Modern toilets have more amenities than you can shake a brush at

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When remodeling a bathroom, homeowners tend to focus on tiles, bathtubs and showers, things that make this most private of spaces visually appealing and comfortable.

The Herbeau Dagobert Wooden Throne Toilet comes with a kingly price tag -- nearly $14,000 when you add in sanitary equipment.
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When you gotta go ...

Caroma -- www.caromausa.com; 1-800-605-4218
Herbeau -- www.herbeau.com; 1-800-547-1608.
Kohler -- www.kohler.com; 1-800-456-4537
Brondell -- www.brondell.com; 1-888-542-3355
Toto -- www.totousa.com; 1-770-282-8686
Waterless -- www.waterless.com
Zero Flush -- www.zeroflush.com; 1-407-935-1180
Fish 'n Flush -- www.fishnflush.com; 1-714-898-7016
Neptune -- www.neptuneb.com; 1-888-366-7058

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But the toilet? The biggest decision often boils down to color -- standard white or biscuit?

Look a bit closer, however, and you'll realize the market is flush with choices, johns that can not only warm, wash and dry but save water and the environment, too.

Toilets are sometimes facetiously referred to as "the throne," but few are as regal as Herbeau's Dagobert wooden throne toilet. The stuff of fairy tales -- "Shrek" immediately comes to mind -- this 5 1/2-foot-tall, solid-ash lavatory features a high-profile seat back with a Gothic arched top, full armrests and a built-in ashtray and candle holder. There's also a porcelain plate mounted on the back that's inscribed, in French or English, with a poem by Alfred du Musset.

What makes this toilet feel especially royal, however, is the fact that is plays music whenever the seat is raised. That, and the price, a kingly $12,182, plus another $1,593 for the sanitary equipment.

Toto's Neorest toilet, which ranges in price from about $3,200 to $5,980, depending on model and color, is just as majestic but for a different reason: This tankless, one-piece toilet automatically opens when you approach it, then automatically flushes and closes the lid when you leave.

But what really sets this sleek toilet apart is that it washes and dries your bottom for you. At the touch of a button (the controls are either attached to the seat or on a remote control), a small, hidden wand extends from the back of the rim and sprays heated water upward. Afterward, an air dryer turns on, followed by an automatic air purifier. No more searching the cupboards in the dark for toilet paper.

Conceding its price is a bit "scary" for most homeowners, Brenda Corbett, of Elite Plumbing Kitchens & Bath in Canonsburg, said her showroom has probably sold fewer than a dozen a year since the Neorest came on the market about four years ago. But for those for whom money is no object (Will Smith and Cameron Diaz are rumored to be owners), it's a winner.

"It's truly for the person who wants the Mercedes or Cadillac of toilet," she says.

Almost as kind to the rear end but a whole lot cheaper are toilet seats that double as bidets. Designed to be retrofitted on traditional toilets, the seats provide the personal hygiene benefits of a good bidet -- namely, a warm, cleansing stream of water and a drying mechanism -- without the space requirements of an additional fixture. (You will, however, need an electrical supply.)

Models include Kohler's C3 toilet seats, which range in price from $750-$1,300; Toto's Washlet seats, priced from about $727 to $1,248; and Brondell's Swash seats, which start at about $429.

Toto's Neorest toilet automatically opens, closes and flushes, and it will also wash and warm your bottom.
Click photo for larger image.Kohler's Purist Hatbox toilet is a little more than 17 inches high and is ADA-compliant.
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If you'd rather stick with the toilet paper, Kohler's minimalist Purist Hatbox toilet, which was introduced at last year's International Builders Show in Orlando, Fla., is a fashionable option. Streamlined and extra-tall (it stands a little more than 17 inches), this tankless, ADA-compliant toilet looks exactly like a hatbox. But it's also extremely powerful, with a 0.2 hp electric pump. It also has an automatic "quiet close" seat and -- unlike most high-tech toilets -- comes in six colors, including gray. Prices range from $3,000 to $4,500.

Or maybe you're more concerned with the environment than aesthetics. If so, you'll probably be intrigued by the new dual-flush toilets that are just now hitting the market. Today's toilets use less than half the amount of water than those sold before 1994, when a federal law mandating low-flow toilets went into effect. But those with double-flush systems conserve even more water. And they couldn't be easier to use -- you simply push one button for No. 1 and another for No. 2.

Toto's Aquia dual-flush toilet ($395-$450) uses a mere 0.9 gallons per flush for liquids, while Neptune's designer Murano and Parma models ($719-$769) and Caroma's more than a dozen models range in price from $500 to $1,000 and use just 0.8 gpf.

Chris Cieslak, owner of Chronicle Consulting LLC, which offers LEED (Leadership in Energy Environmental Design) design and construction coordination, recently put two Aquia toilets in her Ben Avon house -- one in a third-floor master bedroom suite and another in the basement.

"I'm always trying to get my clients to embrace the green movement, and I couldn't really do that without putting my money where my mouth is," she says.

It's so user-friendly that even 5-year-old Cara has no problem negotiating the buttons.

Green homeowners like the Cieslaks, however, are still a rare breed. While a handful of local kitchen and bath supply companies have dual-flush models on their showroom floors, they're not selling. But that's probably largely because people still don't know about them.

"We see it as a coming trend," says Stephen Baker, president of Crescent Supply, a distributor of residential plumbing fixtures and fittings in Lawrenceville.

Consumers are already looking for lavatories that are more comfortable to sit on. Heated toilet seats, like those offered by Kohler, Toto and Brondell, are especially popular among homeowners with aging knees, along with "universal height" toilets, which stand anywhere from 1 to 2 inches taller than a conventional commode.

The self-contained and water-saving Sanicompact toilet.
Click photo for larger image.AquaOne Technologies' whimsical Fish 'n Flush toilet.
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"Baby boomers are getting older, and even an inch makes a difference when you have to sit," says Ms. Corbett.

And if you're merely looking for something that'll add a touch of whimsy to your bath? AquaOne Technologies' new Fish 'n Flush tank is pretty darn goofy. Crafted out of clear plastic, this two-piece tank does double duty as fish tank; the 2.2-gallon aquarium piece wraps around the 2.5-gallon toilet tank.

The $299 price tag includes gravel, two 9-inch plastic plants, a dual filter system, LED lighting and a built-in feeder. The aquarium itself accepts fresh water or salt water.

All you need to do is add the fish -- and pray to God little Johnny isn't so enthralled by the theatrics that he forgets to aim.


Gretchen McKay can be reached at gmckay@post-gazette.com or 412-761-4670.


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