The Bidet Story

During the many years I spent designing homes for the upwardly mobile retiree's in this sleepy southern town the challenge of placing a bidet in your standard size bathroom became a common occurrence. When I started in the home design business most bathrooms were just big enough to hold the three porcelain necessities. At that time when you designed a home with a bidet with a few extra feet were added to allow for the extra commode. People requesting one were generally from another country where they were customary or were affluent enough to afford a spacious bathroom that lent itself rather well to the added fixture. Somewhere along in the eighties things started to change however. Bathroom no longer seemed to be a necessity. They became "artistic statements". Status symbols that needed to reek of money instead of the usual aromas associated with this room. At the same time property for new homes was becoming a problem Prices were skyrocketing. One really couldn't afford the extra land to house a bidet. However this sudden need for them didn't deter the average homeowner from insisting that one be erected in their future home. Questioning their usefulness to someone tended to open up a whole new set of problems. It seemed that this future generation of bidet owners didn't have a clue what they were used for. They would sit at my conference table with these baffled looks on their faces when asked whether one was a necessity to them. No one really wanted to admit their lack of knowledge on this somewhat sensitive subject. Answering some of their questions such as "do these things need a seat?" or "do you flush them when you're finished using them?"left me in somewhat of a quandary. No where in college had I ever encountered the proper etiquette for explaining the proper etiquette for explaining the use of bathroom fixtures. Including a users manual in the drawings seemed a little tasteless. This pretty much left them on their own to do the research. As a rule most people did obtain the information before the final plans were drawn. However they would often tell me in no uncertain terms that they had absolutely no intention of ever using this latest fashion trend. Even the thought seemed to horrify some. The suggestion that maybe then this was an area to cut cost was always met with a resounding "NO". I would then ask if they were open to robbing a feet from the bedroom or bathroom to allow ample room for their bidet? "NO" they would once again reply. This started many long nights at my drawing board struggling to come up with a placement. Locating the bidet above the commode sometimes seemed like the only solution. Thought maybe I could con them with the idea of being the first one on their block to have "stackable fixtures". That one didn't fly! By this time they had done enough homework to realize that even though they didn't plan on ever using the bidet having it at floor level was essential. In home design there are standard sizes for floor area that allow for ample leg room around your fixtures. Cutting down on the width of this area really presents a problem. Getting stuck between the commode and tub could become a reality and cause one to literally fall in the bidet if they did ever attempt to use it. I could envision an increase in the number of 911 calls. Rescue workers rushing to the scene to retrieve homeowners from being flushed into the city sewer systems. As the 80's went on more and more problems arose. People were expanding the size of the Master Bath. Of coarse at the same time Master Bedrooms were steadily declining in size. Things such as fireplaces were now being moved from other areas of the house to the bath area. Large whirlpool tubs with marble decking and steps surrounding them had become a new status symbol. The larger the tub, the more respect one acquired in their community. Of coarse as a rule these tubs didn't get used a lot. Some homeowners even contemplated with the idea of filling them with plants..Huge amounts of hot water were needed to fill them requiring much larger hot water heaters. The brass fixtures on them didn't take kindly to constantly getting wet. Separate walk in showers with lots of glass to graciously overlook the tubs were the next idea. Of coarse by this time it was decided that having your commode and bidet exposed in the bathroom area looked "tacky. Separate little commode rooms were needed. Of coarse by this time very little room was left to accommodate the two fixtures. Once again back to working a bidet in to undersized quarters. People always wanted a door on these cubbies. These doors had to open in to the small room. Any flaws at placing the door could be another disaster. I've seen doors that hit the commode causing owners to stand on it when closing the door. Other times the door will allow access if one slides in already seated.. This can cause problems as not everyone using them is the same gender. Reaching your bidet can become physically impossible. If plumbing allows for it pocket doors can be used alleviate the problem.

By sometime in the 90'sthe bidet became Picea'. Cubbies were still being used but just to hold the commode. I guess a lot of people had actually spent a few years living with these new splendid bathrooms. It seemed like a lot of second and third time new home owners started to be more practical in what they wanted in a bathroom. Other rooms in the home started to become the new status symbol such as Media Rooms. At least placing a lot of oversized equipment in to them was left to the homeowner or decorator. My job was done.
Liz Walker


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