Tuesday 16 December 2008

Bizarre Bloomie's Bathroom In Dire Need of Urinal (Among Other Things)

Bloomingdale's Orlando
3rd Floor Toilet
4150 Conroy Road
Orlando, FL USA

Where is it?

Head to the third floor, then follow the signs to the gift wrap counter.

On the way, you'll pass through the kitchen/housewares department, then the glassware/china department, then the oriental rug department -- but not the mattress department, which is one department too far. So if you find yourself surrounded by mattresses and hanging pen lights, turn around and go back. You've passed it.

Near the gift wrap area, you'll see a sign pointing you both to the gift wrap area, elevators and restrooms. This sign is somewhat misleading, as it makes it look like all three areas are located in the same part of the store.

Well, they kind of are, but they kind of aren't as well. At the mouth of the area, the elevators will be straight ahead of you, the gift wrap counter will be to your left (down a little hallway) and the restrooms will be down a hallway to your right.

That hallway, coincidentally, is lined with small black and white photographs of seashores and such -- though the beige colors and marble tile work of that corridor do little to evoke the spirit of the sea.

That's just one of the many strange design choices to be had in this restroom experience.

Anyway, head down that hallway. You'll round a corner and come face to face with the bathrooms.

What's it like?

It's Bloomie's.

That means it's a huge department store packed with the latest fashions, hi-tech gadgetry, stylish design, airy aromas and tons of NYC socialite pretension.

For a way of life, at least superficially speaking, it's a bit much for Central Florida (though considering how many NYC transplants live in Florida, perhaps it's just an extension) but as a store, it's pretty sweet. Service is great, and those who are lucky enough to afford being "black card" members enjoy a slew of perks, like private sales, special discounts and more.

Better still: The place is pretty impressive to walk through, as each turn reveals more high-priced temptations, and each one seems to call out to you, begging to be purchased, or at least sampled and then pondered. Do I need this? Not really, but....

Furthermore, the store is a perfect fit for the Mall at Millenia (which has some truly wonderful toilets in its food court), with its stylish architecture, cliques of beautiful people and collection of chic stores and high-end eateries, like McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant, Macy's, Pottery Barn Kids and more.

But given all the attention given to floor displays and personally addressing customers, one has to wonder why that mindset wasn't put into practice when it came to designing these third floor bathrooms.

Not that they're bad, mind you. Rather, they're just downright strange and confounding. And not in a straightforward manner.

They look innocuous at first, and make a pretty harmless initial impression (upon first glance, you'll think they were just a glossier version of the Macy's toilets we visited), but spend more than a minute there and you start to wonder what exactly is going on here.

For example, this is a small chamber, with a single-sink vanity and two toilet stalls. That's it. No urinals (for a two-bagger men's room, that's strange), just two stalls, one small one and one large one for handicap.

The handicap stall is so large, it takes up between 1/3 to 1/2 of the entire bathroom itself. It's larger than the ones seen at the Main Street Brewery in Cortez, CO or the Kolob Canyons Visitors Center toilet -- and both of those had huge stalls.

But the stall itself is also around a sharp corner that looks like it would be pretty hard to navigate through in a wheelchair. Strange.

Another example: The vanity is made of single, sleek granite slab and has a well-lit and clean mirror mounted behind it, but it only has one sink. So that means you have this long, stretching counter with a tiny sink at the end.

Quite a waste of space.

There's more wasted space in the front of the restroom. After you enter from the main door you come into a little front room that serves no purpose except to showcase a lone photograph of an old car (crookedly hung too, it should be noted). It's not that good of a photograph, I must admit (when I think art and bathrooms, I think of the wonderful Mansion on Forsyth Park in Savannah, GA, not this.), but worse still is that this section of the bathroom seems to be a thematic extension of the hallway outside, which also contains some so-so photographs. Note to designers: Those photos aren't memorable enough to merit a reminder of them once we have walked past them.

Also, why bother is a greeting chamber in a men's room? Men just want to do their business in comfort and be on their way -- they don't need a place in the bathroom to chat it up, you know?

The sink is a shiny chrome Kohler Touchless model, but the sensor is mounted so high on the unit, and the water flow is so strong from the faucet, that it's impossible to keep the water in the sink while washing your hands -- just sprays the water all over and makes a mess of that long, long counter.

To the right of that are two paper towel dispensers, one high and one low. But the high one is stuffed into a deep corner of the place, making it near-impossible to reach easily and the low one is so low that I imagine even short people will have to crouch to use it. (They're about 3 feet apart too, which makes it feel like the designer was pulling a fast one on everyone who entered, no matter his height.)

The toilet stalls themselves (remember, no urinals here) are also a little weird. The smaller stall is a tight fitting place with a beige metal stall door around it. You really feel like you're stuck in a corner while in here. This is also the only place to have a good pee because you don't really want to go into the handicap stall in case someone needs it -- which in turn means that if you need to pee and someone's in the regular stall, you have to wait until that person's done.

The brackets fastening the privacy walls to the wall -- they have a pink thread coming out of them. Why? (Strangest wall fastening I've seen since my trip to the Venetian in Las Vegas and its poor attempt to cover a hole in the wall.)

Also, the stainless steel toilet paper holder here houses rolls of TP in two directions -- one vertical and one horizontal. Why vertical? Is that supposed to appear stylish? Kind of silly looking if you ask me.

If that weren't enough, there were dribbles of pee on the seat (more proof that a urinal is needed here -- you could put it in the front area, you know) and the box of seat liners stuffed into the top of the TP compartment was empty and mangled to bits. It looked like someone had come in to poo, saw the dribbles of pee on the seat, went looking for a seat liner, saw the box of liners was empty, and then tried to make the box into a liner without much success. What else could he do? Go to the handicap stall? Clearly, a urinal is needed here!

Then again, the handicap stall isn't much better. While the toilet here was clean, the white porcelain sink next to the toilet looked a bit high to grant easy wheelchair access, as did the soap dispenser hanging to its right.

Worse still, the paper towel dispenser was located across the stall from the sink. That means that if I were in a wheelchair (for example) and came in here to relieve myself, I would wash my hands on one end and then have to cross the stall to dry my hands. Where is the sense in this?

On a different note: The place was pretty clean and smelled very flowery from the air freshener pumped into the place. But then again, the pee on the toilet seat and lack of seat liners hints that this place isn't cleaned as often as you'd think it was.

Marks out of 10:

5. Too many strange design touches, most of them impractical and borderline offensive.

Comments to the Management:

Is this place supposed to be some sort of setting for a practical joke? It makes no sense. It's disorienting. Its poorly designed. Its got too much wasted space. Its practical elements are anything but practical. Leaving here, I thought I was on Candid Camera. Is that the intention here?

As for what to fix: First, start making better use of the space you have. Put two sinks in the vanity, not one. Place a urinal in here. Get rid of the sitting room. Fix the paper towel dispensers in places where people can actually reach them. Ensure the supplies (TP, seat liners) are in supply. Move the items in the handicap stall around so that they're not on opposite ends of the stall and a burden to get to, and lose the sharp corner going into the handicap stall, as it's a bit difficult to maneuver. Poor poor poor.

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