Plumbing the depths of complexity
If simplicity is the key to good functional design, what am I doing in this swish hotel room perplexed by the taps and wishing I had a mechanical engineering degree?
Susan Kurosawa has written in this column about the problem of poor or complex lighting in hotel rooms and as someone who has also scouted around on all fours, down behind beds, in search of the wall switch to turn fittings on or off, I say “hear, hear” or maybe “see, see”. In a motel recently I puzzle over a bedside lamp that, I finally discover, works by swiping an (unidentified) spot on its base. It gives me a tingle to do so; now that can’t be good.
But to the issue of lights, let’s add tapware. In truth, sleek and simple seem to be back in fashion, but we have been through an era of complication in tap settings that has often left me feeling I am trapped in an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. Do I twist right or left for hot or cold, and what lever determines pressure? One adjustment lowers the plug in the bath, but what the heck raises it? And where is the plug for the hand basin? These things seem to walk off with defiant determination, much as the odd sock does from my laundry.
I enter one bath recess and notice a wall-mounted shower head, but fail to observe a “rain” shower, which is flush with the ceiling. It is also the default setting, I learn in shivering shock. I have been hoping to keep a bandage dry, so there’s much swearin’ but little singin’ in the rain.
And could we also talk about mechanically driven curtains? I have fewer problem-solving skills than my dog, who will just tug and tug at things that get caught, which I do with the drapes until realising there might be a switch involved. It is nowhere near the curtains, but close to the front door, where puzzlingly there is no general light switch. How about TV program changers, too? Without some sort of simple guide I may never get past the home screen welcoming me by name.
It was a pleasure earlier in the year to hear design guru Adam D. Tihany talk about guiding principles in his projects, which include great international hotels and restaurants. It’s all about making a person feel comfortable in a hospitable environment.
In introducing his interiors for luxury cruise ship Seabourn Encore he emphasises its curves, in staircases, furnishings and other fittings. Sinuous and sexy, he calls the ship, more Italian in feel than, say, Scandinavian. But then he adds the practical clincher: curves are kinder for older travellers. It rings true for someone whose bare shins have a magnetic attraction to angular surfaces.
With all these gripes, please don’t get the idea I would be far happier down home on the farm with a naked overhead light bulb and two taps (this one hot; this one cold). I love nothing more than a good hotel room and usually have sweet sleeps in supremely comfortable beds, waking energised for a day of sightseeing, even if I am heading out without a shower.
Susan Kurosawa is on leave.