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Derryn Hinch was tired of the disappointment of leaving superior hotel bathrooms for his own. So he decided to clean up his ablution situation.
It’s not a perennial question. But it should be. It should be right up there every time you travel. Or at least on that first jet-lagged morning when you get home.
Why are hotel bathrooms always, always, better than the one you have at home?
I have long suspected that it’s a major reason why I love staying in hotels. I’m not just talking about five-star hotels here. Not just places with names like Trump and Versace and Plaza in the title. Even three-star joints make you feel ashamed of the marble-free, airless cocoon — complete with shower cubicle with shonky door — where you conduct your morning ablutions at home.
It should not be.
Bathroom time should be quality time. It sets you up for the day. Shower time (and shave time) is valuable think time.
Recently, I decided to do something about it. I ran the ‘Why are hotels etc?’ question past a builder I bumped into in my Melbourne high-rise and within a day it was on.
The mission: Build me a hotel bathroom.
His first suggestion (instruction) raised doubts. ‘That bathroom door has to go.’ Now, I live alone and I’m not shy about walking around naked, but I do have guests and a bathroom and dunny without a door sounded a little too radical.
That wasn’t what he meant. The bulky door that swung inwards, and had to be walked around and closed every time you used the lavatory, would be replaced with a slim sliding door that disappeared into an existing wall. Neat. As Bert Newton would say to Muhammad Ali at the Logies: ‘I like the boy!’
Then it was on.
I told them to ‘gut the place’ and wisely went to Sydney for a week. My large, expensive, black marble tiles — which had only been down for three years as a sop to modernisation — were jack-hammered up. My downstairs neighbour can attest to the thoroughness of the jack-hammering as they then chipped a subtle slope in the concrete floor so shower water would slide down a narrow metre-long slot at the rear of the shower instead of down a central plug-hole. The shower cubicle with the wonky door was ripped out. A single sheet of thick bullet-proof glass now separated the open shower from the rest of the room. Then a snap decision that the same black floor tiles should flow up the entire walls to the ceiling. Next a Hinch brainwave: The best diet gadget in the world. A floor-to-ceiling mirror down one wall of the shower. Better weight loss incentive than a Jenny Craig commercial.
By now I was possessed.
I talked to friends and colleagues about how a bathroom could be improved. My PA, Annette Philpott, complained that most shower ‘roses’ were so small you had to jump about in the shower and find the water when, in an ideal bathroom, the water would find you. I grabbed a magazine cover and told the builder to find a rectangular shower head that size.
He did. It is perfect. Like standing under a rain cloud in Hawaii.
When emptying my floor level cupboards, under the sink I found creams and stuff that Florence Nightingale would have turfed because of their Use-By date.
Solution: No cupboards under the sink. Silent, self-closing drawers. Easy access. And above them: Slim, mirror-fronted, cupboards at eye-level. And not just any sink. I first ordered a modern-looking white one which they sat in a moulded black vanity top. Luckily, it wasn’t glued in. I came home that Friday night and it seemed to glow in the dark. Each time I looked at it, it seemed to get bigger.
Jutting out into the room. Overly intrusive. Too dominant. By the end of the weekend it was the only thing I could see in my new bathroom. Monday morning out it went — along with the custom-made top. The replacement: a stylish, black porcelain number sunk into a new moulded top with only a few centimetres protruding.
The whole project was almost complete when I made the expensive decision (mistake?) to go to lunch at Crown with their corporate honcho and long-time friend, Ann Peacock.
I know I was starting to sound like the PR person for The Block, regaling everybody with my renovation stories. I put the hotel bathroom question to her and she agreed. And then airily said she presumed I’d be installing a Japanese toilet.
I knew exactly what she was talking about.
Those combined lavatory-bidet-bumwasher-and-dryer machines with remote control buttons to control water temperature, air flow and toilet seat heater. ‘We’re getting them installed in all our renovated suites,’ she crowed.
How could I have overlooked such a necessity? I’d been on assignment for Sunday Night doing a follow up in Tokyo to a Yoko Ono interview and been so impressed with the toilet contraption I almost married it.
Straight on to the internet.
I found one in Sydney for $3,400 (which didn’t include the bowl) and broke the news to Paul, the project manager, very gently.
Some of the new tiles would have to come off for an additional water pipe and power point. ‘No problem.’
The other morning I was standing in the shower at Sydney’s swank Sheraton on the Park, the one I mentally stole for my home improvements project. Asked myself the question: Why do hotels have better bathrooms than we have at home?
And (admittedly $20,000 lighter) a very clean and happy Hinch could say: They don’t.