When the jet-black toilet was introduced by Kohler in the 1920s, it was considered so avant-garde that it was featured in a 1929 Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit about the design of the "modern bath and dressing room."
This spring, when designer Scott Sanders installed a black toilet (Kohler's Memoirs Stately) and black sink (Kohler's Caxton undermount) in his powder room at the 2018 Kips Bay Decorator Show House, it was still considered avant-garde.
"A white toilet and a white sink are the most expected thing you can do in a bathroom," says Sanders, who is based in New York. "A powder room should be chic and interesting. It's great to treat your guests to something really unexpected."
Sanders admits it's not a look for everyone. "It's not the first time I've used one. Sometimes if you suggest it, though, you do get some pushback. 'A black toilet?' They look at you like you have two heads." But Sanders explains that basic black blends in more than white does, allowing for a greater number of wallpaper choices.
George Costanza, arguably the most neurotic character on the classic sitcomSeinfeld, had something akin to encyclopedic knowledge of Manhattan's public restroom scene – or, as he would have described it, its most "magnificent facilities."
But would you believe us if we said Orlando has its own washroom academic?
Enter Lisa Hardt, whose Instagram project, @theshittybeautiful, has inspired a series of local toilet tours.
For the last year, Hardt has chronicled the City Beautiful's loos, from the disturbingly wrecked to the quaint and elegant. It's less a crappy hobby than it is a way of recording some of Orlando's best and booziest nooks – and, to be clear, she's less the hysterical Costanza type than she is enagaging and quick to laugh.
Her semi-regular outings now take place every month or two, but the idea behind presenting free toilet tours was born accidentally, springing out of a photo folder on her phone.
"It was a thing that kept happening when I was in bathrooms: I wanted to take photos of things, so I just started a weird folder on my phone that I always joked I would do something with," Hardt says. "And after making this joke for, like, six months, my friends encouraged me to actually make it into a thing."
But it's not exactly the type of toilet tour that you might expect – she doesn't drag fans from place to place just to poke their heads inside random restrooms – which, frankly, doesn't sound all that appealing considering the hazards that come with the territory. Really, it's more about finding an excuse to get to the restrooms once you're there – and by that we mean she and her @theshittybeautiful fans are pretty much just out to drink and be merry.
After all, is there no greater common denominator between us than nature's call?
"Orlando's great about having locally owned businesses and I think any time you can support that in your community, you're making your community a better place," Hardt says. "A lot of times when we do these tours, you might have been to one or two of the places, but there's a lot of places you haven't been to and you might find your new favorite bar, or you might just make some new friends – which is also good."
She continues: "I've definitely found some gems that I didn't know existed from doing research for the toilet tours, and I'd love to pass that on to other people."
So what makes for the best sort of public restroom? Let's take it from Hardt.
In the opinion of this bathroom bon vivant, there are two vital qualities when it comes to ranking the most lavish lavatories: cleanliness and appearance.
Sorted into two categories – the shitty and the beautiful – here are Hardt's 10 current favorite bathrooms in Orlando. (She means "shitty" in a good way, of course, because you can't appreciate the shitty without the beautiful, at least not in the City Beautiful.)
Hardt says her favorite thing about the bathrooms inside Will's Pub is that they are so different every time you walk in, whether for better or worse – but that usually means something along the lines of new graffiti, stickers, etc. The bathrooms match the pub: punk rock, full of personality, one of a kind
Similar to Will's, the bathroom walls of Stardust are an ever-changing landscape. They were smart enough to put clipboards on the walls for people to write and draw on, which makes the graffiti appear more artistic and intentional than it might seem otherwise. Her favorite part is the graffiti all over the baby-changing station, which seems to label this as a bathroom for cool parents only.
OK, so this bathroom isn't always at its cleanliest. In fact, it's usually pretty raunchy. However, what it lacks in cleanliness it makes up for in personality. Tanqueray's is a basement bar, which is already unique for Orlando, and to get to the bathrooms you have to walk up a few steps. That sounds easy enough, but Tanqueray's bartenders are pretty heavy-handed, so the stairs get exponentially more challenging throughout the night. Those factors do equate to the perfect formula when it comes to making friends while standing in line, though.
There are multiple bathrooms here, but in this case, Hardt's specifically referring to the unisex one hidden in the corner. Finding this bathroom is an adventure in itself, but it usually smells better than others – so it's worth the search. Once there, you'll notice the eclectic paintings, including a cute yet terrifying cat portrait right above the toilet. It's also the only place where she's noticed ashtrays in the bathrooms, which could be a positive or a negative depending on who you are. Looking beyond these flourishes, the sink is surprisingly fancy, with a beautiful floral backsplash.
Everything in these bathrooms is uber hip, which makes sense: The Guesthouse is definitely one of the most Instagrammed bars in town. But the palm tree-patterned wallpaper is what really sells it, making it oh so Florida. It's Hardt's favorite bathroom for a good mirror selfie, she says.
It's technically a boutique in Oakland, Florida, not an Orlando bar – but this one needs to be included, Hardt says. You can tell a lot of thought and love went into every inch of the new Collective Kindness home, and it doesn't start and end in the bathroom. From the hand-stenciled floor to the hand-painted walls by Jessa Bray, this bathroom is simultaneously chic and unique.
Tap & Grind
A hidden gem (and a 2016 Best of Orlando Writer's Pick winner) where the walls are covered in a beautiful tile mosaic. But the coolest part is the black light paintings, Hardt says enthusiastically – when you turn off the lights, you get a whole different bathroom experience. It's also usually super clean, which is a good thing because black lights aren't very forgiving.
Harriett's Lounge at the Dr. Phillips Center
Named after one of Orlando's coolest philanthropists, the legendary Harriett Lake, this is the classiest bathroom in Orlando. All of the bathrooms are amazing at the Dr. Phillips Center, but this lounge, located on the first floor, is the definition of perfection. There are chandeliers, love seats, giant mirrors, the most perfect lighting for your selfie needs and – Hardt's favorite part – purse hooks by the sinks. Consider it a huge deal. Hardt says she never knew she needed hooks by the sink, and now she's pretty much forever spoiled.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has gone to extreme measures to make sure he’s well-protected during his visit to Singapore for a summit with President Trump — including packing his own toilet.
The unusual step is reportedly a precaution intended to prevent intelligence agencies from trying to learn about the North Korean leader’s health.
According to USA Today, The Chosunilbo, one of South Korea’s biggest circulated newspapers, reported that Kim was traveling with his own toilet to “deny determined sewer divers insights into to the supreme leader’s stools.”
This isn’t the first time Kim has used a porta-potty during his rare trips outside his country.
Kim Jong Un (left) and Donald Trump
STR/AFP/Getty; Douglas Gorenstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty
He also brought one along for his April meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the border village of Panmunjom, USA Today said.
Lee Yun Keol, who worked in a North Korean Guard Command unit before defecting to South Korea in 2005, said the country’s leader always travels with his own personal toilet.
“Rather than using a public restroom, the leader of North Korea has a personal toilet that follows him around when he travels,” Lee told The Washington Post in April. “The leader’s excretions contain information about his health status so they can’t be left behind.”
For this week’s summit, North Korea also reportedly loaded a plane with a bulletproof limo for Kim, and special food to ensure that he won’t be poisoned. As an additional precaution, Kim flew to Singapore with two decoy planes to thwart any potential assassination attempts.
On Twitter Monday, many cracked jokes about Kim’s travel toilet — and some referenced the 2014 film The Interview, which said North Koreans have been led to believe that Kim doesn’t urinate or defecate. (This is based on actual North Korean propaganda about Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il.)
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson might have the most out-of-this-world job possible but the astronaut has candidly revealed one of the most bizarre and shocking downsides to living on the International Space Station (ISS) – how astronauts use the toilet in zero gravity.
The American astronaut broke the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman after she spent a staggering 665 days in orbit.
Whitson returned to earth on September 3, 2017 when her Soyuz capsule landed in Kazakhstan shortly after sunrise.
Along with performing her tenth career EVA and accruing a cumulative EVA time more than 60 hours, during her time in space she also had to master one delicate process – the art of going to the toilet in space.
According to Dr Whitson, being part of the research crews onboard the ISS was “incredibly satisfying and gratifying”
Using the toilet for regular business is “relatively easy” the astronaut said, thanks to a personal funnel and suction fan used to collect urine.
Number two is more challenging because you're trying to hit a pretty small target
Peggy Whitson, NASA astronaut
Seemingly nothing on the ISS goes to waste and the collected urine is filtered for more than a week before it is repurposed as drinking water.
Dr Whitson said: “We want a closed loop system, which means we have to recycle all our water.”
About 80 to 85 percent of all liquid waste is recycled into water and the rest is disposed of.
But the astronauts face a bigger challenge when they need to use the toilets for longer durations.
Dr Whitson said: “Number two is more challenging because you're trying to hit a pretty small target.”
The tiny ISS cubicle toilets suction away all waste through a roughly-plate sized toilet hole.
Astronauts need to strap themselves in with leg restraints and trust the vacuum cleaner-like toilets do their job.
After the astronauts are done, the excrement is sealed up in a plastic bag for disposal.
But system failures happen every once in a while, which can be quite troubling for the astronauts trying to get about their work.
The astronaut revealed: “After it starts getting full you have to put a rubber glove on and pack it down.”
And occasionally the astronauts will have to play catch with any stray waste material they may find wafting around the cramped space station.
All solid waste collected by the space toilets is mixed with other ISS rubbish and blasted off towards Earth to spectacularly burn up in the atmosphere upon reentry.
According to NASA, all astronauts follow hygiene routines on the ISS identical to those back on Earth.
Astronauts simply sleep, eat, shower andgo to the bathroom with the added disadvantage of being suspendedmid-air.