Is it time for the toilet to finally come out of the (water) closet?

© Kohler Numi, the perfect toilet for your Case Study House living room

A few years back I had fun with an advertising campaign for the Kohler Numi toilet, where it was photographed in a Case Study house in a reconstruction of perhaps the most famous architectural photograph ever. I wrote: "I am excited by this new trend of putting toilets in the living room, where they can serve additional functions as a stool or end table, while providing the user with a dramatic view." There were hundreds of comments complaining. (Alas, all gone when we switched commenting systems)

lixil toilet in roomLixil/Promo image

Over on Quartz, Shelly Banjo writes about the toilet of the future being developed by Lixil, the Japanese company eating up plumbing companies around the world, from American Standard to Grohe.

The toilet adjusts the seat and settings based on weight and body type. It starts playing the soothing music you’ve pre-selected, or starts an audiobook. There’s a nightlight for when nature calls in the dark. And if it’s cold, it automatically heats the seat.

And wait, there's more:

But it’s toilets that get [CEO] Fujimori, or Fuji as he is referred to, most excited. He tells me his research and development team are feverishly working to turn the toilet into a type of health center—a smart machine that will be able to test a person’s urine and bowel movements in real-time. This could identify early indicators of a potential disease, alert a user to pregnancy, or even help manage certain chronic kidney or other health conditions.

And I wonder, now that the toilet is more than just a waste removal fixture, morphing into an entertainment center and medical device, if it still should be hidden away or should it have a more prominent position in the home.

bathroom in bedroomLloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Interestingly, these high end toilet companies often show these placed in wide open spaces where you would not expect to find them, in more public and open spaces. But on a visit to a tiny laneway house in Vancouver last week I saw that people are doing this in smaller spaces where they want to keep it feeling open and bright. Before the tour started the owner announced "If anyone has to use the washroom, go do it now because there's no wall or door!"

I did not take her up on the offer, but I can imagine how the view from the throne would be a lot nicer there than it is, say in my house, where my nose is up against a door even while I sit on my fancy Toto.

These fancy new toilets don't smell; they have internal fans that route odors to the outside before they get out of the bowl. They play music to cover unwanted noises. They are quite nice to look at. While perhaps putting it in the living room is a bit much, I wonder if they belong in the bedroom now; it could save a lot of space and make it a nicer experience than you get while stuck in a windowless little room. What do you think?

Is it time for the toilet to finally come out of the (water) closet?
With people living in smaller spaces and with better toilets, perhaps it is.

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