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The best seat in the house

By JUDY STARK

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 15, 2001


Mike Haverley just loves to talk about toilet seats, and he knows a lot about them. This is a good thing when you're the field sales manager of retail bath products for Bemis Manufacturing, which describes itself as the world's largest manufacturer of toilet seats. "Eighty percent of the market is hard seats -- wood and plastic -- and the rest is soft seats," Haverley says. Toilet seats range in price from $5 or $6 to as high as $75 to $100 (even more for designer brands, some of which are featured on this page). The average price is $23.

Mike Haverley just loves to talk about toilet seats, and he knows a lot about them. This is a good thing when you're the field sales manager of retail bath products for Bemis Manufacturing, which describes itself as the world's largest manufacturer of toilet seats. "Eighty percent of the market is hard seats -- wood and plastic -- and the rest is soft seats," Haverley says. Toilet seats range in price from $5 or $6 to as high as $75 to $100 (even more for designer brands, some of which are featured on this page). The average price is $23.

"Seventy percent of toilet seats are bought or specified by women," Haverley says. "It's considered a home fashion item, not a plumbing item. One-third of all toilet seats are replaced every three years. It's a cheap improvement, a way to change the look and dynamic of a room." Bemis offers seats in 95 colors.

Celebrity note: Performer Janet Jackson and Queen Elizabeth II of England travel with their own toilet seats.

Toilet seats are "sold by the pound," Haverley said. Weight is equated with quality; buyers regard a heavier seat as a better seat. A composite seat is made from a wood "flour" and plastic resin that are molded, heated and compressed.

Over its 100-year history, Bemis, a fabricator of wood and plastic composites, also has made bodies for Gibson guitars, resin outdoor furniture and garden accessories, shuffleboard discs, croquet equipment, bowling pins, boccie balls and parts for the Playskool Tyke Bike and other wheeled toddler toys.

Meanwhile, for amusement or amazement, here's what's new for bathrooms without budgets.

- JUDY STARK

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A SNUG FIT: If tight spaces are a problem, take a look at the Neo-Comby from Acorn. It combines a toilet, sink and storage cabinet in one, and the toilet can be angled left or right. It comes in stainless steel (prison chic? uptown sleek?). It's about $5,000. The Neo-Comby won this year's first-place Overall Product Innovator Award from Kitchen and Bath Business magazine. Web site: www.neo-metro.com, or call Acorn toll-free at 1-800-591-9050.

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FIT FOR A KING: Turn a toilet into a chic seat by disguising it with a Throne. These wooden covers drop over an existing toilet and need only a screwdriver to attach the seat. They come in three styles: the Queen Anne, in maple, cherry and mahogany with inlays and carving ($3,000); the Classic, in mahogany, maple and cherry ($2,400); and the Adirondack, in a gloss white or natural beadboard look ($1,800). The Throne Room, in Stuart: (561) 221-7667.

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LOOKS LIKE A MILLION: "These are statement toilets, very, very, very high end," a spokeswoman for LandMark MetalCoat said in describing these metal-coated fixtures (sinks and tubs are available as well). They come in polished or antiqued bronze, brass, copper and nickel silver. The coating is 95 percent pure metal with 5 percent binder that bonds to the china fixture and is topped with a hand-applied resin coating. Suggested list price for the Venetian toilet is $8,500. For the Intaglio, a texture is applied by hand first, then it's coated in a metal finish (here, nickel silver). Call toll-free 1-877-863-8252 in California or visit the Web site at www.landmarkmetalcoat.com.

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THIS ONE HAS A REMOTE CONTROL: The Jasmin Washlet seat has front and back warm-water sprays whose temperature and water pressure can be regulated. Or you can switch to a pulsating massagelike water flow or a spray diffuser. It has a seat warming unit, air deodorizer, dryer function and energy-saving mode. You operate it with its own battery-powered remote control keypad, which you hang on the wall or hold in your hand like a Palm device. Ah, technology! It starts at $1,200. Visit www.totowashlet.com; the Florida distributor is Pinnacle Sales Group in Dundee, (863) 439-2453.

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