WASHINGTON • When Mr Marc Burdiss stepped into the shower at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, he was shocked by the clear view of the bedroom through a glass window.
"Weird," he thought to himself. Mr Burdiss, an emergency-preparedness consultant based in Flagstaff, Arizona, then let out a sigh of relief.
When he made the reservations, he had thought of taking along his teenage kids. Giving them privacy would have required a "MacGyver-like workaround", using duct tape and towels, he says.
He had also thought of sharing the room with another couple. That would not have worked either - for obvious reasons.
The Rio is hardly alone. Hotel design misfires are common and they are a great post-vacation- season conversation starter.
While many of the design failures are concentrated in the bathroom - including fixtures that are difficult to operate, inadequate counter space and limited privacy - they happen everywhere.
The reasons for these mishaps vary, but the solutions are the same.
"Good design is essential," says Mr Greg Keffer, a partner at Rockwell Group, an architecture and design firm.
"Every layer of the design, from large-scale architectural gestures to the artwork, furniture and finishes, supports the hotel's larger narrative, giving the hotel depth and meaning well beyond just a beautiful space."
It does not always work out that way, though. Several guest surveys have underscored the importance of thoughtful room design.
One of the latest, conducted by Qualtrics, a research firm based in Provo, Utah, found that half of all hotel guests were upset by one design flaw - thin walls. Slightly more than one in 10 guests said their stay was so bad that they were "driven to tears".
Other pet peeves include insufficient outlets and bad lighting - both being key design elements.
Ms Kristin Soo Hoo, a spokesman for Caesars Entertainment, which owns the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, says that when the Rio was built in 1990, the original design team at Marnell Corrao Associates wanted to emphasise that it was the first all-suite hotel in Las Vegas with a variety of larger suites, which are appealing to couples.
"This design feature was added to the rooms to accentuate the romantic atmosphere of the resort, catering to the many couples and newlyweds on their honeymoon who enjoyed staying there at the time," she says.
Another Caesars resort in Las Vegas, the Cromwell, has two-way mirrors in its bathrooms. The resort is quite proud of what Ms Soo Hoo calls an "edgy design feature that allows the guest inside the shower to become visible through the mirror by adjusting the lights".
"Hotel design is the most critical element of success or failure," says Ms Tanya Spaulding, a principal at Shea Design, a design company in Minneapolis. Many designers try so hard to create unique "wow factor" designs that they forget the basics of functionality, she notes.
"For example, very cool sinks with absolutely nowhere to put your toiletries," she says. "Or horrible bathroom lighting either way too cold, blue and bright, or so dim that seeing your nose is a challenge."
Bathrooms are not the only place where hotel designers disconnect from their customers. Power outlets are also a big concern.
"I don't like hidden outlets," says photographer Gary Arndt, whose work keeps him constantly on the road. "Outlets should be on the top of the desk, not near the floor. In some places, there are no outlets available anywhere and I have to unplug the TV or lamps to plug anything in."
Sometimes, hotels just do not think things through, guests say.
"You want to hear stupid?" asks Shaun Eli, a comedian from Scarsdale, New York.
"I was at a hotel in Gaithersburg, Maryland, recently where they happened to put me in a handicap- equipped room. It was on the second floor."
Sure, the hotel had lifts, but if there were a fire, someone in a wheelchair would have trouble making it down a flight of stairs.
The property complied with the letter of federal accessibility laws, if not the spirit.