Room with open-plan bathroom at the Lloyd Hotel, Amsterdam. Photograph: Rob T Hart
Think of it as the drip-drip effect of interior design. What started as a trend for freestanding roll-top baths in hotel bedrooms, all louche and decadent, has now morphed into a trend for whole hotel bathrooms that are open plan, or have glass walls. Not only do they allow your travelling companion to witness your ablutions but, in some cases, they give a view to lucky passers-by outside. Worryingly, as a recent piece on Slate noted: "Like many hotel trends, the open-plan bathroom layout has spread to the home."
The first time I came across this phenomenon was at a hotel in Austria with design pretensions. I could just about deal with the idea that the bath and basin had glass walls opening on to the room, but the separate loo also had a door made from glass – frosted, at least, but not (if you will excuse the phrase) flush to the frame – so there was a gap of around a centimetre all the way around it. I couldn't risk this in the presence of my beloved, a man from whom I have no secrets apart from the one where I have led him to believe my digestive biology is different from every other human's and I produce only cute, inoffensive pellets (a bit like an owl), and so I had to use the loos in the communal areas. Judging by the queues, I wasn't the only one who had a problem with the in-room version.
Other hotels don't even bother with the frosting – in some rooms at the Renaissance Beijing Capital Hotel the lavatory is on show behind its clear glass walls. One suite at The Standard hotel in New York has an open-plan bathroom, right next to the bed, enclosed by floor-to-ceiling exterior glass walls (its public loos became famous for allowing people from the street a view). A huge number of luxury hotels have taken up the trend for glass walls, although some, such as the Ecclestone Square Hotel, which prides itself on being "London's most high-tech", will turn opaque at the touch of a button.
Juliet Kinsman, editor-in-chief of the boutique hotel specialists Mr & Mrs Smith, remembers her bathroom at the Hotel on Rivington in New York, which had a outside-facing glass wall: "I could see a guy standing in a building looking at me having a shower." For some hotels, an exhibitionist-friendly bathroom is a design statement; for others, she says: "It has a lot to do with the issues of converting properties that weren't traditionally hotels and adapting spaces to have a big, open-plan feel."
"Some people might find it extra thrilling," says Kinsman but many won't. "Quite often, when people who go away to fabulous chic hotels together for a weekend away they haven't been together for that long."
Where will it end if some hotels already have loos on view – will that ever become standard? Kinsman thinks not. "Well you're asking an arbiter of sexy hotels, and will it ever be sexy to watch someone go to the loo? I hope that will remain very niche."
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This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk