is greeted by giant clam shell sinks and large natural stone boulders, which enclose a motion-activated waterfall urinal. (A grotto garderobe, if you will.) It’s outlandish and it’s brilliant. For those like me who consider an immersive bathroom experience something worth traveling for, sneaking into the Madonna Inn men’s washroom is a pilgrimage.

Perhaps the explanation for why Madonna Inn has garnered its cult status among us loo lovers is because, up until recently, it wasn’t so easy to find out about this sort of amenity. “For a long time the powder room was an afterthought to the main restaurant or bar, but I think people are now realizing it’s an opportunity to experiment and enhance the overall experience,” Martin Brudnizki tells me. He’s the globally-recognized designer behind the much-lauded bathroom in Annabel’s in London, which was introduced to the private members club a few years ago. “We created a Barbara Cartland pink palace for the ladies with fabric-tented ceilings, flower walls, mother-of-pearl doors, and pink loos—and the members loved it so much they had to hire a lady to stand inside and tell them not to take photos,” Brudnizki adds.  

The jungle-inspired “Loos in the Mews,” designed by Martin Brudnizki for Annabel’s in London. Photo: James McDonald

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