28 February 2008

Can a toilet be Modern?

I have been granted a tremendous opportunity to design a Modern bathroom. I mean a really Modern one filled with all of the glory and wonder that minimalism can bring to a space.

I've done Modern-ish ones before, in the style we call "Transitional Contemporary" in the trade. Transitional Contemporary is not Modernism, although it gets mistaken for it with alarming regularity. Transitional Contemporary can be attractive and fun, and because it's such a loosely-defined term, it's really flexible. As a designer, I have a lot more leeway in Transitional Contemporary because I don't have to be such a stickler for form.

Most times, when I'm putting together a plan for a bathroom, I put the toilet in a separate water closet inside of the main bath. I do that nearly by reflex because that's what everybody does when you have the room for it. Just put the thing behind a door and then you don't have to think about it any more.

I've never really thought about why everybody does it that way, but my current Modern Bathroom may have given me the explanation.

The American toilet looks like this and has since the dawn of indoor plumbing. Sure, there are some variations on this theme, but the typical toilet available in the US today looks just like the one that was in the house where your grandmother grew up. That this is what a toilet looks like now and always has is at the root of why people like me shutter them away in water closets out of reflex. I mean, who wants to look at that?

When I go through my catalogs of modern pluming fixtures, I see beautifully minimalist sinks and shower pans and faucets but invariably, there is no toilet in the collection. I suppose that since everyone keeps them out of sight, there's no need. Well, my current project is one of the exceptions to the have-enough-room-for-a-water-closet kind of master baths. I don't have enough room to hide anything but the plumbing, and this baby's going to be a wide open space. Finding a Modern toilet that will look great with the modern sink, tub, shower and faucets I'm already looking at will be tough. Or at least I thought until I came upon my new friends at Blu Bathworks (http://www.blubathworks.com/) this morning.

Blu Bathworks is a Canadian company that does virtually nothing but make and sell Modern plumbing fixtures. As an added bonus, all of their products strive to maximize the efficiency of their water use and utilize technologies like the dual-flush toilet I've written about previously. In keeping with the Modernist propensity to shrink the profiles of ordinary objects, a lot of their toilets appear to be tankless such at the Metrix to the right. The toilet still has a water tank, it's just hidden in the wall behind the toilet. That hide-the-tank-in-the-wall mechanism is called an in-wall carrier system and is itself a pretty slick piece of engineering. But not content with toilets, Blu has a line of coordinating bidets. Bidets make some people giggle and feel uncomfortable. There a lot of chatter about them being unecessarily indulgent. Let me state for the record that the people generating that chatter have never spent a whole lot of time with a bidet. Spend a week with easy access to one and you will never think of them as foolish again. Man! Talk about hygeine!

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