Scratchy toilet paper, bad lighting and wet floors are a thing of the past. In today's public conveniences you're more likely to find soft music, luxury toiletries and fresh flowers.
After well-designed hotels, restaurants and bars comes stylish public toilets. If this sounds like sarcasm, nothing could be further from the truth as a brand new public ladies' powder room in central London would testify. It's also made headlines as being one of the most expensive public lavatories to use and has become one of several that are now seen as a destination in their own right. The idea of being able to escape to a luxurious or quirky retreat where you can relax, freshen up or change clothes in a more interesting setting is no longer just a hopeful dream. voyager has hunted high and low, opening doors and peering into water closets to bring you a selection of the best places to lock yourself away.
The world's first ever multi-million-pound, ladies-only luxury loo and retail retreat launched in London's Oxford Street at the end of last year. Fashionably located opposite Selfridges, this revival of the old Victorian powder room concept has been created with cleanliness and aesthetics in mind. It features deep seating, large mirrors, ambient lounge music and fresh flowers. The oversized, air-conditioned loo cubicles are big enough to comfortably change outfits in and are sterilised and sealed after every visit. Each cubicle also comes equipped with fluffy white towels and fancy toiletries. The seating area has make-up and hairdryers so you can quickly refresh your look before going back out. Some products from acclaimed beauty brands are also available for purchase.
WC1, 439-441 Oxford Street (opposite Selfridges). Open from 8am until 9pm from Monday to Saturday and from 12 noon until 6pm on Sunday. Price to use: £5.
Producing single malt Speyside whisky since 1886, the Glenfiddich Distillery is steeped in history. At the Visitor Centre, the ladies' loo has a history too. Trying to improve on the four stars awarded by VisitScotland, the company converted an old hospitality room into a loo fit for a queen. Keeping the stone wall, oak panelling and fireplace, Cyril Smith of Future Plans and Glenfiddich's Libby Lafferty installed mirrors, a granite worktop area and unpolished floor tiles. The centre won its coveted five stars and rumour has it ladies frequently gasp "wow" before getting their husbands to take a pictures of them enjoying the facilities. One for the album.
The Glenfiddich Distillery, Dufftown, Banffshire, Scotland;
The first luxury public toilets featuring a toiletries boutique and wellbeing services, Point WC is, as you would expect, located in Paris. Each cubicle differs and is either ethnic or chic in style. Nina Virus, the respected German designer who previously worked with shops and bars, used a mixture of wood and stainless steel to achieve magnificent results. Coffee, a range of soft drinks and makeup are available, along with a changing area for babies (with a free towel) and a comfortable area for breastfeeding. Disinfected by staff after every customer's visit, management guarantee optimum cleanliness in a place of calm and tranquillity.
Point WC, Galerie Champs Elysées (on a level with 26 Avenue des Champs-Elysées), Paris. Open every day from 10.30am to 7.30pm. Price to use: £0.70
This comfortable public bar located in the Merchant Hotel has a stylish interior fusing modern and traditional elements. There is a healthy dose of the eccentric in the form of unique items of vintage and antique clothing, wooden moose and deer heads and the classic 1930s to 1950s sheet music covering the walls. Their food is seasonal, fresh and comforting, blending nostalgia with creativity. The loos are equally eccentric, with spooky mannequins in the ladies and classic Star Wars figures like the masked bounty hunter Bobba Fett on the doors in the gents. Designed by O'Donnell O'Neill Design Associates, Bill Wolsey, the owner of the hotel, wanted bathrooms that would be a talking point. Mission accomplished.
The Merchant Hotel, 35-39 Waring Street, Belfast;
In a landmark building dating from the 18th century, Antoine Pinto, an acclaimed chef and interior designer, has created a cool brasserie offering a modern take on traditional Belgian cuisine. Beer is used in numerous dishes, the wines come from Belgian producers and the Ponti coffee is from a selection of "pure Arabica" coffee beans. If all these leave you in need of a loo, they are contemporary, chic and contain a stroke of genius. When you visit the unisex loos, the worrying feature of the clear glass doors is turned on its head. When you lock the door, the glass becomes opaque. Honestly. Big ideas from the small room.
The Belga Queen, Rue Fossé aux Loups 32,1000 Brussels;