February 25, 2015
Judge a book by its cover, and a bar by its bathroom. But things are not always as they seem when it comes to finding a place to do your business. A lavatory is more than the sum of its parts; it's a hole-in-the-wall, a place to cry and even a religious experience. It's nice soap and graffiti. It's catcalls and cartoons. Add a two-way mirror, and you're in a world within a world -- a secret meeting of the minds, from designer to denizen, fine-dining to dive. So grab a lipstick or a pen, and make your presence known.
Inspired by the original bar's decor (think freestanding bathtub), this living-room-style design was conceived by local artist Alison Dilworth. Sitting pretty on a sofa gives girls "somewhere to go sit and chat," said owner Neill Laughlin.
Upstairs, floor-to-ceiling laminate chaos works its way into the stalls. Owner Robert Perry describes the bar's second floor as an "indoor, uncurated, anarchistic gallery of street art." Artists like Hanksy and Shepard Fairey have left their marks there, but a plaque by local sign painter Christian Cantiello was commissioned to help visitors find their way within.
A two-way mirror by Shawn Hausman Design lets passersby check you out while you check out yourself. General manager Justin Weathers demonstrates the outsider's vantage point at this Stephen Starr staple.
A pop-art collage adorns the walls of the W.C. at Shawn Darragh and Ben Puchowitz's Japanese eatery. "We cut out magazine articles and pictures and pasted them on the walls. Homemade!" said Darragh.
Illustrator Bodie Chewning "massaged" stickers inspired by Japanese cartooning and comic book art onto the hallway leading to the basement stalls. He calls this wall a "crowd shot" of mutants."That's when they all seem alive to me," Chewning said, "when they're all clumped together and in a group, in a kind of rabble."
Kate Swan, wife of owner Darren Hill, designed and built these spidery copper pipes worthy of grapevine gossip. "I kept thinking of this continuous craziness," Swan said. Her design recalls the gears-turning intro of a childhood cartoon.
At this downtown dive, tagging is the name of the game. "Some people think it's very interesting, some people think it’s dirty and disgusting. You get the two ends of the spectrum," said Shelly McGlinchey, bartender and relative of the owner.
The blackboard in Philly's happening-est gay bar usually fills up after 10 p.m. and on weekends, when the lights go dim on inhibitions. Advice ranges from lewd to shrewd, said manager Charlie Gill: "'Ask your bartender about his third nipple! Try to avoid talking about the fourth one, he's sensitive.'"
Originally a World War II-era factory fire door, this heavy metal slider brings an element of solidity to an alleyway stop. "It's definitely much more masculine in design than most other places," said designer Niko Dyshniku of Kole Made.
Sixteen years ago, a wall separating these too-close-together toilets in the ladies' room was knocked down to make room. Now, you're hand-holding distance from your partner in line.