The allure of the bathroom selfie is undeniable. A seemingly mundane space, the bathroom has become a playground for self-celebration and camaraderie. The #bathroomselfie, with its own popular hashtag on social media is driving restaurants and pubs in Bengaluru to carefully consider what they put into this once functional-only element. The selfie snappers and the spaces feed off each other.
Nineteen-year-old Trisha, a degree student at Mount Carmel College and a Gen Z flag bearer breaks down this undying trend and elaborates on the nitty-gritty of the bathroom selfie ritual. The bathroom must be clean, with neutral colours and if there is art work on the walls, even better. The rule is you must take a bathroom selfie every time you go to a restaurant or pub.
“In general, we may or may not post on SM (social media),” says Trisha. “It is mostly for memory’s sake, a ritual. If you have a great bathroom selfie, it goes as an Instagram story; not on the grid. The not-so-great ones go into Snapchat, to maintain the posting streak. We take about 30 bathroom selfies in the group. Whoever has the fancy high-end phone with a great camera takes the photos, and posts them on the Whatsapp group, filtering them down to the best two or three.” Shy people prefer the individual bathroom selfie, because often you can cover your face strategically, says Trisha.
Busy-looking bold-patterned tiles, ceiling mirrors, mirrors on the doors, cloudy, off-white walls, luxe Victorian framed mirrors, ceramic white-and-blue hand-painted sinks and light fixtures from Europe, a proper powder room, and curtains! These are just some of the elements that come together to make the elegant women’s washroom at Lupa, the European restaurant on MG Road that marries Tuscan design sensibilities and Bengaluru’s colonial bungalows. Jatin Hukkeri, the architect, says they wanted the washroom to be different from any other in the city.
“Washrooms have been the most ignored parts of a restaurant. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, all restaurants used to have nice-looking loos. I thought we should pay attention to make the washrooms really nice, voluminous and give them an edge. We worked within the space constraints to have a small parlour, so ladies can also spruce up before stepping out.” He believes the comfy and cosy feel comes with the addition of curtains, and layers the space softly, adding character in a minimalistic manner. The checkered portrait mirror at the end of the corridor has become the focus point for selfies.
Are these fleeting moments of vanity and narcissism? Self-expression, self-indulgence, or self-appreciation? Bathed in an inviting yellow glow of the ambient bathroom light, the restroom becomes a personal sanctuary where one can document their best appearances and showcase those carefully-crafted looks.
Image consultant Rinku Naren says decked-up restrooms with great backgrounds automatically make you and your pictures look more aesthetic and intimate, compared to those taken in a crowded restaurant. “Mirrors in bathrooms allow you to review yourself, and in our own heads we look better when we can see ourselves. These spaces offer privacy and women are a lot less self-conscious when not being judged by others. We tend to come across as more confident in these pictures.”
Restaurant and pub owners are also making it a point to create the right atmosphere. Massive floor-mirrors with interesting frames are added to enhance the vibe; retro bulb frames or LED light strips around mirrors are people-pleasers. Quirky themes and backgrounds, wallpapers and textured paints work, as do colourful tiles and innovative seating in the bathrooms.
“We get at least 10 tags a week on Instagram of our washroom selfies,” says Shruthi Sukumar, partner at Enne, a pub in Malleswaram popular for its bathroom with a long corridor of colourful tiles. While she was initially skeptical about the choice of bold colours suggested by their designers, she realised that customers loved it from a photograph point of view.
The mirror bay framed by plants and lights is another popular spot in the restroom. Her idea was to have a spacious, green, and breathable space with good ventilation. “We women tend to get chatty with other women in the washroom, even with those we don’t know,” she laughs. People in fact have been spending so much time in the washrooms that the hourly cleaning schedule has been difficult to keep up, she adds.
In a world of the meticulously-composed selfie, restrooms are being curated for this purpose, with the mirror always in focus. The bathroom mirror makes two “yous” and the dual selves play to our inherent narcissism..
Girish Prahlada, Director, Long Boat Brewing Company in Marathahalli that is as popular for its waterfall feature as for its beer, says their observations and survey showed that women tend to spend a lot of time – somewhere between 10 to 12 minutes – in restrooms, with selfie-time dominating it. “A woman always takes a wing woman with her to the bathroom,” he says with a laugh.
They decided to extend the brewery’s earthen and green theme into the washrooms as well. Exposed wire-cut brick walls layered with a dark grey textured wall, expansive mirrors, potted palms, a wooden bench in a pebbled bay, a large urn and some accent plants on a tiered column add to the ambience, and form an inviting focal spot for customers to take selfies. “We have paid a lot of attention to the lighting, especially focus lights, so that a person looks bright and certain features are accentuated, without any unwanted shadows that come from ceiling lights; we want to ensure our customers get their best shots.”
While most people agree that this is the domain of women, please step aside for the male selfie taker too. Prateek Thakker, actor and digital creator, says: “I know the tribe of men clicking pictures in a washroom is low, but not an exception. We men today are particular about how we look and what we wear, so clicking a picture just before stepping out for a party makes one feel confident and good about themselves. Some washrooms have excellent lighting. When the bathroom and mirrors are clean, I ensure I click one picture at least…it just pleases the narcissist in me. While the atmosphere is definitely a plus, sometimes, it also depends on my mood. When I rush from the office to a party, and I feel I don’t quite suit the look, I don’t click a picture the entire night.”
Elements of a selfie-friendly bathroom (optional)
*Mirrors with lights or accents/borders around them for a natural frame
*Colourful tiles for a background
*Lighting that makes you look “lit”