Dream and reality. One floats up there in the sky, glinting and unreachable. The other is down here, streaked with salt and mud, squatting. More and more, people these days truck in "hold fast to dreams" sentiment. That may be fine in personal manifestos, but your home demands practicality. As the great interior designer Mick Jagger knew, you can't always get what you want. But if you try, you'll find you get what you need.
But what does that look like in the bathroom, one of the most complicated rooms of your home? With the many fixtures you must consider - each with specific technical, functional, and aesthetic demands - getting what you need means being clear on what you want.
The first step is quieting the noise of the market and its dizzying multiplicity of choice. By way of helping, I've collected my favourite bathroom fixtures. While some are realistic - and others fanciful - sound design is what connects them all.
When I lie back and daydream about beautiful sinks, my mind always returns to the vessel sink. Recently, it's one in particular - the Be, from the Canadian manufacturer Wetstyle. It sits delicately on the counter, with a structural softness that pairs elegantly with a crisp stone counter and vanity. What prevents my using it more is simply cost - at $950, it's a tough sell to clients.
The sink we use most is a white porcelain undermount that Kohler, the maker, calls its "vertical rectangular sink." Undermount sinks have their edges concealed by the countertop, and the rectilinear shape of this one makes it a fresh alternative to round or ovoid sinks.
The beauty of a faucet is the same as the beauty of a bicycle - it is what it does. What I love about a good fixture - at the risk of sounding like a BMW commercial - is the wedding of form and function.
Speaking of marriage, the whole office is in love with the Tara (from Dornbracht), perhaps the most beautiful gooseneck faucet ever designed. In a room of hard surfaces and straight edges, Tara exudes an effortless femininity. Trouble is, not many people look seriously at a faucet worth as much as a flight to Hong Kong. None of our clients has yet said yes to sweet Tara, but we'll keep trying.
Two more accessible favourites are the Purist (from Kohler) and the Atrio (from Grohe). Both are elegantly clean and tubular, and complement many lighting and door-hardware styles. I'm also a fan of American Standard's Serin series, whose restrained chrome detailing fits nicely in the updated traditional home so popular in Canada. (It's a great price, too.)
Just because it's a toilet doesn't mean it has to be ugly. If, like me, you're pleased by clean and contemporary simplicity, you can't do better than the Aquia Dual-Flush, by Toto. It's modern without being severe, and looks completely at home in transitional interiors.
Toilets are one area where dreams and reality don't plot easily on the price spectrum. At the top end of the market, designers are trying hard to make statement pieces. But I think the toilets look goofy. The charm of the Toto is that, for around $600, you get a beautiful fixture positioned perfectly at the intersection of beauty and function.
Showers are like AV equipment - talk to the wrong expert and you'll come home with a system that exceeds your needs. Better to keep it simple and buy quality, and for that I love Hansgrohe. Their showers use a patented system to infuse the water with air, which softens it while reducing your water usage. It's a shower that pleases the body as much as the eye.
Hansgrohe showers chart a middle course between dream and reality. They're certainly expensive - around $2,800 for a full system - but they get nowhere near the $15,000 you can spend at the very top end of the market.
There, clients fixate on luxuries like jet systems and large, ceiling-mounted rain heads. I'm not fond of either. They're wonderful in a spa, but impractical day to day. Most women find it difficult to wash their hair or shave their legs under a huge rain head, and jet systems require showers large enough that you can stand back from the jets, otherwise you feel trapped in a car wash.
A tub may be the most beautiful object you ever put in your home. And if I'm ignoring price - and even CSA approval - without a doubt I'm taking the Ottocento, by Agape. A pared-down interpretation of a traditional cast-iron tub, the vessel is elegant and whimsical. It's also 10 grand, and not terribly functional (it has no jets), strikes that do nothing to dull my ardour.
A more realistic favourite is the Thalassa, by Bain Ultra. An undermount, it's framed in a box that's then clad in wood, tile or stone. I love the Thalassa for the feeling of restrained luxury it gives a room. It's possible that the interior styling is overcooked, but you'll find it extremely comfortable. With the tub jets gurgling and a glass of Malbec at your elbow, you may discover that the bathroom as good a place as any to ponder the paradoxes of dreams and reality.