October 1, 2011 at 5:32 pm EDT | by Valerie Blake
Here’s Johnny!

When was the last time you Googled “contemporary toilets?” If the answer is never, then take a moment and do it now; you will find about 5 million hits. I swear I have looked at them all.

I began my guest bathroom remodel last year with a quest for the perfect toilet to go with the perfect contemporary vanity cabinet (another 7 million hits) naively thinking, “So what will a toilet cost — maybe $500?” Well, think again.

Sure, you can go to the orange box store or the blue box store and get one for about $100, but will it look high end? Will a guest or a potential buyer gaze upon it and say, “Wow! Where did she find that?” Does anyone care?

I think they do. Ask someone who has ever installed a “comfort height” toilet, where the seat height is closer to that of a chair, to go back to using a standard height model and note their reaction. Heck, I’m a Boomer — any seat that’s easier on the knees is fine in my book!

In addition to comfort, I had in mind something that was ecologically sound such as a dual flush model. For the uninitiated, that does not mean two people can flush at the same time. Save that for the popular two-person showers with showerheads at each end, rain pouring down on you from above and jets that shoot water all over the bathroom.

I also wanted something that was stylish, ergonomically designed and easy to clean. And forget stainless steel. I spent too many years working in law enforcement to be able to think of a stainless steel toilet as chic.

I cast aside the models with little painted flowers and ersatz Victorian pulley systems. I sped right through the photos of standard, two-piece toilets and went straight for the streamlined one-piece models.

I looked at round ones, elongated ones, pillbox ones and even square ones. There were toilets with sinks attached (an interesting concept given our affinity for the under-staircase powder room in our small rowhouses) and even toilets with aquariums integrated into their tanks for the fish-loving contortionists among us.

I studied toilets both foreign and domestic: Japanese, Italian, English, Czechoslovakian and the good old American brands we all know and love. But when the prices shot up over $4,000, I sat down on my old Kohler Rialto and put my head between my knees. A toilet for the price of a granite countertop? Oh puleeese!

But there is a history lesson here. Although plumber Thomas Crapper has long been credited with the invention of the toilet, the first was actually designed by a member of the British nobility, Sir John Harrington, in 1596. Let’s all give John a seat’s up salute.

His was a simple device, the first of which was installed in Richmond Palace for Harrington’s godmother, Queen Elizabeth I. It flushed by pulling a knob to empty a water cistern that sat above the toilet bowl. A valve then released the water and the waste from the bowl into a collection pot beneath the floor.  Better than ye olde chamber pot, but not by much.

Even with the advent of more sophisticated plumbing and city sewer systems throughout the years that followed, I’m certain no inventor of John’s day could have envisioned the collection of commodes we have to choose from today, not to mention the choice of colors.

So, as they say on HGTV’s “House Hunters,” which one did she choose?

The one I chose was designed by Philippe Starck for Duravit. It’s a one-piece, floor-mounted, comfort height model in white, with a square tank to match the lines of my vanity top, a U-shaped front to fit in my small space, a self-contained trap for easy cleaning and a soft-closing seat that won’t slam when you put it down.  And I got it online for less than $500.

Now I’m off to choose a contemporary bathroom faucet for the vanity sink. Only 1.7 million hits to review.

Valerie M. Blake can be reached at 202-246-8602 or at Valerie@DCHomeQuest.com. Prudential Carruthers Realtors® is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.


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