Five Taos public restrooms


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Detail of the Taos Mercantile bathroom door

Taos architectural style has gotten national and international recognition. The massive vigas, high beams and thick adobe walls are often mentioned when talking about local dining halls, hotels and shops. In all of them, there is a room that seldom gets attention, though people use it regularly—the restroom. This is the recount of a five-public-bathroom experience that goes from gorgeous to whimsical. Magic realism meets baroque.

Old Martina’s Hall: iguanas, metal and adobe

In sync with the rest of the building, the restrooms at Old Martina’s are a mixture of modern elegance and old Southwest charm.

“It’s important that people feel comfortable in the dance hall, at the table and in the bathrooms,” said owner Martina Gebhardt. “We tried to create an atmosphere of wellbeing everywhere in the building and didn’t want to pay less attention to the bathrooms than to the banquet halls.”

The bathroom counters are made of rustic metal. “We gave them a finish that makes the surface look like earth,” said Gebhardt.

The doors are rustic looking, heavy and thick. “This is unusual for bathrooms but we recreated the style used at medieval times in Europe,” said Gebhardt.

The general theme of the building is metal and adobe and it draws inspiration from the Southwestern landscapes and animals. That’s why a big and beautiful iguana carving rests on the bathroom doors and the profile of a mountain is painted inside each stall.

A gorgeous restroom that matches the rest of the building.

Orlando’s New Mexican Café: colors and tiles

The artsy New Mexican décor that characterizes Orlando’s dining rooms and patio continues all the way to the bathroom. The Talavera sink and the mirror framed in blue and yellow Mexican tiles give the room a colorful vibe, accentuated by the pink walls and bright red door.

A terracotta clay sun hangs from a wall. “I probably got it here in Taos, at El Camino Real,” said owner Orlando Ortega. “The light fixtures are from Guadalajara, Mexico and the tile came from Vargas Tile.”

Ortega himself made some of the furniture. The bathroom vanity was a nightstand, which he remodeled and painted.

“My idea for the bathroom was to create a comfortable room that had the same style of the dining rooms,” he said.

In this bathroom, as in the entire restaurant, color is king.

TaosMesa Brewing: eco-friendly and artistic

The murals that adorn the bathrooms and the elaborate texture of the walls are their most interesting features. The murals were painted by a local artist who created a large version of a computer circuit for each of them. The walls, sketched with original designs, also have tile artwork.

The bathroom stalls are all made with recycled metal. The whimsical light sconces are recycled bookshelves bought from Santa Fe Borders Books when the store was closed.

In this green building, the bathrooms have low-flush toilets and waterless urinals.

Co owner Dan Irion said that he built this elaborate bathroom while waiting for the fire suppression inspection, which took months. “I kept adding finishing touches to it and the rest of the team kidded me, joked that I was trying to do a work of art,” he said. “Well, it did finally turn into a work of art.”

El Monte Sagrado: an award winning restroom

El Monte Sagrado Resort and Spa was named the “Readers Choice Best Eco Spa” by Spa Finder in 2012. This is just one of many awards that also include “America’s Best Restrooms” given by Cintas Corporation in 2008 to the bathroom located next to the Anaconda Bar.

The design has an earthy yet contemporary feel. The upper part of the walls is covered with cork from Portugal, which made the room feel comfortable and warm.

The sink has a sleek washbasin with water springing from the wall, and the slabs of stone above it contain five-million-year-old fossilized fish from Wyoming.

“Water conservation was an important issue for former owner Tom Worrell, who built the resort,” said Executive Assistant Kelly Rudy. “We have a Living Machine that takes all the black and grey water from the main building (including the bathrooms) and runs it through a set of filtration systems. The water is used in our hydroponic reactor and then returns to the aquifer.”

A luxury bathroom in harmony with the Earth.

Taos Mercantile: the sacred and the profane

The vintage-inspired pop culture spirit that is a trademark of the store permeates the bathroom too.

The door is protected on the outside by a multicolored beaded curtain with an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Inside, the door is covered in vintage bottle caps with corks, decorated with tiny images of saints —Saint Therese, Saint Francis of Assisi and many others. There are postcards with Pueblo scenes, flowers and more saints’ cards glued to the door.

It may be difficult to do your business under the vigilant gaze of a three feet tall image of Sacred Heart of Mary, but once you get over the initial impression, this bathroom is quite a work of cheeky, colorful art.