But this is serious stuff. It marks a campaign by the charity WaterAid to raise money for the 2.5 billion people worldwide, or one in three, who do not have access to a safe, private lavatory.
It’s a shocking statistic, and design and engineering to solve the problem is the focus of a seminar open to everyone from 6.30 this evening. Titled Rethinking Sanitation, it’s at the stunning Roca London Gallery in Townmead Road, Chelsea, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects for the Roca bathroom brand.
The “shower toilet”
London is seeing big changes in lavatory design. The “shower toilet” turns a loo into a bidet. Press a button and a neat little “wand” pops out at the back with a cleansing spray at your chosen pressure/temperature, before warm air dries you off. These toilet bidets cost from about £1,500 to an astounding £10,000 depending on features. The lid may lift of its own accord thanks to a motion sensor, and the seat can be warmed. Toilet bidets are at bathroom specialists all around the capital, and you can try them out in some showrooms.
Japanese company Toto pioneered the technology — of the 25,000 people it employs, 1,200 are designers. Toto’s toilet bidet brand is the Washlet with several working models at its showroom in St John Street, Clerkenwell (visit gb.toto.com or call 020 7831 7544). Here, the pursuit of hygiene is ruthless. Basic models are rimless, with no ledge for dirt to collect around, and there’s a supercharged Tornado flush.
These loos are installed throughout John Robertson Architects’ refurbishment of Bush House in Aldwych, former home of the BBC World Service, now 300,000sq ft of top-notch offices. Top-end Totos are programmable, have automatic lid lift, cleansing wands, air driers, super-smooth coatings, special antibacterial water, and blasts of UV light to kill germs — so you can chuck out the loo brush.
Also in Clerkenwell is an all-singing, if not all-dancing loo. The Numi by US brand Kohler, comes at a fancy price, too, pushing £10,000. Designer Phil Proctor says: “The lid rises gracefully to meet you. This Bluetooth toilet will even play your favourite music from radio, or iPad/iPhone, with a background of colour-changing lights.” It’s got a cleansing wand, heated seat, deodoriser, and a touch-screen remote control with its own magnetic docking station. See it in action at West One Bathrooms in Clerkenwell Road, EC1 (westonebathrooms.com; 020 7324 0780).
In Chelsea, a shower toilet is at Ripples in Fulham Road (ripples.ltd.uk; 0800 107 0700). This is the Swiss Geberit AquaClean, which costs about £2,380. Across the road, CP Hart has a working Toto and there’s also one at its Waterloo branch (cphart.co.uk; 0845 600 1950).
Laurence Pidgeon in Fulham High Street has a working bidet toilet with a hose you pull out to deliver a soft cleansing jet of water for you, or a high-pressure blast to clean the loo (laurence pidgeon.com; 020 7610 6166). Pidgeon, a passionate advocate for World Toilet Day and better global hygiene, is a fifth-generation family bathroom firm.
Black is the new white
There are basically three different types of lavatory. A wall-hung loo needs a support frame mounted on a solid wall, while a back-to-the wall toilet sits on the floor, with the cistern concealed behind a wall or “duct” — a false wall. A close-coupled toilet has bowl and cistern in one piece in a compact design that saves space. Crucially, a dual-flush cistern can halve your water consumption.
The new In-Tank Meridian from Roca combines cistern and pan in one neat space-saving fitment. Meanwhile, black loos are in fashion.
“They make a great statement,” says Melinda Hill, senior designer at Ripples of Chelsea. One by Armani for Roca is at the Staffan Tollgard showroom in Pimlico (020 7952 6066).
And a new loo from German company Grohe is claimed to cut the noise of its flush by over two thirds compared with an average toilet. It has even been awarded a Quiet Mark (grohe.com/uk; quietmark.com).
Launched this month is Busted Flush! - a fascinating read considering the subject is lavatories. The author is Geoffrey Pidgeon, 88, fourth generation of the family running Original Bathrooms in Richmond, which is now in the hands of his son, Michael.
The book explodes “the Thomas Crapper myth”. Claims Pidgeon Snr: “Everyone thinks Thomas Crapper invented the flushing toilet. But my great-uncle had already filed a patent.” Neither, by the way, did the indelicate term “c**p” originate from Crapper, it actually dates back to middle English in the 14th and 15th centuries.
This book is a charming memoir, but it is also packed with the social history of sanitation, all well argued, with plenty of quirky stories along the way, involving everything from Winston Churchill to chewing gum.
Pidgeon also details how his family’s rift with the Crapper clan was eventually healed. Surely essential reading for the bathroom.
Busted Flush! The Thomas Crapper Myth: My Family’s Five Generations in the Bathroom Industry is published by Arundel Books at £15.99.