Sunday, February 12, 2012


Well, we had to come to this eventually: toilet selection.

Which is just part of the larger task of picking out all the plumbing fixtures for this house. I've been working on this on and off for the last several weeks. It began with a visit to the site with my plumber. It's about time to do the "rough-in" or "top-out," as the plumbing trade calls it - installing everything (vents, valves, etc.) except the fixtures themselves. But the type of fixture can determine how exactly the rough-in is to be done, so I had a lot of homework to do before this could get started.

The first task my plumber gave me was to decide what kind of shower I wanted. Originally I planned a full tiled shower - tiled floor and walls. But that was part of the plan that was way over my budget, so in the final estimate the shower was listed as a fiberglass unit, a pre-manufactured insert that the plumber would just set in place. I was okay with this until I started looking at some of these units, and imagining one of them in this house. Ultimately I just couldn't see dragging a big piece of plastic into all that wood, stone, and brick. The shower should be natural too. So I told my plumber to plan for an all-tile shower. I don't think it will do too much harm to the budget, since it was only one of the smaller cost-saving changes of the many I've already implemented.

Looks like I'm going to save some money on my toilets anyway. I visited a local shop that distributes all kinds of "green" products. Turns out that one of their brands, Caroma, is offering deals on some of their toilets and sinks. Above is their "Adelaide" dual-flush toilet, marked way down, which I'm leaning towards for the half-bath. And, they offered to throw in a sink for free. Miraculously, one of these may actually be a good fit for this house, and would also go in the half-bath:

This work of picking out plumbing fixtures is a bit disconcerting for me as a designer - it's the first time in my work on this house that I'm having to choose objects that I didn't design. I don't know if Frank Lloyd Wright ever designed the plumbing fixtures for his buildings, but he famously demanded to design just about everything else, including all the furniture and light fixtures. In one building he stopped short of designing the actual telephones, but only because the phone company wouldn't let him. This kind of creative control is almost unheard of today, but I understand the desire. If you have a strong and unique concept for the architecture, you want absolutely everything that's going inside it to fit that concept. Sometimes the only way to do that is to design it all yourself.

For the plumbing fixtures in my house, that's just not in the cards. But while browsing through hundreds of designs I became encouraged that there are some that will fit just fine. I find myself not just going with the cheapest functional fixture, as if the look or design doesn't matter at all and couldn't be a distraction from the architecture. These objects DO become a significant part of the visual environment. But also I can't bring myself to drop lots of extra of money just for a particular style. I lose interest in a product that seems to be priced high just because of a special look. Good design should be accessible to everyone, especially starving designers! So I find myself gravitating towards products that are affordable, functional, and as environmentally friendly as feasible. Aesthetically I'm going for designs that are clean, simple, elegant, natural, honest. Those are core attributes of this house, so I think a product that has them, regardless of who the designer is, will be a good fit.

Here's a toilet that didn't make the cut, though it gave me a good chuckle:

This is also a dual-flush by Caroma, and on sale. It's the hard geometry that bothered me. Of course I love geometry, but my butt is not a perfect circle. The geometry here seems a bit forced, like they're going for an arbitrary look that has nothing to do with function.

This is the one I'm leaning towards for the full bath - another on-sale Caroma dual-flush, but also "easy-height" and elongated. Throughout the design of this house I've had a general desire to make it reasonably accessible to people with physical disabilities. It may not pass the strictest codes for handicap accessibility, but the absence of steps, the 4-foot wide hallways, and 3-foot wide doors throughout, make it lots easier for anyone to get around. My choice of toilet here is an extension of that goal.

The sink I'm leaning towards for the full bath will also aid accessibility - it's wall-hung and doesn't project as far out as a standard sink, and doesn't have a cabinet box underneath. A slick design too, by LaToscana, and reasonably priced; I was sort of surprised to find it at Home Depot.

I also like this Kohler pedestal, though it's a bit pricy. Speaking of pricy...

This is one that lost my interest as soon I saw the price tag - over $800. It's cast iron, but still. $800??? I like the design, but the price seems ridiculous.

Duravit has some nice designs. This is probably my favorite of the pedestals, but still a couple hundred dollars more than the LaToscana.

Another nice Duravit. This was my first choice for the half-bath, but it's about $350, which doesn't compete very well with the $0 that Caroma is offering for their sink with the toilet.

There are some things I like about these two - the exposed natural materials, metal and glass, and the way each separate element expresses itself. But ultimately they seem to call too much attention to themselves. Also they are a bit Art Deco, which my house most certainly is not. The brand of these sinks is a clue to that: DECOLAV.

For the full bathroom I originally imagined a vanity with a base cabinet. But I'm leaning away from that now. Base cabinets prohibit accessibility, for one. Most of all though I just couldn't find a vanity that would make sense in this house. The entire interior of the house will be natural wood - unstained, unpainted. But all the vanities I've seen (that were affordable, anyway) have some kind of varnish on them. So I'd rather just put in a piece of porcelain now and build my own storage cabinets beside it later.

Well, these sinks don't come with faucets, so I've been browsing those too:

I like the simplicity of this (for either bathroom). And I've been leaning towards the single-holes rather than three-hole (with hot and cold handles on each side of the faucet). But this reminds me a little of that funny toilet above; the strict geometry is a bit much.

This is my favorite, so far. A gooseneck, by Grohe, which is a good brand. The geometry is there but not overstated. I prefer the brushed nickel finish shown here over polished chrome, but of course that costs more.

A couple more Grohes I'm considering:

Here's a pump-handle style from Kohler:

Simple enough, but I tend to steer clear of things that try to look like something else.

This is a Moen that's a pretty good contender. I like the "Water Sense" label on it too. I don't know much about that, but it's probably safe to assume there's a water saving feature involved.

Another Water Sense rated faucet, this time from Pfister. The "trough" design is sort of fun. It's a miniature version of the scuppers projecting from my walls. I'll have to decide if this reference would be corny or profound. There's a fine line between those two.

We've gone over everything but the kitchen sink. So!

I like the clean lines of this one from Kohler. I think I like the look of the single-bowl version better:

But I'm still leaning towards the double, just because I think I'll want to be able to keep dirty dishes in one side for a while and have full use of the other.

And finally, kitchen faucets.

A Grohe, clearly in the same family as my favorite for the bathroom sinks. Could be nice for them all to be in the same family. OR, I could decide the kitchen faucet is unique and should look different from the bathroom faucets:

So I still have some decisions to make. But narrowing it down to these will at least allow the plumber to finish his next phase of work.


  1. Some of those sink would really be hard to repair if something block the passage.

  2. Which ones? And why? Any alternative suggestions?

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