Art by Ryan Ward

L.A.’s Best and Worst Bathrooms: A Taxonomic Field Guide

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The restrooms inside Mr. Holmes Bakeshop are an Instagram dream; WeHo’s Hamburger Mary’s toilets are a showstopper and the Natural History Museum’s bathrooms are retro-fancy.

It’s impossible to guess how many bathrooms there are in Los Angeles, making it difficult for anyone to have a George Costanza-esque knowledge of the best ones in the city. However, there are certain archetypal bathrooms that are common around L.A. Consider this a taxonomic field guide to some of Los Angeles’ most common bathroom species, featuring examples of specific specimens.

The Vintage (balneo vetus fidelium)

Art by Ryan Ward

Distinguished old buildings often have distinguished old bathrooms. Common in restaurants and museums eligible for Social Security, Vintage Bathrooms will typically feature beautiful “they don’t make ?em like that anymore” amenities like wooden stall doors and vintage tiling. The first-floor men’s room at the Natural History Museum is a perfect specimen of the Vintage Bathroom. You can practically feel the decades of knowledge that have walked through the building. The only downside is you might run into a school tour group.

But is it good for selfies? Angle your phone just right and people will think you’re retro-fancy.

The Tasteful Remodel (balneo regero reformandam) 

Consider this the Vintage Bathroom’s younger sibling. This is what happens when an older building gets new bathroom facilities. The bathrooms in the Culver Hotel’s lobby, delineated by photos of the Lollipop Guild (men) and Glinda the Good Witch (women), balance vintage design with modern touches.

But is it good for selfies? Angle your phone just right and people will think you’re modern fancy.

The Instagrammable (balneo cosequat)

Some bathrooms are designed to grace your Instagram grid. The two gender-neutral bathrooms at Mr. Holmes Bakeshop in Highland Park, with their brilliant white tiling and vibrant pink lighting, are a selfie enthusiast’s dream. Pose against the wall and nobody will know you’re in a bathroom.

But is it good for selfies? See the previous paragraph.

The Picture Window (balneo fenestra)

Art by Ryan Ward

The typical bathroom is either windowless or maybe has a small window to let in nominal amounts of light and air. But in rare circumstances, you’ll find yourself in a bathroom that gives you a view of the outside world.

The bathrooms at the High Rooftop Lounge at the Erwin Hotel in Venice and the bathrooms at SoHo House in West Hollywood allow you to look out on the world as you wash your hands, but only the InterContinental Hotel’s 70th-floor bathroom allows men to pee with a view. Just as “Game of Thrones”’s Tyrion Lannister wished to “stand on top of the Wall and piss off the edge of the world,” you can pretend to do the same to the 110. A glass waterfall serves as the urinal in front of a floor-to-ceiling window. Alas, gender inequality is real and the adjacent ladies room doesn’t offer a similar urination experience.

But is it good for selfies? I once saw a man at a bar swiping on Tinder while standing at the urinal. So, if you’re that kind of freak, I suppose you’re not averse to a urinal selfie.

The Workhorse (balneo equus opus)

You know this one. You’ve seen it at the mechanic’s, in fast-food restaurants, maybe even at the dentist. You get your sink, your toilet, your soap dispenser and some kind of hand-drying equipment. Sometimes one of the things is slightly cracked or otherwise broken, but usable. Workhorse Bathrooms aren’t fancy, they’re just there because people need bathrooms. The single bathroom at the Jiffy Lube at 3061 Overland Avenue in Palms is a perfect example of a Workhorse Bathroom, right down to the seat cover dispenser that clearly used to hang on the wall that now sits propped on top of the toilet tank.

But is it good for selfies? No, it’s too basic.

The Turnstile (balneo tornacense)

Art by Ryan Ward

This is the Workhorse — evolved. It’s designed for large groups of people to go in and out quickly, hence “Turnstile.” These large multi-stall bathrooms are found at sports arenas, concert venues and mass transit hubs. Sometimes, there might be a few interesting aesthetic choices, like the purple lighting at the Hollywood Bowl’s bathroom or the bright green signage at LAX’s Terminal 2.

But is it good for selfies? Turnstile Bathrooms make terrible photoshoot locations. Best case scenario, you’ll get unpleasant looks from people who just want to pee before the game/show/flight; worst-case scenario, you’ll wind up spending some quality time with security or the TSA.

The Art Gallery (balneo libelli)

Art by Ryan Ward

This variety of bathroom is usually found at dive bars and rock venues. What was once a Workhorse Bathroom is transformed by many years worth of graffiti, stickers and other unsanctioned additions onto an ever-evolving art gallery. Stickers for local bands, political causes and street artists compete for room on the bathroom facilities.

Typically, Art Gallery-style bathrooms are kind of disgusting, with the accumulated sweat and filth of the venue making the floors sticky. A rare, tidy example can be found at Stories Books & Cafe in Echo Park, where the single bathroom’s sticker-covered hand-dryer and paper towel holder add to the store’s funky charm.

But is it good for selfies? Yes, but only if you want to show you’re punk rawk and don’t care what people think about you (but still want those Instagram likes).

The Public Sink (balneo amicissimum advena)

The Public Sink is the great egalitarian of bathroom design. Although you’ll walk into an individual bathroom stall, you’ll wash your hands in a big communal sink outside the bathroom. This style is found in both casual and classy venues and pioneered the concept of people of all genders using parts of the same facility long before the gender-neutral bathroom became popular. The Public Sink at Imperial Western Brewing Company in Union Station is flanked by four single stalls. For an added retro bonus, they even use powdered borax soap!

But is it good for selfies? Not particularly. Maybe if you lie down in the trough sink, but most venues frown on that.

The Showstopper (balneo spectacular)

Art by Ryan Ward

Some bathrooms are attractions in and of themselves. Probably the most exciting bathrooms in L.A. are the single-stall gender-neutral toilets at West Hollywood’s Hamburger Mary’s, where ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” plays on a loop as a disco ball spins.

But is it good for selfies? No, the bathroom is the star here! Show some respect.

The Home Bathroom (balneo rex throni)

But the best bathroom is the one at home. There’s rarely a line and the aesthetic is perfect! The only downside is you have to maintain it yourself.

But is it good for selfies? That, my friend, is up to you.

Los Angeleno