Opinion

Chris Blythe: Shower design really gets me steamed up

9 November 2011

I can get really grumpy at times and what does it in particular are designers reinventing something that works well. For example, designers mucking about with the simple shower nark me, especially as I am now in the season of regularly staying in hotels. It seems the swankier the hotel, the more useless the shower seems to be and with that the more pretentious the designer.

One day I was in a posh hotel in Cardiff. The shower seemed to have two settings, spray and power. Spray was useless, the shower behaving more like a garden sprinkler sending little jets of water everywhere but onto body Blythe. Switching to the power option was a near disaster. The jet of water was so powerful it propelled me across the bath and had me pinned against the opposite wall. Battling against the jet, I made it to the control and switched the shower to something more restrained.

I felt like I was a victim of GBH.

A couple of days later in a hotel in Cork, I came across the “man” shower. No thought had been given to women with this shower. The cubicle was about 18 inches square, with a complex bi-fold door which gave you about 12 inches in which to enter. The shower was of the overhead drenching type and the temperature controller was of the anonymous knob type on the far side of the control unit. It took the best part of 10 minutes to get the temperature right. Meanwhile a lot of water had gone down the plug hole.

My reverie was disturbed when through the paper thin wall I heard a toilet flushing in the next room and before I had time to act without breaking my elbows on the shower walls, the water had turned really hot and I was left pressing up against the slimy shower wall, trying to keep all my bits out of the way of the scalding stream of water.

In the US, by contrast, there seems to be a standard design you find wherever you stay and it is same whether it’s a posh hotel or a low-cost strip motel.

I can operate them blindfolded.

So I wonder why designers feel the need to redesign something that does not need it? Some of the devices are so complex and you never find any instructions on their use. When your visibility is limited by steam and no glasses, it's all a bit trial and error.

In the end the cheapest place I have stayed in had the best shower, it was not a fancy design but it did the job with no risk of injury in the process. I am sure some bright spark has come up with a design for a square wheel.

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