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How humankind reverted back to landlines
Posted on Friday, August 31, 2012

That phone you're always flecking with spittle from your mouth, rubbing your fingers all over and sticking next to your ear canal - it might be kind of dirty. More dirty than a toilet.


According to MyHealthNewsDaily, cell phones actually carry 10 times more germs than toilet seats. The issue, Charles Gerba - a microbiologist at the University of Arizona - told the source, is that people just don't clean up after themselves enough when it comes to phones. You give the bathroom toilet a regular scrub down (or your cleaning service does, or your frat's pledges do) with bleach, known to reliably kill anything. But, Gerba asks, "When was the last time you cleaned your cell phone?"


How fair is this comparison though? Why is a toilet always the litmus test of germiness? Why not choose a standard that won't seem like shooting fish in a barrel, like computer keyboards, coffee mugs, your mail or even the pair of pants you bought at the thrift store and talked yourself into wearing - because, yeah, they looked THAT good - before you gave them a good wash? Are these not all germ farms too? And doesn't it get down to the point - that sharing germs is much worse than having germs? Little kids and their cooties have known that for ages.


As Gerba and the folks at MyHealthNewsDaily point out, the issue really isn't about how many germs are on your phone. You're inured to those (they're yours after all), so it's when you hand that phone over to your buddy so he can play Angry Birds that people start catching Ebola.


The best thing you can do to keep you and your loved ones safe from your bacteria-ridden cell phones? Take them out of the case and give them a good scrub once in awhile. While dunking your iPhone 4S in a tub of rubbing alcohol won't do much for the phone's efficacy, it will clean the thing off and reveal a lot about your understanding of electronics. Instead, grab a non-abrasive cloth, slightly dampened with some soapy water, and rub it down.


Other germy hotspots, according to Gerba? Television remotes, office phones, shopping carts and that notorious lobby or first floor elevator button. So next time you're headed up to your office, be sure to bring a gallon of bleach and give that elevator button a scrupulous polish. Don't mind the people watching - you're saving their health.

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Child condemned to lifetime of bad Mile High Club jokes
Posted on Thursday, August 30, 2012

Another day, another baby born in an airplane bathroom toilet. While this little fellow, birthed in the middle of an Emirates flight headed to Manila from Dubai, wasn't likely conceived in an airplane, being born in one should mean he'll get plenty of untoward jokes coming his way between fourth grade and forever.


On August 22, Emirates flight EK 322 had to make an emergency landing in Vietnam following the sudden labor and subsequent delivery of a Filipina woman's baby. Two nurses and four flight attendants rushed to the woman's aid immediately following the delivery, which somehow - despite all imaginable spatial logic - happened in the cabin's tiny restroom. According to Fox News, one of the fortuitously placed nurses saw the mother in pain and followed her to the bathroom - here "she found the newborn inside the toilet turning bluish-brown." The phrasing is uncomfortable enough to negate any wonder for the miracle of birth.


Luckily, the two nurses quickly cleaned the baby, removing amniotic fluid from the ears, nose and mouth before flight attendants administered oxygen to both the child and mother. In a clever twist, someone came up with the bright idea (pun intended) of keeping the newborn warm using LED reading lamps attached to the seats.


Apparently the child - named EK, after the flight's code - was born only 27 weeks into the mother's pregnancy - not quite seven months of gestation. A number of news sources are currently reporting that the Filipina mother is in stable condition at a hospital near Ho Chi Minh City. While EK remains in critical care, everyone is hopeful for his full recovery.


Young EK isn't the first baby to be born mid-flight, but the instances are rare and it's even less common to name your child after an airline code (according to The Huffington Post, a woman who gave birth in transit to San Francisco named her kid Francis, which frankly feels like a copout  compared to EK's perhaps overly devoted mom).


As for unusual places to be born in the bathroom, the toilet does not rank high among them. A good choice might be the porcelain sink of a solid wood vanity with an aspen frame featuring a cherry finish and brown marble countertop. Unfortunately, these are rare on commercial flights.

 

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Your bathroom might not be the first renovation you think of for the new season, but it may be the place that needs it the most. Rather than any fixture needing a makeover or walls needing a new coat of paint, autumn is the beginning of clutter season for every room in your house, including the bath. This year's spring cleaning was a while ago, and next year's is still a few seasons away, so how can you minimize the accumulation that besets every home at the start of cold weather? Storage.


Storage is an essential part of any room, but considering how small most baths happen to be, it's exceptionally important here. But there's no reason why excellent storage shouldn't be stylish storage, especially if you go for a seasonal look. Consider these four ideas to help you improve your bathroom's potential.


1. Wicker baskets. Looking for the ideal autumnal option for your bathroom magazines and reading materials? Consider a wicker basket. Unlike the straw baskets that are so popular from spring through summer, wicker has a thickness and potentially darker hue that better fits the rapidly cooling weather. Perch one of these baskets on the back of your toilet's tank or hang one from the towel rack on the back of your door.


2. Multiple wall cabinets. While many bathrooms are already outfitted with one medicine cabinet, why not multiply your wall storage? Think of all the wall space that goes unused in your bathroom, from above the toilet to adjacent to the tub. A wall linen cabinet or two makes for great storage, but also has fantastic décor possibilities. Why not stick a miniature pumpkin or small dish of potpourri behind a glass door cabinet?


3. Window ledge. With the cold weather approaching, you'll be keeping your windows down through the coming seasons. This means that the ledge now becomes a shelf with a view, so be sure to take advantage of that newly opened space! It might be a great place to store nutmeg-scented sachets, hair products or spare amenities for visiting guests.


4. Tiered storage. One great tip comes from Better Homes and Gardens Magazine's website, where  the home experts suggest going for tiered storage. Stacking soap dishes on your vanity can be a great way to organize everything from jewelry to cosmetics.

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Poop-powered motorbike - that is all
Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Japan continues not to disappoint in the Things No One Asked For department. After decades of giving us forward-thinking transportation - from the iconic Akira motorcycle to the Shinkansen, Japan's high-speed rail system of bullet trains - the country of big ideas and small capsule hotels has surpassed any previous inanity with the poop bike.


Crowned by a porcelain toilet rather than an actual seat, this tricycle and motorbike hybrid uses animal waste and sewage for fuel, thankfully, and not the human variety.


"The biogas it uses as fuel is not made from human waste," Kenji Fujita, company spokesman for TOTO - the bathroom giant behind this motorized toilet - told Japanese reporters. "It's made from livestock waste and sewage."


That still doesn't explain the purpose of the giant roll of toilet paper affixed above the bike's motor. It's not quite as classy as a Jaguar hood ornament, but it certainly clears up any confusion those sharing the road might have about whether it is indeed a toilet you are riding on.


TOTO's no slouch in the world of bathroom fixtures, however. As designers of premier porcelain thrones, the company has expertise in everything from bidet seats and washlets to toilets that play music for you (potentially even "Africa").


So where's the green in this motorbike that TOTO, according to England's The Sun, has no plans to commercialize or sell?


Behind all the inherent silliness and grandiosity involved in the poop bike's design, Fujita assured the crowd that there was much more to this venture than what meets the eye.


"We hope to raise awareness among customers about our green campaign through development of environmentally-friendly products such as water-saving showerheads and water-saving toilets," Fujita told reporters.


To cover the stats - the oversize tricycle is actually called the Toilet Bike Neo, the suffix implying there will be more models. It also runs on a 250 cubic centimeter motor, which places it in the realm of your average motorcycle should these ever go into production. Outfitted with a toothbrush holder and working shower head, there's no reason this shouldn't be a hit on America's highways. And if you haven't had your fill of this awkwardly green bike, run a YouTube search for its Japanese ad, which has quirk enough to sell a fleet of Toilet Bike Neos.

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Truly eco-friendly bathroom cleaners are hard to come by. Even the most popular all-natural brands can contain curious chemicals or colorings that you may not want in your home. When it comes down to the greenest options with the best potential for high air quality, you may just want to invest in making your own bathroom cleaners.


Looking for some expert recipes so you can start scrubbing out the sink on your vanity and polishing your medicine cabinet mirror? Look no further than these four excellent concoctions. They'll have your bathroom sparkling like new in no time.


1. Toilet bowl cleaner. Get down and dirty with this fantastic mix. Take ¼ cup of baking soda and mix it with 1 cup of vinegar - pour both directly into the toilet and let it sit for anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour. Grab your scrub brush and go at it, then flush. Repeat as necessary, and substitute a little lemon juice for some of the vinegar if the acidic scent is too overwhelming.


2. Drain cleaner. The very idea of an all-natural Drano substitute probably seems as impossible to you as time travel, but sure enough, whip up a little of this mix and watch your drains unclog. A ½ cup of baking soda should go right into your drain opening, followed by a cup of vinegar. Just as you'd expect, the chemical reaction (think science fair volcano) will break down soap scum and clogs. Follow up the fizzle 10 or 15 minutes later with a pot of boiling water - pour carefully though, and watch out for escaping steam! EarthEasy.com also warns not to use boiling water with plastic pipes, only metal, and to be certain not to follow up a commercial drain cleaner with vinegar, as the resulting fumes could be toxic.


3. Glass cleaner. Get ready for the easiest Windex substitute ever. A mix of ¼ cup of vinegar and 3 to 4 cups of warm water should do, depending on the size of your spray bottle. ApartmentTherapy.com even recommends using newspaper to wipe down your windows if you're feeling extra green and want to reuse before you recycle.


4. Mold and mildew cleaner. These two pests have been ruining bathrooms and exacerbating allergies for ages. Get rid of them naturally with ½ cup of Borax (grab it from the laundry aisle at the grocery store) and ½ cup of vinegar. This will make a paste that you can scrub over mildew-infested tile. Let it sit for a bit before rinsing. ApartmentTherapy.com recommends letting mold take an hour of the stuff before washing with water.

The national holiday to end all national holidays
Posted on Monday, August 27, 2012

Though you may have missed it, August 26 was National Toilet Paper Day. While normally a federal holiday on which schools are closed and police set up drunk driving checkpoints (a necessity, thanks to excessive partying), this year's celebration fell on a Sunday, and so was somewhat subdued.


Some might scoff at National Toilet Paper Day and others might just scratch their heads at its obfuscated history, but the United States has a long history of inane commemorative holidays. More often than not, if you can think of an obscure topic or even toiletry, there's a day for it. America enjoys setting up a certain irreverent contrast to the United Nations (UN) and its choice of national holidays. For instance, this year's TP Day fell between the UN observances for the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition on August 23 and the International Day against Nuclear Tests on the 29th. Not only does the UN have a proclivity for wordiness, but it seems to take its national holidays much more seriously.


Why would someone want to be reminded of the horrors of the Middle Passage or the unparalleled dangers the Manhattan Project unleashed upon the world, when they could just celebrate two-ply Cottonelle?


So what did you do this National Toilet Paper Day? Perhaps you headed to Flushing, New York, not merely to celebrate one of the most successful municipal names in the world, but to attend the 2012 Toilet Paper Election rallies held there. As voters geared up for a battle between Charmin Ultra Soft and Ultra Strong, the leading TP company asked that fans across the country visit the brand's Facebook page and cast their ballots.


The winner won't be announced until later this fall (the counting process is apparently much more thorough than our nation's electoral college - not that this will surprise anyone), but in the meantime, Charmin devotees can visit the site and enter to win various prizes.


"Charmin's variety of product choices has something for everyone," company communication manager Laura Dressman said in an official Charmin press release. "We're leaving it up to the public to tell us how they 'enjoy the go' by voting for their favorite product."


This should have bathroom enthusiasts nationwide excited, at least until National Soap Dispenser Week kicks off next month.

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If there is one thing that traditionally ruins internet experiences more than Trojans, macro viruses and pop-ups, it's creating new passwords. After all, how many passwords can one person remember? And even if you just stick to that one simple word or phrase, the variants of that - once you take mandatory capitalization, numbers, punctuation and character minimums (and maximums) into account - can exceed the realms of basic memory.


Besides, how often do you actually sign into your Dominoes Online Ordering account?


Password creation is a daunting task. While it was once a fun way to keep younger siblings out of your couch-cushion fortress, it's now a bland work day habit that requires more muscle memory than actual mental concentration. And of course, when you don't exercise a muscle, it gets pretty weak. Thus, your quick shopping trip online requires that you create a new account or wait 24 hours before you guess again - meaning you might as well have hopped in the car and driven to the mall.


No wonder America would rather scrub a toilet. Or so says an online survey conducted by Harris Interactive between July 20 and 24.


The survey, which covered 2,208 adults across America, revealed that 38 percent of Americans using the internet (i.e. everyone) would rather get down and dirty with a toilet than have to create one more username and password. An even more pessimistic 38 percent commented that world peace would be an easier goal than remembering their codex of logins.


To be fair, the survey doesn't actually force folks to choose between one task or the other - toilet cleaning is, after all, a lot less daunting in the abstract than the concrete (or porcelain).


The technology company Janrain commissioned the study and debuted the findings in an online press release recently. CEO Larry Drebes had this advice to give - "By creating strong, secure passwords that are changed regularly for the identities they use the most, consumers can take their identity across the Web instead of registering or creating a new password at every site they visit via social login."


Not a word on bleach cleaners versus all natural alternatives. Nor did he put forth a preference on scrub brush styles. One is left with the impression that Drebes and Janrain don't really care much about toilet maintenance. 

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Kardashian's fiscal intelligence flushed down the drain
Posted on Thursday, August 23, 2012

Kim Kardashian is not an "if it's yellow, let it mellow" kind of lady. Proving that, once again, she's not afraid of the public eye, the celeb has splurged on a toilet price that would make Bill Gates blanche. At $100,000, Kardashian's self-flushing toilet better come with some astounding bells and whistles - like a Lamborghini.


What drove the starlet to such expense? The National Enquirer's source reported that "Kim is terrified of people using her potty and forgetting to flush, and she loves that she'll be the first girl on the block with a toilet pricier than most houses."


While she'll have won that contest, the local gas station had her beat on a self-flushing toilet by about a decade.


Kardashian herself rose to prominence in the late 2000s when a racy personal video went viral, leading to a career as one of America's premier socialites, buffered by a television show, clothing and fragrance lines and even a modeling career. For a woman who's built her status on small-time controversies, it's no surprise that the celebrity blogs are abuzz with news that she refuses to flush her own toilet.


The less-than-shocking topic is even eclipsing reports on the The Gates Foundation's Toilet of the Future conference, where loo designs could change world hygiene for the better. The top prize there went to Caltech - an award of $100,000 for a solar powered toilet. According to The Huffington Post, the Caltech miracle commode not only "reuses water and turns urine and feces into fertilizer for crops and into hydrogen," but it's powered by the sun!


Perhaps, Kardashian should have taken a stab at developing the Toilet of the Future herself. With enough tenacity and daring, she might have won that $100,000, which could have netted her a whole fleet of self-flushing toilets. But then again, when you're a media sensation and dating Kanye West, you're probably less-than-concerned with third world problems. Perhaps the Caltech scientists - newly media sensations, none known to date Kanye - could attest.


If you're looking for a self-flushing toilet, there are certainly options that cost less than your child's college tuition. But why not take a page out of Clatech's book and go with a more humanitarian option. An eco-friendly toilet may not turn your number two into fertilizer, but it'll still help the environment.

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Zen out in an Eastern-inspired bathroom
Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2012

An ideal bathroom should be like a good Zen koan - simple, clear of all ornamentation, yet as efficient and beautiful as any work of true artistry. While you may not come out of your bathroom enlightened or a step closer to Nirvana, you can find some inner peace with a design scheme inspired by the most relaxing design concepts of the Far East.


If you're looking for Zen-like bathroom décor, you'll want to choose carefully. After all, much of Zen Buddhism revolves around ascetic (and aesthetic) sparseness. Clean lines, limited ornamentation - just the essentials. But there's no reason those essentials shouldn't be top of the line. Quality and efficiency should only add to your meditative bathroom experiences.


Consider these great options for your bathroom.


1. Wood flooring, wood walls. As attractive as marble or tile may be, they lack the simplicity of wooden planks. Consider investing in a sustainable and renewable wood resource. Bamboo is both of these and will help complete the Eastern style.


2. Uniform color. Stark white isn't a particularly Zen tone, and neither is anything else quite so bright. Pick a simple neutral tone, but keep it earthy. A mossy green could be good, or consider staining your wood floors and walls a rich brown hue.


3. One small mirror. As a functional adult, you'll need to check that your teeth are brush and hair is combed each morning, but keep mirrors to a minimum. One small looking glass over your sink should be enough.


4. Simple shelving. While most of your toiletries can be kept in a linen cabinet or vanity drawers, consider having a little wall shelving - simple planks - for a decorative item or two. A small, jolly Buddha figurine may be a nice reminder to smile and enjoy your day.


5. Rolled white towels. There's nothing more unassuming than a simple white bath towel rolled cylindrically. Stock up on these to bring a stylish and easy austerity to your Zen bathroom.


6. Potted ferns. While concentrating on your oneness with the natural world, let a little of it into your bathroom. A few potted ferns on the floor or shelf will improve air quality while also beautifying the room's aesthetic.

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Go with brick in your bathroom
Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The world is filled with numerous taste profiles and even more styles, but one of the most perennial and popular is brick. With its unique combination of the rustic and industrial styles, exposed brick walls are as popular as exposed ceiling beams when it comes to the visible architecture of your home. It has a pared down look that's elegant despite its lack of dressing.


Why not adopt that same brick quality in your bathroom as well? Although it's exceedingly popular in living rooms and kitchens, brick is seen far less often in bathrooms, but it can make a great complement to your space nonetheless. Consider these three brick designs to bring some extra character to your bathroom.


1. Classic red brick. Classic red brick is never out of style, with a rustic ruddiness that contrasts well with hardwood flooring and tile equally, not to mention how well it offsets the sheer white of a porcelain sink, toilet or tub. Complement it with exposed plumbing for an industrial style, or go with shiny stainless steel fixtures.


2. Painted brick. No need to keep your brick that ruddy hue when there's an entire rainbow of colors out there to try. While white is an attractive and conventional color to paint your brick, why not try some alternatives? Even choosing a light gray hue can make all the difference and allow your bathroom fixtures to stand out in a unique color scheme. How about mint green, powder blue or any other variety of color that you might consider painting plaster walls? Just let the brick bring out a more striking texture. Also consider painting different walls different colors, or even contrasting a natural brick red with painted hues.


3. Brick tile. Of course, brick doesn't need to describe the material itself, it can also describe the design. Why not go for an asymmetrical brick layering with your tile? Choose from porcelain, glass, marble or any variety of ceramic and start laying out your ideal bathroom design. Perhaps a granite ledge on a tub can complement gray subway tiles. Imagine how black iron or stainless steel faucets might best accompany glass brick-style tiling.


Half the fun of using brick in your bathroom is mixing and matching - whether between these three options or others. Brick doesn't just make a great design choice, it makes a great design complement. It makes as good an accent to a room as it does a focal point, so experiment!

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Make a bold statement with your bathroom's color
Posted on Monday, August 20, 2012

Sometimes half-hearted color schemes can completely waste a room's potential. You may mean well by them, afraid to linger too long in dangerous territories like fire engine red or twilight purple lest you cross the line into garish, but bland color design never did a space any favors. If your bathroom's the boring off-white of saltine crackers and has all the verve and energy of elevator muzak, now may be the time to do something drastic.


While you only live once, you've got as many opportunities to paint your bathroom as you like. Don't waste any time! Consult these colors for excellent and brave design choices your bathroom will thank you for.


1. Red. Go all-out scarlet with this stylish choice, or consider a blush of merlot. Consider giving your wooden bathroom fixtures a hint of cherry in their hues, or go for red tiling in your shower stall. Looking to energize your tub? Fire up the porcelain around the lip with a ring of crimson. If you're looking for good pairing colors, you're in luck - while white is the classic bland bathroom shade, it really comes to life with red accents. So pick your spots carefully, and you may only need one pint of paint.


2. Yellow. While most people think of that one iconic shade of sunflower yellow whenever they hear it named, this is a much more complicated and nuanced color than you'd expect. For a start, you can go the gold route. Deep harvest gold yellows are accompanied well by white or navy blue - one of which will keep your room light while the other makes a bold statement. Want something more in the vein of canary? Go for yellow tiling with a black vanity and light gray highlights.


3. Pink. While you're welcome to go electric if you want (it worked for Dylan), a more palatable powder pink is a great choice for any bathroom. While easily complemented by creams, nut brown is also a surprisingly good match. Pair your pink walls with dark hardwood flooring and mission-style furniture for a fantastic look.


4. Black. The most daring of all, pulling off a black bathroom is 10 percent luck and 90 percent aesthetic eye. Keep the room from being overwhelmed with white tile floor and bathroom accessories. Utilize good lighting and your bathroom can have the stylish peacefulness of a lunar landscape.

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Starring Jon Hamm as a toilet
Posted on Friday, August 17, 2012

The internet has been all abuzz with the breaking news that beloved Mad Men hunk Jon Hamm will be guest starring in an upcoming episode of Bob's Burgers, lending that grizzled voice (and well-regarded sense of humor) to a talking toilet.


While there are probably plenty of people who wish their toilets spoke, and a large contingent of that group who wish they did so with Jon Hamm's voice, the creator of Bob's Burgers, an animated sitcom, assures us this isn't just a half hour of wish fulfillment.


"It's kind of [an] E.T. homage," he told Entertainment Weekly. "It's kind of a love story between a boy and a toilet."


Exciting as this will be for all those who have been praying for a bathroom fixture-themed take on Spielberg's classic family film, it's better news for Mad Men enthusiasts. Hamm is always a joy to watch while he's stretching his acting muscles, especially in the realm of comedy. But it does make one wonder where one of our greatest thespians goes to prepare for a role like this. Probably the bathroom.


While no pictures of Hamm's own loo are circling the internet's premier interior design sites, plenty of celeb bathrooms are. Elle Decor Magazine's website has featured some envy-inspiring photos of the shower stalls, medicine cabinets and toilet bowls of Hollywood's most (and least) talented. While Ralph Lauren's bathroom looks like a vision of the future, Ellen Pompeo's simple tub and antique terra cotta tiles are pleasantly rustic. Michael Bay's shower stall is a sleek mix of concrete and glass and Yves Saint Laurent's guest house bath in Marrakech is a study in turquoise tiling and eastern architecture.


Checking out celebrity bathrooms may make for great daydream fodder, but you don't need to be living the lifestyle of the rich and famous to enjoy a snazzily designed loo. With some economic effort, you can build the bathroom of your dreams. It may not actually be in gorgeous Morocco, but there's no reason why it can't transport you for the length of a long, relaxing soak in the tub.


Still, it's nice to know that even wealthy and world-famous actors like Jon Hamm aren't too spoiled by their luxurious bathrooms and can still relate to the salt-of-the-earth restroom users. He's not playing a talking bidet, after all.

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What your medicine cabinet says about you
Posted on Thursday, August 16, 2012

While there's plenty to be gleaned about an individual by snooping through a medicine cabinet's collection of prescription drugs, there are other indicators too. Is he or she a Valium bottle half-full or half-empty sort of person? Crunchy granola maybe? Or perhaps the kind of individual who drinks coffee through a straw and habitually uses whitening strips.


Why not turn the magnifying glass on yourself and delve into your own medicine cabinet? Since your guests surely go rifling through it themselves, you might as well take note of what kind of impression you're making.


1. Start with the cabinet mirror and shelving. Is your mirror streaked? Do you even own Windex? There's the possibility you're living in a bachelor pad in that case. Be sure to keep your cabinet properly spic and span - no crusted toothpaste on the shelves. The rest of your home can be a pristine palace, but bathrooms are indicative of true character.


2. What kind of toothbrush do you have? First off, it's a good sign that your toothbrush is even in the medicine cabinet (protected from the flushing toilet), but what kind of tool you use on your pearly whites says a lot. Does yours look like a power tool with all the snazzy neon gel padding of a pair of running shoes? You're devoted to your teeth, and that's a good thing. Boring old CVS brand? You haven't been to the dentist in a while (they give you nicer ones there for free) or your nicer model met a cruel fate after tumbling into the john.


3. Do you own Q-tips? That's impressive. Any medicine cabinet snooper will surely commend you on them, and you get double the points if you're a guy.


4. How many of your toothpaste ingredients can you pronounce? If the answer to this is "quite a few," you may be a chemical engineer. Or perhaps you go all natural. Your commitment to organic toothpaste is commendable, as long as it doesn't taste like foot powder.


5. Band-aids? You must've been a boy scout or a girl scout, although a band-aid shortage may indicate that despite always being prepared, you are still accident prone.


6. Okay, the meds. Prescription medicine doesn't indicate anything other than the fact that you belong to the human race. If you don't want snooping, consider moving your pills somewhere safer - like the tax return cabinet, sock drawer or inside a ceiling light fixture. That'll throw them off the scent!

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Half-baths are a little like the middle child of any family. They don't have the robust qualities that make the full bath reliable and strong, and they tend to lack the style and care of décor that we lend to kitchen sinks or other quick wash areas. Half-baths linger in mediocrity, unloved and uninspired. It's time to change that.


If you've got a half-bath in need of rejuvenation, now's the time to show it you care. Consider some of these great themes that'll help make your half-bath feel like an essential part of the home.


1. Rustic outhouse. All the charm with none of the gross sanitation issues - going rustic in your half-bath means laying down hardwood floors and giving your vanity a rough-hewn look. Paint your walls a deep fir-tree green to capture the cozy quality of northern forests. Best of all, consider adopting that iconic bit of outhouse door design - the crescent moon insignia. If you're of the opinion that outhouses lack charm to begin with, think of it as country-style and you'll be satisfied.


2. Posh powder room. Avoid giving your half-bath a complex with Napoleon-era décor and instead look to another French ruler who was both longer reigning and less vertically challenged - Louis XIV. Marked by aristocratic splendor and attention to nuance and detail, a powder room according to Louis XIV design will be a lavish mix of marble and gold trim. Wherever there's space, fit an extra bronze or shimmering gold fleur de lis, and don't forget the chandelier!


3. Art nouveau toilette. Jump ahead in European history and you'll land in this stylish and artful period of interior design. Notable for the best use of wrought iron to come out of France and those swirling smoke-like tangles of floral brocade, the art nouveau style is sure to please your half-bath. Consider stained glass in the windows, elegant curves on your fixtures and at least four or five Mucha prints of beautifully illustrated women advertising 19th-century beauty products lining your walls.


4. Contemporary half-bath. If you've ever been in a modern or contemporary style room, you probably felt like it was more of a glimpse of the future than the names imply. Go this route in your half-bath for some straight-lined and forward-thinking design. Stay square, simple and spacious, with plenty of glass and a stylish eco-friendly toilet.

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You can get a lot of things printed on toilet paper, though the overwhelming majority of the world wants nothing other than quilted patterns. It's understandable. While a Hello Kitty or Chuck Norris design on your roll can make your bathroom feel cuter or safer respectively, we don't always want to do the deed with it. Nonetheless, folks out there are going against the grain. One is a pun-ridden and explicitly named company that prints your Twitter tweets on your custom roll. The other is the Baltimore Firefighters 734 union.


While anyone who's seen The Wire won't be surprised, it turns out that there's strife within the world of Baltimore politics. When recent conflicts with the mayor's office over the closing of several fire companies came to a head, a few firefighters went to the loo. Shortly, images were circulating online - one of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's face on a roll of toilet paper, and another of Fire Chief James Clack's visage in a toilet bowl. As neither is readily available on the internet, one is left to imagine both instances were photos or superimposed images, as opposed to masterworks of a talented portrait artist.


Naturally, it didn't take long for everyone to overreact, making it clear that tensions were at a breaking point because all it took was a roll of toilet paper...


While Rick Hoffman, president of the firefighters union, has publicly condemned the images, some members are saying that he sent mixed messages by taking too long to do so. Most troubling may be his role in the suspension of Lenore Scharf, who was removed from her position as the union's first vice president after Hoffman asked the board to do so, based on gray circumstances following the incident, according to The Baltimore Sun.


One thing is clear - the firefighters currently facing disciplinary action for the toilet paper protest are on Scharf's side, and want her on theirs, hoping she'll be their union representative.


"This woman has been tirelessly, tirelessly at bat for so many people for so long," Rodrick Jackson, a firefighter/paramedic union member of 10 years told the source. He lauded Scharf for her regular advocacy of union members.


While fingers remain crossed that troubled Baltimore can finally find some peace, one is left to wonder if things might have been different had Rawlings-Blake's face shown up in a classier chrome-plated toilet paper holder, surely a symbol of respect.

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When a young Bill Gates sat in front of his school's ancient computer, mastering BASIC and programming simple algorithms for Tic-Tac-Toe, it's possible that he thought to himself, "Someday, I'll invent a better toilet." Possible, but unlikely.


Nevertheless, this is exactly where Gates' career trajectory has brought him. Having effectively invented, instituted and presided over the world of computers for generations, the former Microsoft CEO has turned his mind to the septic system.



Seattle is playing host to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as the world-renowned charity/think tank takes on the issue of better toilets. According to MyNorthWest.com, various experts from Singapore, China, the UK and Switzerland are gathering to put their designs to the test. This "Reinvent the Toilet Fair," as it's being billed, is looking to find the ultimate waterless, energy-efficient alternative that will change sanitation in developing and developed countries around the world.


Humorous as toilets inherently are, the estimated 2.6 billion people out there without access to toilets aren't laughing. Poor sanitation and bathroom conditions - or just utter lack of bathrooms to begin with - lead to and exacerbate sickness and epidemic in many regions.


"Good sanitation saves lives and it's really a key to good health globally," Carl Hensman, the program officer for Water Sanitation and Hygiene at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, told the source. "Two-hundred years ago we had the invention of the flush toilet and we've really not done anything in the engineering of the toilet since then," he added, which is about as much of a call to arms as one would expect.


As for the fair, while a certain amount of cash is certainly being put into the catering and meals for world-traveling scientists and toilet dignitaries, a chunk also went into soya bean paste and rice that (hopefully) no one will be snacking on. These two components are notable for their shockingly fecal quality when combined, and about 50 gallons of it has been ordered by the Gates Foundation to test out these fancy new toilet designs.


With $3 million in grants doled out to the toilet engineering experts whose designs are being tested, it's probably an honor and a pleasure to watch their work finally be used - even if not by the real thing. 

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Vacation cabins don't usually have the luxury of five-star hotel spa tubs, unless you're the sort of person to build a small mansion and call it a cabin for the sake of irony and because it's made out of wood and surrounded by trees. In fact, more often than not, an actual cabin's bathroom is about half the size of the kitchen and only 3 feet deeper than the coat closet. So when things are small and cramped, how can you take steps to open them up a bit?


If knocking down a few walls isn't a viable option, consider these ideas for expanding your cabin's tiny bathroom.


1. Go with light colors. Sure, the rustic hues of wood are wonderful for a cabin environment, but those warm tones can be a bit claustrophobic in a tiny bathroom. Paint your vanity an off-white or pale blue to make the room feel more expansive.


2. Be wise about storage. Whatever you decide to do with your bathroom accessories, don't let them clutter the space. Keep your floors clear to make the whole room feel more open. Consider keeping certain toiletries and amenities outside the bathroom itself, stored nearby in a linen closet or hallway chest of drawers.


3. Get good airflow. Small spaces mean there's not much air circulation, which is the last thing you want in any bathroom, but especially a busy one that's being shared by a crowd of people. Open windows, install a fan and do everything you need to defend against stagnant and unpleasant lingering odors.


4. Move the shower outside. While it won't get much use over the Christmas vacation retreat, this can be a huge space-saving step during the summer. When everyone's fresh from the beach or the lake and in need of a quick rinse, rather than queuing up for an eight-person line to the bathroom, an outdoor shower could be just the thing you need. It'll also cut down on mold- and mildew-fostering steam.


5. Move your toilet outside. While the idea of an outhouse might elicit more than a few groans, the modern world is actually full of a number of functioning and not unpleasant outhouses. Provided you don't mind such immediate access to your septic tank, and you take the proper health and sanitary precautions, there's no reason why an outhouse shouldn't work for you and your family. Unless you find it gross.

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Not exactly the burning bush there, Mr. Crittenden
Posted on Friday, August 10, 2012

Religious mania has caused a number of people to do terrible things to innocent people, but toilets usually get out unscathed. This was not the case in Louisville recently, when police were called to a local Speedway convenience store to deal with James Crittenden's senseless bathroom arson.


While it's almost impossible to spot a sociopath, it's usually not hard to spot the sort of person who lights toilets on fire. This is why the convenience store personnel burst into the restroom to confront Crittenden before calling the police. Sadly, they were seconds too late to save the toilet seat, which had burst into flames. According to the local NBC station, "Crittenden told store workers he lit the fire for religious reasons."


This followed up quickly on an incident and arrest less than a month earlier at a ValuMarket in Louisville, during which Crittenden was caught huffing aerosol cans of whipped cream, presumably also because of divine providence. According to the source, Crittenden was already banned from the ValuMarket some time before, meaning that going through 10 cans of product in the store was not the beginning of his erratic and disruptive behavior. When he attempted to pay for the whipped cream he came up $16.90 short.


According to the source, Crittenden's arrest report for that day mentioned that he said "he was huffing the cans to wake up and that the U.S. Constitution allowed him the authority to huff Reddi-wip." Naturally, the U.S. Constitution allows you to kill brain cells in a number of other ways as well, as long as you pay for them.


As for the toilet, it was mostly the seat that took the brunt of the damage. Luckily for the bowl, porcelain is inflammable, which means that although it may bear scars from the attack, it's getting off no worse for wear. The seat is another story, but perhaps this experience will inspire the Speedway convenience store folks to invest in a bidet seat attachment, which, among its many excellent uses, could potentially help put out a fire.


Where Crittenden is headed next is unclear. Hopefully he finds some peace of mind somewhere outside the aisles of chain convenience stores. If it happens to be prison, one thing's for sure - those metal toilet seats are 100-percent fire-resistant. 

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The mashup has been utilized extensively in music, to the point that it's ubiquitous in radio hip hop. It's long had a role in painting and film, mixing the old and the new or the cartoon and the real - just think of Who Framed Roger Rabbit or the infinite comic takes on The Last Supper you've had to roll your eyes at. Even literature had its mix-and-match heyday when Elizabeth Bennet suddenly found herself sparring with zombies rather than Mr. Darcy. So, now that all the great art forms of recent centuries have made good on mixing styles - why not welcome it into your bathroom?


Mashup styles can give your bathroom a signature look you won't find anywhere else. Consider a few of these fantastic options for your bathroom.


1. Farmhouse and contemporary. So maybe you like a touch of the rustic alongside your clean right angles and sparse walls. If you find your contemporary bathroom a little too cool for your taste, mix it up with an injection of farmhouse décor. Keep all your hard lines and boxy shapes, but switch your material over from manmade and synthetic plastics or metals to something with a lot more warmth, like hardwood. Go with maple, oak, cherry or whatever species fits your design. Also, consider touching up the walls with simple sconce or lantern lighting.


2. Finnish sauna and Roman baths. The Finns have long known how to craft the perfect sauna and the Romans were experts at creating luxurious bath houses, constructing them wherever they settled, from modern Italy to the British Isles. Why not take the best of both cultural heritage and find a happy medium? Go for stone columns set in wood floorboards. Create plank shelving styled after plywood sauna seats, but give your vanity the sandstone style of the Mediterranean. A ceramic tile mosaic on the floor of your bathtub would be another great touch.


3. Antique and modern. There's one great mashup that's been making the rounds for ages. ApartmentTherapy.com suggests the Historical Modern style for the daring designer. Take the funky colors and clean lines of modern furniture and blend them with the vintage aesthetic and well-loved look of antique décor. Let your bath towels and shower curtains shine brightly, but pair them with old re-wired lighting fixtures, like a chandelier. Pick up a few Victorian bathroom faucets and tie those together with a sleek and spare medicine cabinet. The combinations are endless!

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Bathroom storage techniques to clean up your clutter
Posted on Wednesday, August 8, 2012

We forgive kitchen clutter, and bedrooms are almost always going to have some clothes, books or debris on the floor, being the personal spaces they are. Most people aren't embarrassed about disorganized garages or basements in need of a little systematization, either. But if there's one room you always want clean and clear of clutter, it's the bathroom.


Other than your living room and foyer, the bathroom is the most visited spot in the home by guests. Furthermore, bathroom activities don't benefit from cramped space or having to watch where you put your feet. Rather than claustrophobia, give your guests the easy freedom they need and feel proud of your bathroom, all in one quick reorganizing makeover.


Searching for awesome storage techniques? Look no further. These clever and stylish options will keep you, your guests and even your bathroom happy.


1. Ditch the vanity pedestal and get some cabinet space. While pedestals may seem like space-saving attributes in a small bathroom, the sacrifice is in the storage. Half the job of the vanity should be to conceal the things you can't hide in your medicine cabinet - toilet paper, band-aids, Q-tips, hair dryers and straighteners, lotion, hand towels and whatever else may be cluttering up your floor!


2. Set up a linen cabinet right outside the door. Here's a trick - keep some of your bathroom storage outside the bathroom. Not all supplies needs to be within reach at all times (though toilet paper does), so keep amenities like extra toothpaste or bath towels in a tall and attractive linen cabinet. It's easily accessible, helps reduce bathroom surplus and makes for excellent hallway décor.


3. Window shelving and corner nooks. Take these two oft-wasted locations and use them as prime open storage. Not only does shelving make your bathroom feel bigger, it's great to use for refreshing touches like flowers or scented candles. Give a corner a niche shelf or dress up your window ledge with seashells or a few themed ornaments.


4. Don't leave your reading material on the floor! It's pretty common to find a few complimentary magazines in your average home's bathroom, but it's gross to find them on the floor. If you want to leave your guests a book to skim or celebrity rag to flip through, keep it off the ground. Find more sanitary storage, like a rack or small bookshelf.

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Bidet beauty tips from The Real Housewives of New York
Posted on Tuesday, August 7, 2012

America may just not be ready for the bidet. Or at least, The Real Housewives of New York aren't. Although that little porcelain washer of private parts already has a storied history of being misunderstood and misinterpreted by curious and oblivious Americans, Sonja Morgan of Bravo's hugely popular New York spinoff of the "Real Housewives" series has added a brand new chapter.


To catch you up - the ladies are taking a London trip filled with croquet and (somewhat) literary discussions, and in between embarrassing revelations and brutish American familiarity at odds with classic English stiff upper lips, Ms. Sonja Morgan took an early morning trip to the bidet. Just not for the typical reasons. Instead of using the white porcelain bowl for its intended purpose, Sonja took its deceptively sink-like design to heart and decided to dunk her face in it. Decked out in curlers and eyes puffy with sleep, who could blame her? (Other than any European.) And, as a BuddyTV.com episode recap comments, "Her face did look better after withdrawing it from the bidet..." So there's that!


While the television-watching public can't count on the worldly smarts of Sonja and Co. to guide them through the hygienic use of European bathroom fixtures (these housewives are only from New York, after all - hardly a bustling metropolis of culture), they can at least turn to the design and décor experts of other reality shows.


American bidets aren't yet a lost cause then. They're a functional and eco-friendly part of the modern bathroom. Think how much toilet paper a quick bidet use saves, which in turn helps your toilet flush using even less water! It may just be that the bidet could be the best thing to strike American bathrooms since the hands-free dryer!


If you're interested in installing a bidet in your bathroom, don't fear those ancient medieval designs. Most modern bidets come as part of your toilet. Bidet toilet seat covers are space-saving ways to enjoy the purpose of a classic free-standing bidet replete with modern functions like adjustable water temperatures, specialty air dryers and even deodorizers! Best of all, with a bidet seat, you won't run the risk of guests trying to wash their faces in the wrong bowl.

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Canadian finds Seattle toilet stalls unfit for duty
Posted on Monday, August 6, 2012

When most of us think of Pike Place Market, it recalls that famous Starbucks roast named for the iconic open-stall bazaar where the Seattle company got its start. For Shahrukh Pestonji, however, the words cull up little more than the queasy bitterness of too much coffee on an empty stomach. When the Toronto tourist took to the famous market with his family, he discovered the dark underbelly of the Pike Place bathrooms - the stall doors are kind of short.


As Pestonji sat doing his business, an estimated two dozen people passed through the restroom, some of them making eye contact. Pestonji failed to comment whether there were any commiserating glances, but he did give The Seattle Times a mouthful.


"You're sitting on the toilet with your pants around your ankles and people are peering over at you - that's not very pleasant," Pestonji told the source. He called his experience "absolutely degrading, humiliating, disgusting," and politely opened up the topic to new adjectives by adding, "whatever you want to call it."


"Safe" might be Kelly Lindsay's choice. The Pike Place Market director of programs and marketing who dealt with Pestonji's email told the Times that she'd heard previous complaints about the stall doors, but their (completely lawful) awkwardness was a necessary evil.


"It's a safety precaution," Lindsay said. "The door height is a deterrent to unwanted activity in the restroom stalls."


In response to this, Pestonji said that there has long been a restroom design feature protecting against unwanted stall activity. It's the gap between the door and the restroom floor, where, he said, belying his previous specificity, "you can see the legs of people or something."


It's pretty much a guarantee that no public toilet will be as cushy as your home bathroom, but does the Pike Place Market owe Pestonji an apology or, much less, a toilet remodeling? Lindsay says that the market has no intentions to replace any of its stall doors, and it's true that a public toilet facility should focus on safety in its bathrooms above all else - even if bowel movements and social comfort suffer as a result.


At the very least, Pestonji has made his qualms known and widely read across the internet, proving that if one thing isn't given short shrift, it's the media's love of a good toilet yarn.

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When you hear the word Attic, don't think of the eaves above the house or the unfinished and uninsulated space where you keep old books and bags of thrift store donations - think of the bathroom. Including the styles of ancient Attica - a region of Greece - and a few Mediterranean hints could give your home's bathroom an exotic appeal ideal for any season. Weather the winter with a steaming shower in your warm-toned tile shower stall, or relax in a porcelain tub surrounded by classical columns. Stay cool all summer with the pleasant chill of mosaic tiles underfoot and the airy spaciousness of your walls. With a climate as varied and yet consistently gorgeous as the Mediterranean, it's no wonder that these designs adapt so well to any season.


Looking to touch up your bathroom with a little Roman, Moroccan or even Attic influence? Look no further, and consider these four suggestions.


1. Wrought iron frames, handles and knobs. This classic European influence is sure to capture the rustic charms of the Italian seaside. Utilize it in everything from bathroom vanities to your medicine or linen cabinets. Consider framing a mirror in wrought iron as well for a pleasing blend of rough metal and sleek glass.


2. Mosaics. Whether done in porcelain, glass, marble, ceramic or some other variety of tile, these colorful decorative touches are more than just art - they become part of the very architecture of the room. Whether you craft the design yourself or choose from a variety of classical examples - from modern Malta to those discovered in ancient Pompeii - it's sure to add character to an already astounding space.


3. Color scheme. Your palette will range widely depending on what portion of the Mediterranean you take your influence from. The difference between an Algerian and Spanish color scheme is significant. But a safe combination would be a sandy hue and pearly pink. These two capture the colors of the Mediterranean's famous beaches.


4. A few atmospheric touches. Just a few final strokes will bring your bathroom to life and transport you to another climate and culture. To lend your space an occasional extra ambiance, consider burning candles scented with the iconic spices of the region. Or, enliven the room with Egyptian cotton scented oils and fresh-cut flowers, like lavender or wild anemone, both of which are found easily enough in the U.S. Also, feel free to enjoy the region's fine wines - a glass of red would go wonderfully with a bath.

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Indian railway through with leaving mess in its wake
Posted on Thursday, August 2, 2012

Snidely Whiplash would have to be a particularly cruel fellow to tie poor Nell Fenwick to these train tracks. What's more, those boys from Stand By Me were probably lucky to be following the railroad lines of a small-town Oregon locomotive and not the Nirmal Bharat Express. Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express might have had another shade of terror to it had that train made it to the Indian subcontinent.


But hopefully all that will change soon as Indian Railways, one of the world's largest rail networks, invests a startling $93 million into replacing the ubiquitous open-hole toilets that litter 50,000 coaches (and many miles of train track) with new bio-toilets. The change is expected to take about five years, but it's good news for the 11 million passengers who make their way to work and abroad on the nation's railway cars.


It's also fortunate for track maintenance operators. Besides being an unhygienic method of waste disposal, it also tends to clog rail lines, especially when the train is stationary at a busy station.


But this isn't the only toilet-related trouble India is attempting to tackle. Jairam Ramesh, the rural development minister pushing forward the train lavatory reform, also revealed that 130 million households in India are still without real latrines, much less sanitized and cleanly ones.


"This is a matter of great shame, anguish, sorrow and actually anger," Ramesh told The Times of India. He hopes that the action taken with the railroads will help spread the importance of hygiene and health.


According to the source, the new bio-toilets outfitted on Indian Railway trains will utilize bacteria that break down human waste into water, methane and carbon dioxide. The gasses get discharged while the waste water is chlorinated and evacuated from the train, leaving the tracks clear, uncorroded and surely smelling much better.


But India still has a ways to go ridding itself of open defecation, and it's a harsh reminder of the extremely difficult sanitation issues that can ravage the rural and poor parts of developing nations. While Americans can take advantage of eco-friendly toilets, that's a distant dream for some. Hopefully, with the aid of science and a lot of ingenuity, situations will improve well beyond the tracks of India's rail system.

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The walls can make a room. They take up more space than either the floor or ceiling and are always in sight, whether directly or through peripheral vision. So why not give your walls a bit more energy and verve than there is in a single coat of paint? Better yet, don't just invest in great wallpaper, let that wallpaper lead you to other quality fixtures and touches. Consider these four examples for a little inspiration.


1. William Morris. Though often floral in style, these wallpaper designs created or inspired by the 19th century English textile designer are more emblematic of Victorian style than they are the natural world. Complex, mesmerizing and generally wondrous feats of pattern and design, these wallpapers will complement both old bathrooms looking for a stylish facelift and brand new bathrooms looking for antique character. Though versatile, this type of wallpaper pairs best with hardwood vanity fixtures and stylish wall sconces.


2. Floral. Any type of wallpaper too flowery or color saturated can be off-putting, but if you find the right blend of negative space and floral design, the look can bring your bathroom walls to life. Best of all, floral wallpaper is well complemented by actual plants and flowers. Bring in hanging ferns or a spider plant or two for a textural touch that's also sure to improve air quality. Add a few freshly cut flowers into the mix for wonderful natural scents.


3. Plaid. While it successfully reminds one of cabin living and the deep woods, you don't need to be a lumberjack to enjoy a little plaid on your walls. Plaid wallpaper captures the warmth and rustic charm of a winter evening whiled away by a fireside, but it also has a daring edge of style that not just any homeowner would be willing to attempt. Pair it with light or dark hued wood, depending on your color combination, and be sure to load up on wintry scented candles and peppermint castile in your soap dispenser. Just remember not to mix it with a striped shower curtain!


4. Artisan. While it's not its own style, there are a wide variety of artisan wallpapers available everywhere from local boutiques to great websites like Etsy. Seeking out handmade or custom wallpaper is a great way to make your bathroom uniquely your own. Whether you adopt Star Wars, painstakingly drawn medieval village scenes, a decoupage of 70s advertising or some sort of versatile magnetic or vinyl decal assortment, the options are only limited by your imagination.

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Why you can't have an actual 14K gold toilet
Posted on Wednesday, August 1, 2012

It's probably been keeping you awake at night - why is your toilet porcelain? It's a good question. How many tree huggers and green activists would prefer a recycled cardboard toilet, or at least one made out of sustainable materials (bamboo, with a panda company mascot). Then there are the folks who just want to show off their net worth, even in the loo. For them, we have designers willing to coat porcelain thrones in layers of gold, until the thing they do their personal business on is worth more than most people's 401ks.


But the fact of the matter stands - that toilet is still porcelain deep down underneath. Why don't we have a greater variety of bathroom fixture materials? Luckily for us, Rachel Swaby at the tech and science site Gizmodo.com decided to tackle the great unknown.


Swaby talked to an expert at Kohler, where bathroom fixtures are born, and he explained that toilets need to be at least four things - clean, sturdy, waterproof and flushable. Porcelain passes all these tests with flying colors but also happens to be easy to make, mold and fire up in the kiln to boot.


So with that solved, why not plastic or stainless steel? asks Swaby. The first is too expensive and may not feel sturdy enough. As for stainless steel, well, have you ever sat on cold metal before? And, as Swaby points out, "prison chic doesn't go very far in the average home."


Swaby closes her piece with a bit of information about the testing process for new toilets (porcelain gets all As of course), and a comment from Kohler's senior product manager, Brian Hedlund, which said porcelain toilets just tend to last, and people are more likely to upgrade or replace their units for the sake of the planet or style than actual wear and tear.


It's an interesting point, especially in a day and age when investing in an eco-friendly toilet saves you some precious cash on the water bill while also giving the planet a helping hand. Though still thoroughly porcelain, these eco-friendly toilets  are a great way to show your true green colors. And maybe start saving up for that 21K gold model.

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