Universal Design

Featured in SNAP magazine

Magnolia Mid-Mod continues to get noticed for its innovative design solutions, especially in the kitchen where ergonomics and workflow were carefully considered together with the different abilities of standing and seated users. Most recently, it was featured in SNAP magazine  (Sweets News and Products), published by Architectural Record.

In the pre-internet era, you would not have found an architect's office without current copies of the Sweets catalogs in their resource library. So, it's especially flattering to have been included in the Product Specs "Accessible Design Solutions" section of this publication, which serves as a "yellow pages" and inspiration source for other architects.

(The products editor, Sheila Kim, also included a handwritten note with my copy that made my day: "Your project truly demonstrates how beauty & accessibility can coexist.")

Video Tour: Magnolia Mid-Mod

There is a lot more story to tell (and stuff to show) about this wonderfully livable and accessible home than photos alone can capture.  

So, when the fabulous Chibi Moku team decided to film in the Pacific Northwest for a few weeks this summer, Karen and I jumped at the opportunity.  Enjoy!

A Personal Review of the Toto Washlet

Toto Washlet with wall-mounted control

Toto Washlet with wall-mounted control

What is a Toto Washlet? 

A Toto Washlet is a toilet seat that adds the functionality of a bidet to a toilet.  It allows you to clean yourself with the assistance of water without moving to a different fixture. Toto makes several models, each with different options and also with varying shapes to fit elongated or round toilet bowls.

How do I use one?

I found this short video created for Westerners that are planning to visit Japan that explains how to use a Toto Washlet (they describe it as a modern, Western-style toilet). Bonus: You also get a little lesson in etiquette to find out how to know if the restroom is occupied, and what to do if a traditional Japanese toilet is your only option.

How do I try one out?

Toto has a list of locations (including hotels and restaurants) that have Washlets, so you could make a special trip to try one out in person.  Unfortunately, though, they are not in every state.  

Plumbing showrooms will often have one on the floor, but not one that you can use.  The best I have seen in person is one that was hooked up to water.  You could turn the nozzle on and watch the water through a clear plastic lid, but for obvious reasons, that doesn't answer all the questions that one might have.

I was thrilled when I found one in my hotel room at the Aria Resort & Casino on a recent trip to Las Vegas.   Finally, I could discover for myself what all the fuss is about and share it with all of you!  (If you book a room at this hotel, be sure to ask if your room will have one.  We stayed in a "Corner Suite.")

And, here's my personal review (unfiltered, you're welcome):


Heated Seat.  What a luxury!  This is worth it, worth it, WORTH it in my opinion.  So nice to be spared the "Oh my God, that's COLD!" reaction.  

Heated Water.  Important for the same reason above

Adjustable pressure/pattern of water spray.  After all, no two bodies are alike.   

Programmable personal preferences.  Once you find what works for you, it is a simple push of a button to get to your programmed preferences. Different users, different programs.   


I say "good to know" because I don't have any "bad things" to say -- just some things that are good to know that you won't know unless you experience them or hear them from someone who has (and who probably does more research on toilets than your average friend, no?). 

The adjustable nozzle position is important.  The one I tested did not have this feature. I found myself having to sit differently on the seat. This was not that big of a deal for me, as I am small and able-bodied. However, if the user does not have the same ability to move around (or doesn't want to have to think about changing a habit that has been formed over a lifetime of toilet-use), then the ability to adjust the position of the nozzle is important. 

You will still need toilet paper.  The washing and blowdrying does a very good job, but you will probably still need to use a small amount of toilet paper. Water alone will not get the job done. This is something to be especially aware of if you are shopping for someone who has difficulty with the dexterity required to self-clean. It should reduce, but not completely eliminate the need for periodic nursing assistance. Again, without a little toilet paper, you will not be squeaky clean.  

Why would I want one? 

I have had several homeowners choose to install a Washlet, and they fall into three categories: 

  1. They are from a country where using a bidet is the norm.

  2. They are shopping for a family member who has some dexterity challenges that make personal hygiene difficult.

  3. They are planning to age-in-place and are choosing features that will support independent living for as long as possible.

Which model should I get?

Assuming you have an elongated bowl shape, I would go with the Toto Washlet S500e. They range in price from $900-$1,499 retail (your plumber will buy them for much less if they are purchasing from a plumbing retailer, or you can purchase directly from amazon. Currently amazon's price is less than $900). These models have the nozzle position adjustment as well as the instantaneous water heating, electrolyzed water spray that keeps the bowl cleaner, deodorizer, adjustable water temperature and pressure, heated seat, warm air dryer, a pre-mist function that wets the bowl before use, and a self-cleaning wand. Toto has a comparison chart that compares other features for other models.

If you feel like splurging, the Toto Washlet S550e adds an automatic open and close lid and a night light for about a hundred dollars more.


What if I don't want to buy it now.  Can I add one later? 

I have lots of clients who go ahead and have the electrician put the required outlet in place during construction so that the homeowners can add a Washlet later. Just be sure that you choose a Toto toilet that is compatible with the Washlet you want. (Stay with Toto brand for the best fit.) Oh, and don't forget to have an outlet installed on the correct side of the toilet for the Washlet you choose.

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate if you click through and make a purchase.  All opinions are my own.