Flushed with style


The toilet is throwing off its utilitarian facade. Not since the Victorians -- who regarded commodes as status symbols and made them of fine glazed earthenware sculpted into swans or hand-painted with flowers -- has the toilet enjoyed such a renaissance of shapes, colors and materials.

Think of it as the new, aesthetic john.

“There is a trend today to make something that has always been an eyesore into an art form,” says designer Troy Adams, whose design for manufacturer Julien conceals the toilet under a sliding wood panel when not in use. In Adams’ next-generation BenchToilet, to be released in 2010, the bowl and bench will be fashioned from a stain- and bacteria-resistant Corian-like material, and it will cantilever off the wall “like a floating bench,” the designer says.

The newest models from Swiss bathroom manufacturer Laufen look more like sculpture than plain white porcelain loos. Il Bagno Alessi One designed by Stefano Giovannoni has an egg-shaped, almost sensual silhouette. Laufen’s Il Bagno Alessi Dot, by Dutch architect Wiel Arets, sports an edgier, geometric form.


“In the past, toilets in Europe were often placed in a separate space -- water closets,” says Frank Liebetrau, sales manager for Laufen USA and Canada. “Nowadays, the toilet is totally integrated into the bathroom. It’s still a generic functional object, but we’re using all the tools and technology we have to give it good design and make it more aesthetic.”

Not to be outdone is the new Miyabi collection from Toto. The Japanese company, known for its heated, self-lowering bidet seats, unveiled toilets with artful representations of the four seasons at the annual Kitchen/Bath Industry Show this month in Atlanta. The Miyabi toilets are painted with traditional Japanese motifs of pine, bamboo and plum.

“Each toilet is meticulously hand-painted by a Japanese artist, so no two are identical,” Toto spokeswoman Lenora Campos says. “These are really opportunities to bring pieces of high art into the bath space.”

The Miyabi Summer toilet, with its golden plum-and-bamboo motif painted in 24-karat gold, is $12,000. The other three seasons are $10,000 each.

Next month, Kohler will follow up its minimalist, elliptical Purist Hatbox from 2005 with the Fountainhead, a tankless toilet that sports a modern, sculpted silhouette. Both models are made possible by the company’s Power Lite technology, a 2-horsepower electric pump inside the toilet bowl that has eliminated the need for a holding tank, spokesman Mark Mahony said. “It allows for abundant new designs.”

Neo-Metro, the City of Industry manufacturer best known for its sleek, stainless steel toilets, is showing off its new MiniLoo, a dual-flush eco-toilet that uses only 1.2 gallons per flush instead of the 1.6 gallons of most low-flow toilets. Stainless leave you cold? It also comes in black matte, white gloss and more than 50 powder-coated colors. (Think bubble gum or Caltrans orange.) The company recently completed four toilets in “the color of Barney the Dinosaur” for a Manhattan couple, says Neo-Metro Vice President Kristin Kahle. One unidentified rock star’s MiniLoo got a bodacious fire-engine-red base coat topped with a swirling baroque pattern in stainless steel.


With toilets like these, it’s bathroom-as-art-gallery. You may just want to invite guests in for a viewing with a little wine and cheese.