Remember when people used to visit a bar or restaurant for the drinks and food? Now a whole crop of venues features design-forward lavatories that have patrons lining up for the loos

Sketch London
When Sketch opened in London in 2002 in an 18th-century townhouse in Mayfair, its formula of delicious food by master chef Pierre Gagnaire and trendy atmosphere, courtesy of restaurateur Mourad Mazouz, paired with art, music, and rococo-meets-the-future décor, made it a favorite of the jet set. The most striking decorative detail: the mezzanine restrooms. A glossy, all-white staircase leads to a large vaulted room that could be straight out of Woody Allen’s movie Sleeper. Bathed in color-changing LED lights, the foggy chamber houses a grouping of at least nine glossy, egg-shaped pods that look like they were deposited by some giant alien being. Enter a pod and you’ll find an extreme all-white loo filled with a changing selection of eerie music or sounds. It’s reminiscent of a sensory deprivation tank, except taken to the opposite extreme. The washbasins, located outside the toilet enclosures, are traditional white porcelain pedestals flanked by antique sconces. The overall effect can be quite destabilizing, especially after a few of Sketch’s
potent cocktails.

Bushi-Tei San Francisco
Japanese company Toto is perhaps best known for producing the Rolls Royce of toilets, the Neorest 600. Ringing in at
$3000, this veritable throne features an automatic lid with proximity sensor that opens when a user approaches, a catalytic
air purifier, a seat warmer, an automatic flush, and of course the infamous “washlet” function with a heated air jet drier. Where to find one of these porcelain wonders stateside? The New
People complex in San Francisco’s Japantown has one, but for a true Zen retreat with a delicious meal, head to Bushi-Tei, a French-Japanese fusion restaurant nearby. Besides the aforementioned wunder-toilet, which is sure to leave your posterior enlightened, the washroom features a black pebble-lined
sink and a comfortable bench carved of wood from the
Nagano Prefecture for post-prandial meditation. Your dinner companions may be left wondering when you’ll return to
the table.

Bar 89 New York
Ever have that disturbing dream of being naked in public? If so, a visit to Bar 89 in NY will seem like déjà vu. The venue has been infamous for its restrooms for well over a decade. The stalls exploit the unique properties of Privacy Glass, which is a sheet of liquid crystal sandwiched between two panes of glass. When the door is unlocked, the crystals align so that the glass appears clear. Locking the door causes light to be dispersed by the crystals, creating a smoky effect that preserves one’s modesty, but just barely. It’s definitely not for the shy, and
the effect can be a bit disconcerting, but much less so than Venetian artist Monica Bonvicini’s Don’t Miss a Sec installation, which debuted across the street from the Tate Britain in 2003 and continued on to
Art Basel in 2004. Designed as a public toilet housed in one-way mirror panels, the work explored the frontiers between privacy and public exposure. Peep, a Thai fusion restaurant
in SoHo, also has one-way glass that permits bathroom users to surreptitiously spy on other diners in the pink neon-lit main room.

Gold Restaurant Milan
Dolce and Gabanna have long been known for over-the-top sexy luxury. In the designers’ Gold restaurant, located in European fashion capital Milan, glamour is definitely on the menu. In this international celebrity hot spot, the glittering décor is perhaps even richer than the food, and the lavatory in particular takes the gold theme to a whole new level. Reflective gold faux bamboo covers every surface, and enormous gold mirrors make primping a pleasure. Since this is, after all, a powder room, the reflective theme extends to ever-useful gold-mirrored trays on the gold-veined marble vanity countertops. In case the exceptionally well-dressed and beautiful clientele fails to provide sufficient eye candy, plasma screens play the cult Bond movie Goldfinger on a constant loop in each stall.

Gitane San Francisco
Mr. Important Design founder Charles Doell, who has quite a number of California, Florida, and Las Vegas eatery designs under his belt, is becoming particularly known for his exceptional hospitality industry lavatory designs. His plan for Gitane in San Francisco was nominated for this year’s Eater Awards prize for best bathroom. With dizziness-inducing geometric optical mosaic tile, art deco chandeliers, glossy walls blanketed in vintage flower prints, and nail-studded leather doors, the lounges harken back to the louche glamour of another era.

Vanity Las Vegas
Another Mr. Important project, the aptly named Vanity, in Las Vegas, boasts enormous washrooms outfitted with individual vanity stations. Each has its own lighted mirror, modern vessel sink, and red velvet tufted stool. The striking and sexy graphic wallpaper showcases blowups of heavily made-up lips and eyes, for inspiration perhaps. Though completely different in style, what each of Mr. Important Design’s projects has in common is a focus on the interplay of lighting, texture, color, and pattern to striking and unique effect.

TEXT BY Karena Akhavein