The bathroom commode, long a utilitarian eyesore, has received a remarkable overhaul due to both foreign intervention and foreign competition.
The era of the boutique hotel brought about an entire rethinking of the bathroom. As opposed to a door to an unpleasant but necessary appendage, a translucent sheet of sparkling glass now leads to a sleek, well groomed spa where ablutions of the most mundane exercise have been raised to the level of royal pampering.
Case in point: hotelier Ian Schrager imported French visionary Philippe Starck to re-imagine the morning constitutional, applying his elevated sensibility to one of our most essential daily activities. Mr. Starck’s commodes—constructed of striking sweeps of stainless steel—clutched to the bathroom walls, hanging precipitously over glass floors, easing the sweep of a janitorial mop. Mirrored walls showering curtains of water with integrated televisions faced every male who ventured forth into the newly re-envisioned urinals.
And this was just the beginning. Soon, Mr. Starck was to turn his imagination upon the common commode, creating virtual sculpture that ennobled the water closet, allowing the porcelain throne to leap out of hiding and place itself front and center stage with no apologies.
But if Mr. Starck sculpted the toilet, thereby creating a piece of art, the Japanese took its offerings of functions to a whole new level.
Though the mechanisms are quite clunky, you may now sit on a heated (or air conditioned, depending on seasonal needs) toilet, do your business and then you will be washed and hosed with an accurately aimed stream of soothing warm water followed by a well-focused blast of Sahara air to dry you. Kiss toilet tissue goodbye.
Best advice though, is this: once you have started the process, do not, out of surprise, impatience or embarrassment, flee the commode or streams of water will end up everywhere in the bathroom and on you as well.
The Japanese company Toto was the first to provide the Toto “washlet,” a combination bidet and air dryer, that actually replaced the conventional toilet seat. Toto’s Neorest is the company’s newest introduction to the world of luxury bidet-style toilets.
As if the heated spa experience were not enough, for those of you who cannot tolerate closing and opening the lid of your commode, there are now lids that— through electronic eyes—sense your presence in front of them and automatically open sesame.
It can be quite unnerving the first time you encounter this lid, or it encounters you. The movement feels rather ghostly. However, the last time I strained my back, I certainly would have appreciated this function.
The electronic eye is attuned to the automatic flush and is ubiquitous now and certainly aids in reducing the spread of germs. It is so ubiquitous that it becomes quite irritating when folks simply expect it, and when not available, they refuse to use the manual levers. I believe this electronic eye installed residentially would eliminate much berating of oblivious sons by their patience-worn mothers.
The most recent contribution to the ennobling of the porcelain throne is the presence of music that accompanies the ceremonious lifting of the toilet cover and the flush action. Of course you may program your musical selection. The plumbing showrooms feature rapturous trumpeting of Vivaldi and inspiring Bach fugues.
Kohler has entered this fray with great gusto. According to Molly Becker from Davis and Warshow Distinctive Kitchen and Bath Products in Manhattan, Kohler saw the proverbial writing on the lavatory wall and brought out the Kohler Numi. This combination bidet and toilet (a complete unit) not only offers a motion-detecting, self-opening lid and motion-detecting musical accompaniment of the participant’s selection, but also a gently heated seat and illuminated panels in case you lose your way at night. To top it off, the lavatory stand also encloses a heating system that pre-warms the floor where your feet will reside thoughtfully warming the backs of your feet with toasty puffs of tropical breeze.
Theresa Widergren of Blackman in Southampton lauds Toto’s and Kohler’s advances.
“Most commodes now come in comfort height—16½ inches tall to the seat height. That allows less knee bending,” she said. “Toto used to have the best flush, but commode manufacturers have introduced larger apertures and the dual flush, [which is] more powerful).”
She also added that “water sense” has been introduced so that only 1.28 gallons are used per flush, versus the older 1.6 gallons.
I suppose all this attention to refining our daily experience signifies a greater advance in culture.