Bathrooms: The top design ideas for the best seat in the house
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Bathrooms: The top design ideas for the best seat in the house

Mar 25, 2024

Viva back-to-the wall toilet with matching basin. Here the toilet sits on the floor but the cistern is supported in a frame in the wall, with a flush plate completing the look. Prices from €227, suppliers include

When building new or renovating, the toilet is something that will become a mysterious and magnificent obsession. It’s a servant that forms such an integral part of our life at home, and having a comfortable, attractive loo that sits quietly in the surrounds of your bathroom or en-suite — well, it’s oddly important. Here are the basics to find your top throne.

Close-coupled toilets have largely replaced traditional low and high-level cisterns in Irish bathrooms as they form one, stable, handsome unit. The cistern sits on an extended base (some designs are just all in one), which supports the weight of the cistern even before it is fully attached to the wall.

Last week, I heaved my father’s low-level cistern back into position after its exhausted 1990s wall plugs and a dab of Grip-fix gave up (yes, the gasket perished and it all went south). I returned home and saluted my two close-coupled buddies.

Close-coupled varieties also come in pleasing heritage styles if that’s what you fancy, with period-inclined high cisterns now offering metallic finishes to flush pipes and cistern brackets as standard. The Ideal Standard Waverly is a well-priced high cistern type at €530; various suppliers.

The close-coupled cistern has other advantages. Upright in nature, the cistern can be quite tall, drawing the profile of the toilet back for a slightly shorter pan projection in a small bathroom — 650mm is considered a short projection with anything up to 700mm about standard; very handy if you’re dealing with a close door swing.

The general area for the toilet, including room for knees and elbows, is about 700mm across and 1200cm front to back (with a cistern on show). Leave 150mm-200mm on either side of any loo for a man to turn out his feet standing facing the bowl. Choose from curved, squared, tapering and even corner models of the close-coupled loo, some of which are styled to match pedestal and in-set basins.

Now we come to backs, and this refers not to the cistern but to the back of the (bottom) pan section of the loo. There are two choices with floor standing loos — open-backed or fully shrouded. In a fully shrouded toilet, the ceramic completely covers the waste outlet and inlet pipe in a very tidy finish. You simply won’t see any crude pipework. Depending on where the toilet is placed in the bathroom or en-suite, this can make all the difference to a crisp, elegant finish without a ghastly grot-catching gap at floor level. All that said, I’ve just installed an open-backed loo, which blooms so pleasingly out of the floor, I’m happy to attend to the extra swipe of the mop.

In an open back or semi-shrouded base, the waste pipe is right there — not always a pretty sight unless book-ended by say the vanity and a wall. More material means more cost and you can expect to pay as much as €100 more for a fully shrouded model of the same toilet in a range.

With an open back, there’s more wiggle room for your plumber, as much as 6cm when placing the waste pipe and, obviously, it is more available if there’s an issue (not likely if it’s put in correctly in the first place).

Close-coupled toilets in either open backs or shrouds are a good choice to update an existing bathroom where you are not moving the waste position and can do without the extra sophistication of a hidden cistern. The waste can be taken back through the wall or down through the floor.

Where you don’t want to have your cistern on show, you’ll be looking for a wall-hung toilet (suspended on a strong frame capable of taking up from 200kg to 400kg, or a back-to-the-wall toilet. The only design difference is that the back-to-the-wall (not to be confused with a shrouded close-coupled loo) stands down on the floor. The cistern is hidden either in the wall or in a dedicated piece of furniture that may run into a vanity — a popular hotel en-suite arrangement for crisp, clean lines. A push-plate is set on the wall in most cases and, blowing the budget, IR touch-free operation is a bit of extra luxury and hygiene.

In terms of budget, you’ll always pay more for that wall-hung model, so ensure that the supporting frame, flush plate and hidden cistern are included in the bundle for the best deal. Wall-hung toilets must be very well supported, but they can be used on stud walls in the hands of the right contractor. They are the priciest loo choice in most instances, double that of a typical close-coupled model, and demand more professional attention and installation costs. Chances are, the skills of your builder, carpenter and plumber will outstrip the price of the toilet, cistern and fixings.

Keep in mind that a wall-hung toilet may create an illusion of more space, but if you have to include a false, half-wall in stud to make it happen, it may not buy you more actual centimetres on the floor. For the true super-loo, price up models to include a heated seat, power flush, motion-activated rinsing, bowl lights and other luxuries.

Automatic flush choices and intelligent technology are increasingly popular with many cosseted technophiles, and scoffed at by others, content with a good-looking, manually operated toilet. With just 3l-5l of water required in the dual-flush cistern today, a bog-standard new close-coupled toilet will be far quieter than any old 9l wall-hung cistern you’re replacing.

Back at the pan, there’s another choice to be made, and it’s a bit of forward-thinking if your joints are beginning to argue with you on the way down. The comfort-level toilet offers around 4cm-8cm of extra height (most bowls sans the seat land in the area 39cm-40cm from the floor). With floor-mounted show toilets, it’s hard to notice on sight, but just have a sit and you feel that blessed receiving surface arriving just a bit sooner as you squat.

Inside the bowl, you can go rimless, removing that bacteria hotel that we all hate, with a very efficient flush to remove (ahem) lingering matter. This will add to the spend but rimless toilet prices are approaching standard toilet prices as their novelty fades.

Going up the scale, you can pay more for dedicated triple-vortex flush systems like Grohe (from €380). At the very least, we will have a 3l/6l dual flush without any splashing that should completely clean the bowl. I cannot vouch for ion coatings and anti-bacterial porcelain, but there are ceramics which bead moisture and prevent any sticking to the surface.

A serious improvement, and well worth including with your new loo if it comes as a package is the quick-release toilet seat. Apart from easy replacement where needed, these models come away effortlessly to get your cloth and disinfectant into those areas around the hinges. Soft close, quick release? Perfect.

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