Plumbing the depths of com­plex­ity

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - GRA­HAM ERBACHER

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.

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