Top Five: Plumbing Fixtures

by Matthew Bushey, July 27, 2010

posted by Matthew Bushey, AIA 

Loyal readers of the TruexCullins blog are about to be rewarded, as this week I am dispensing more free design advice with this list of our top five bathroom plumbing fixtures. 

We have been witnessing a trend in bathroom design in recent years, as people give increasing amounts of attention to that room that we spend more time in than we may want to admit.  These rooms meet their obvious functional requirements, but they are also fitted with luxury amenities and fine finishes providing an oasis within the house.  In hospitality design, the bathroom often defines the guest experience just as much as the sleeping quarters.  And in private homes, bathrooms provide a quiet retreat with a spa-like atmosphere that cleanses the soul as much as the body.  

The top five fixtures described below are all elegant fixtures, but they are not overly extravagant or unique novelties.  These are real suggestions for well-designed products.  So at the risk of giving away all of our trade secrets, here now are my picks for top bathroom plumbing fixtures: 

1.  WATERCOVE WADING POOL LAVATORY by Kohler
One of our favorite vanity sinks is the Watercove Wading Pool Lavatory for its modern design and unique form. It has shown up in a few TruexCullins projects, including the new luxury suites at the Portland Harbor Hotel, and the executive guestrooms of Dartmouth’s Buchanan Hall.The first thing everyone asks when reviewing this fixture is: will it splash?  It’s an understandable question, since the side walls are so short, but the honest answer is a reassuring no.  With the right faucet, this sink keeps the water in the vessel where you want it, while looking beautiful at the same time.   We even go so far as to mount this sink on a wood counter – in a hotel setting.  Add some porcelain tile and a wall-mounted faucet and you’ve got a stylish luxury bathroom, with this Kohler sink as the centerpiece.

2.  HAPPY D. WASHBASINS  by Duravit

 

 

I love this line of wall-mounted sinks by Duravit, named Happy D. for the shape of the letter when viewed from above.  This form is most visible in the horizontal surface surrounding the sink and continues into the bowl with a vertical back and gently curing sides.  The vessel seems to smile at you when you stand before it.  This is a happy sink, and if it could talk, it would be saying simply, “good morning.” 

It is available in a range of sizes, starting with the petit handrinse basin at less than 10” deep, perfect for a powder room.  The Happy D. line also includes toilets, bidets, and tubs, but I think the sinks are the purest manifestation of the design. 

3.  AXOR UNO2 FAUCET by Hansgrohe

 

 

Either of the two aforementioned sinks would be well served with the Axor Uno2 faucet from Hansgrohe.  

One of the first things you should ask yourself when selecting a faucet set is whether you want a two-handled operation or a single lever with an integral mixing valve.  I sometimes think that having a separate handle for hot and cold is a throwback to ancient plumbing technology.  If you want warm water, you mix it yourself.  I prefer a single lever that controls flow and temperature.  As water conservation is becoming a more important issue, it’s also a good idea to use a fixture that makes it easier to save water.  When you’re brushing your teeth, for example, it’s convenient to be able to control the water and temperature with one hand. 

This Axor faucet comes in a standard and tall version.  The handle is comfortable to take ahold of, with a loop that extends forward and turns back, providing just enough curve to soften the form, while maintaining its overall masculine, strong stature.  It is a simple, sleek contemporary design that feels at once rugged and graceful. 

4.  NUANCE LAVATORY SET by Sigma 

There is a trend towards simpler design in plumbing fixtures these days, and the 1600 Series Nuance Faucet by Sigma reflects that.  The square cross-section of the spout blends seamlessly with the perfectly rounded arch to make a very modern statement.  These lines are picked up again in the nuance handles. 

There’s an interesting story behind this company.  They are a woman-owned and operated business (rare in the plumbing world) and their products are made in the USA.  They have an environmental initiative that has won them many awards, including for their Southern California manufacturing facility.  The Sigma fixtures are currently being certified under the Watersense program of the EPA, which will count towards LEED points on green buildings. 

5.  PURIST HATBOX TOILET by Kohler 

The toilet isn’t usually the fixture you want to show off in your bathroom, but with the Purist Hatbox Toilet, that may change.  This is not your ordinary toilet.  It has a minimalist design, with clean, straight lines and a simple profile.  The thing sits plainly on the floor like, well, a hatbox.  This is a sexy toilet, if there ever was one.  

The Purist Hatbox features a power-assisted pump that eliminates the need for a tank of standing water.  Kohler calls this “Power Lite technology”, but be warned: because it requires an electrical connection, if the power goes out, you won’t be able to flush. 

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