Sunday, September 14, 2008

Toilet Closets

At first they were a curiosity. A novelty. They popped up in the bathrooms of the rich - I don't know how long ago - and have since been trickling down, so to speak, to the bathrooms of the common man.

I speak of the toilet closets. These bathrooms within bathrooms. You enter a bathroom, you say "Hey, where's the toilet?" and then you see a door leading to an even smaller chamber that contains the commode and perhaps a little picture of flowers hanging on the wall.

I'm not knocking the rich here. God bless the rich homeowner and the pathbreaking service he provides, trying out all kinds of wacky new home design ideas, and occasionally stumbling on something genuinely useful, like wall-mounted TV speakers, or remote control drapes. But this innovation process can lead to trouble too. Take the whole island kitchen fad. It used to be that the appliances and the counters were on the perimeter of the kitchen, and the center was reserved for some family space, like a breakfast table. Now, when the rich folk want to fundamentally rethink a classic room, like the kitchen, the goal is really just to figure out how to make it bigger. How do you make a kitchen bigger? If you double the size of the room, that's going to be one huge breakfast table. That's no good. So say hello to the "Island kitchen". Now, all the important appliances are in the center. Now, the center is a "workspace". Efficient use of space? No.

But that's still fine with me. It's your money, it's your house. The problem is when, in an effort to boost the value of a modest house, the builders install an extra-large island kitchen for no other reason than to lend the house the appearance of wealth, at the square-footage expense of other rooms.

Which brings me back to today's annoyance: the toilet closet. All these new houses I've been visiting have a toilet closet in the extra-large master bath. It seems like the toilet closet has become a permanent feature of the 21st century house. Well that's a damned shame in my opinion. Let me lay out the case against the toilet closet.

First let's dispense with the one argument in favor of the TC. This is the argument that it permits someone else to use the bathroom while the first person uses the toilet. I can't speak for anyone else, but I personally do not want anyone, even a loved one, standing 24 inches from me, brushing their teeth on the other side of a closed door while I attempt to get in the state of mind necessary to relax the bowels. I don't want to hear the sink running and the patter of footsteps. I don't want anyone out there. I don't even want anyone in the bedroom beyond. Ideally, no one really should be in the house. In fact I sometimes play a little game with myself on the toilet. "It sure does suck to be the last man on earth," I say in my head, "Oh well, at least it means I can take this shit in peace." Solitude, really, is what I'm looking for at that moment.

But the main problem with the toilet closet is much more serious. The toilet, frankly, is the whole point of the bathroom. Don't think so? You see restrooms with toilets but no showers all the time, right? When have you seen a bathroom with a shower or bath but no toilet? Never. The toilet is the whole point. Let's stop pretending that it's not. The problem with the toilet closet is that it relegates the act of shitting into some kind of secondary concern. It shuffles shitting off to the side, forcing you to enter this cramped, unappealing space. It's as if the bathroom is saying: "Oh, you want to take a shit? You don't want to sit at the vanity and powder your nose? You don't want to take a shower that also has a flip down seat? No? You really just came here to take a shit? Well... I suppose you can if you want, we have a little space for that over there."

No, that's bullshit. Think about it. Think about how fancy the shower has gotten. All the granite and the ceramics and the misted glass, and the shower head with all the settings, and the waterproof iPod docking station, etc. Now look in the toilet closet. You get nothing! The message is that you should be ashamed to even be in there.

Let me tell you about the bathroom I would like to see when I open the door. First, to even approach the bathroom, I ascend a staircase to the highest level in my house. Then, when I push open the door, I am greeted with a stunning visual composition. A long, bright, tiled hall. As I walk down this hall I pass the shower and tub on my left and right. I pass the sink and the vanity. And then friends, I ascend a final 3 steps into an open rotunda, a circular space with wide open windows in all directions and all spangled with natural light. The cross breeze blows this way and that, filling the room with a constant rush of fresh air. And in the middle? The toilet. As you take your seat on the throne, you can see everything. The backyard. The setting sun. The distant forest. Or the cityscape, the skyline. Or, in my perfect world, the inky blackness of deepest space. On your left hand side, toilet paper - the strong stuff. I like Scott Original. Toilet paper with some bite. Beside the roll, a small water fountain for optional dampening of the paper. On the right hand side you'd find a small side table with the appropriate, customizable miscellany: a book, a magazine, sudoku. And of course a remote control to activate some music if the mood is right.

Now that is a compelling shitting experience. Compare that to taking a thankless dump in a space no larger than an airplane john, and with no ventilation to speak of. I don't want a toilet closet, I want a toilet command center. Now, really, I just have to become rich myself, so that I can realize the whole Rotunda Bathroom. And then it'll catch on as being all nouveau-riche and popular, and then all new starter houses will come equipped with one. That's the dream.

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