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Greatest Hits of '07: The Great Public Restroom Debate

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As we near year's end, we're re-posting a few heavily commented-upon posts from earlier in 2007. Here's one of our favorites, from September. This post also inspired my all-time favorite negative comment (#12).

I've never been in a great public restroom. I was under the impression they were all basically disgusting, with varying levels of nastiness.

Apparently, I've been going in all the wrong places.

Cintas, a company that sells corporate restroom supplies, has been naming America's Best Restrooms since 2001. This year's winner: Jungle Jim's International Market in Fairfield, Ohio.

Considering my grocery store does not have public restrooms, I'm impressed. And that's just the outside.

junglejims.jpg
Here's the America's Best Restroom write-up: "Jungle Jim's International Market is approximately 300,000 square feet of shopping ingenuity - it has Amish food, a cheese shoppe, garden center, international cuisine, cooking classes and eight aisles of pet supplies to name a few. And in the heart of it all, you'll find that Jungle Jim's famous restrooms stop shoppers dead in their tacks. Talk about bathroom humor -- the entrance doors are actual port-o-lets. Unsuspecting shoppers patiently wait their turn until they see three or four people exiting. Upon opening the door they discover a gigantic, modern restroom within. Truly a luxurious port-o-potty - Jungle Jim's style!"

Here are some other bathrooms you'd be lucky to find across the country.

Waffle House of America
Lawrence, Michigan
Fifth Place, 2004
wafflehouse1.jpg"Guests are greeted with soothing piano music and your eyes are quickly drawn to the focal point of the room, a beautiful hand-painted vanity. The bathroom stalls have a crackled paint finish and even the toilet seats are hand painted with roses. A panoramic mural of painted clouds surrounds the stalls to complete the outdoor garden atmosphere. No expensive contractors of decorators turned this bathroom into such a treasure. It was lovingly created with help from craft magazines, Mom and ideas from the Discovery Channel."

Wall City Toilet
Boston, Massachusetts
Third Place, 2004
wallcitytoilet.jpg

"During ten years of development and engineering, Wall's team took onto consideration comfort, hygiene, accessibility, cleanliness and security, as well as quality and design. The result: the world's smallest footprint for a self-cleaning, fully automatic toilet. The ergonomic design and technological conveniences of Wall's automatic public toilet create and amenity that allows all individuals, regardless of disability, to meet their needs in an easy and efficient manner."

Yavneh Day School
Cincinnati, Ohio
Fourth Place, 2003
schoolbathroom.jpg "We used a picket fence/bird house theme. All items were donated by employees. A selection of potpourri , sprays and lotions are arranged on a charming shelf. The idea for the bathroom was from our elementary school principal, Dr. Susan Moore. It has picket fence wallpaper, a shelf with bird houses, a green mirror, flowers, and even a bird house light switch cover!"

Art Chicks
artchicks.JPGLouisville, Nebraska
Second Place, 2004
"The Art Chicks bathroom is always super-dooper clean and has all the things a 'chick' would need - great soap, hand lotion, double ply Charmin Bath tissue, feminine hygiene supplies, hairspray and, of course, a great mirror."

Lee Davis Texaco
Mechanicsville, Virginia
Fifth Place, 2001-02
leedavistexaco.gif "Both the men's and women's restrooms are decorated with a touch of warmth from home. Different from being the gas station type restrooms with plain walls, a sink and a toilet, we want people to feel at home and welcome. There are pictures on the walls and rugs on the floor. The women's bathroom has flowers and the men's bathroom has plants to make them more decorated."

University of Notre Dame, Main Building
South Bend, Indiana
First Place, 2002
notredame.gif"The restrooms in the Main Building have Stovax Victorian tile floors (imported from England). The main door to all restrooms is refinished in their original glory of stained wood. Interior partition doors are finished solid oak mounted to marble finished partitions. Drinking fountains are inside a partitioned portion of the restroom. Faucets on sinks are designer accented with chrome and brass. Counters are built in for diaper changing and/or for luggage/bags. The lighting is classical 1800s style lighting suspended from the ceiling in reflector bowls."

(Any Notre Dame students or alums care to weigh in? Should the bathrooms be on the campus tour?)

This might be a loaded question in light of the Larry Craig scandal, but have you ever had a great experience in a public restroom? Tell us about it, or nominate that john for next year's trophy.

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Pol Viladoms
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architecture
One of Gaudí's Most Famous Homes Opens to the Public for the First Time
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Pol Viladoms

Visiting buildings designed by iconic Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí is on the to-do list of nearly every tourist passing through Barcelona, Spain, but there's always been one important design that visitors could only view from the outside. Constructed between 1883 and 1885, Casa Vicens was the first major work in Gaudí's influential career, but it has been under private ownership for its entire existence. Now, for the first time, visitors have the chance to see inside the colorful building. The house opened as a museum on November 16, as The Art Newspaper reports.

Gaudí helped spark the Catalan modernism movement with his opulent spaces and structures like Park Güell, Casa Batlló, and La Sagrada Familia. You can see plenty of his architecture around Barcelona, but the eccentric Casa Vicens is regarded as his first masterpiece, famous for its white-and-green tiles and cast-iron gate. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, Casa Vicens is a treasured part of the city's landscape, yet it has never been open to the public.

Then, in 2014 the private Spanish bank MoraBanc bought the property with the intention of opening it up to visitors. The public is finally welcome to take a look inside following a $5.3 million renovation. To restore the 15 rooms to their 19th-century glory, designers referred to historical archives and testimonies from the descendants of former residents, making sure the house looked as much like Gaudí's original work as possible. As you can see in the photos below, the restored interiors are just as vibrant as the walls outside, with geometric designs and nature motifs incorporated throughout.

In addition to the stunning architecture, museum guests will find furniture designed by Gaudí, audio-visual materials tracing the history of the house and its architect, oil paintings by the 19th-century Catalan artist Francesc Torrescassana i Sallarés, and a rotating exhibition. Casa Vicens is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. General admission costs about $19 (€16).

An empty room in the interior of Casa Vicens

Interior of house with a fountain and arched ceilings

One of the house's blue-and-white tiled bathrooms

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

All images courtesy of Pol Viladoms.

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iStock
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10 Charming Quirks of Old Houses
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iStock

From the totally charming to the truly bizarre, older houses feature tons of tiny details that you'd never find in a brand-new construction. If you're house hunting for an oldie-but-goodie, here are 10 quirky things you might find.

1. MOTHER-IN-LAW BED

Unlike a Murphy bed, which cranks out of the wall, a mother-in-law bed cranks out of the ceiling.

2. DUMBWAITERS


iStock

Any little kid who read Harriet the Spy when they were young wanted a dumbwaiter in their house. Despite what Harriet used it for (spying, of course), dumbwaiters were not meant to carry people; they were most often used as kitchen help, to carry dishes and things when the kitchen and dining room were on different levels of the house. They're still utilized in some restaurants today, and a more modern version can be found in libraries and large office buildings to ferry large amounts of books and files from floor to floor.

3. BUILT-IN BEEHIVES

Don't call an exterminator: built-in beehives are supposed to be there. These were actually installed on purpose for the convenience of the beekeeping homeowner. Pipes go through the walls and behind the walls were beehives. The bees could move about freely through the pipes and make honey. When someone in the kitchen downstairs wanted honey, they simply trekked up the stairs, removed the back of the hive, and grabbed what they needed.

4. COAL CHUTES


Though few people use coal as a heating source these days, many older homes still feature coal chutes: typically, there's a big iron door visible on the outside of the house where shipments of coal would be shoveled in.

5. PHONE NICHE

Not so long ago, landlines were essential to communication—and they weren't the tiny, non-intrusive devices we know today. They were big, heavy, cumbersome things that took up a fair amount of space. To try to keep phones off of countertops and out of the way, home builders started making niches in walls. It seems as though a lot of people are repurposing the niches these days as a place to store mail or perch a plant or two. Boing Boing found one (it was built for Jean Harlow) and thought perhaps it was a place to store champagne or milk bottles; it was later concluded that the spot used to be a phone niche and was divided into a place to vertically store mail once the phone was no longer needed there.

6. SERVANT STAIRCASES


By Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In old mansions that required a large household staff to keep them running, servants were expected to stay out of sight. After all, you wouldn't want your well-heeled guests running into the maid on the staircase, would you? How gauche. The solution was a separate staircase in the back just for servant use. If you've ever run across a kitchen or pantry that could be accessed by two staircases and wondered what on earth the purpose was, now you know.

7. BUTLER'S PANTRY


By Hubbard, Cortlandt V. - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

How nice would it be to have a giant pantry separate from your kitchen? Old houses often have these tiny kitchens, which make a great place for storing your food. But that wasn't always their purpose; some just contained extra counter space and sinks so that servants could do their thing out of sight. In Europe, the silver was often kept in the butler's pantry and the butler would actually sleep in there to guard the silver.

8. COLD CLOSETS

Don't let the name mislead you: a cold closet is not the same thing as an icebox. An icebox was a free-standing piece of furniture that held a big block of ice near the top to keep the contents frozen. (Icemen delivered new blocks of ice every day, just like the milkman.) A cold closet, on the other hand, was built into the house and couldn't actually keep things frozen, just cool. So while you could keep your veggies and cheese and meats cool, stocking ice cream in the cold closet would be a bad idea.

9. MILK DOORS


By Downtowngal - Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

It's been a while since any of us had milk delivered to our back doors, but back when that was the norm, a milk door was standard with a lot of houses. The milkman would open a tiny door on the side of the house, usually right next to the main door, and basically leave the milk in between the walls. Then the homeowners could open the door on their side and remove the bottles. Voila! Fresh milk to go with your breakfast.

10. ROOT CELLARS

Just like in The Wizard of Oz, you have to go outside to access a root cellar—and it was the first place you'd go if you saw a twister off in the distance. As the name suggests, it was used to store veggies for long periods of time, particularly over the winter.

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