Our mission is to build the
Sign up now and we'll let you know where you can try it!
Put A Lid On It

What does a toilet seat need? A seat? natch. Hinges? of course. A lid? Well, actually, we weren’t sure. What is a toilet lid for? What is its base function? (we realize it converts your toilet seat into a...normal seat. But if you go to the bathroom just to sit down on something, maybe the product you really need is a chair)

Our initial list:

Keep water from splashing out.
Use the toilet as a seat.
Keep little kids/animals from falling in.
Germs...? One the one hand, a toilet seat is lid is a part of a toilet seat you are obliged to grab with your hand. On the other hand, it does cover over the toilet bowl itself.

So: do we need lids to keep germs out? or are they just an extra surface for more germs to rest on?

This seems to be an ongoing debate: people from both sides take to the internet to argue for and against the effectiveness of lids. Some hospitals have taken to removing toilet lids entirely to avoid any potential cross contamination of patients through handling them.

But, researchers at Leeds University have concluded that the benefits of having a lid greatly outway the risks. Although handling a lid is not great, not having a lid is even worse. When a toilet is flushed without a lid, droplets, many of which are germ filled, become aerosolized and can spread around the bathroom. Lids contain the spray.

It seems our lid design objectives are clear.

We now know that lids are absolutely necessary for cleanliness, but also realize that they can sometimes not be the most germ free. So, the lid must be as easily cleanable as possible. What if we made the lid removable? What materials work best? Are some lid/hinge geometries inherently less germ-accumulating? More development coming your way soon.

Germaphobes we hope you can soon rest easy.

It’s Okay to Have Standards

Or rather, if only there were standards.

There are two standard sizes of toilet: standard-oblong, and standard-round. Round is, naturally, shorter and made for bathrooms with less space. It’s more commonly found apartment buildings. Oblong is used when there is more available space, or in bathrooms that need to match a more luxurious interior decor. It’s often found in restaurants, houses, and interestingly enough most public bathrooms.

All toilet seats, regardless of format, mount via two screw holes in the toilet base spaced 5.5 inches apart. I wish I could say this means any round toilet seat fits any round toilet, but alas. A round seat typically 16.5 inches from mounting screws to seat front, and an oblong seat 18.5. “Typically,” because there’s at least ⅛ inch wiggle room on both sides of that number, and different companies will give different measurements (Round is 16.75 inches or anything less says Kohler). As for width, while 14.5 inches is a good place to start, you won’t find any real consensus. Note that even the diagram in this very post doesn't match the general dimensions I just specified. Profiles vary as well, from oval, to triangular, to all but rectangular.

The problem is that toilet seats and toilets are designed together. An unusually shaped toilet gets an unusually shaped seat. Toilets can last decades without flinching, but seats have a considerably shorter lifespan. Clearly in designing a toilet seat made specifically for retrofit, we’ll need to build in a system to at least but able to adjust the seat’s position lengthwise on the toilet.

Prototype 2.0

Designing the hardwood toilet seat

The first requisite characteristic for a fantastic toilet seat is that it be comfortable to sit on. Our version 2.0 seat was focused on crafting the wood seat. Toilet seat 1.0 was the genesis of the idea but was made as furniture design humor. Inspired by a Macbook Air, version 1.0 was, well, square.

Right. For Prototype 2.0, it was time to get down to business.

For material feel, the choice of hard maple takes care of itself- the fine-grained wood makes for a smooth luxurious finish. Hard maple comes in at a 1450 on the Janka hardness scale--the highest of any commonly available North American furniture wood--which makes it durable enough to handle anything a bathroom environment can throw at it. Sapele, an African mahogany look-alike, comes in at 1510, but can provoke allergic reactions and so obviously we have to rule it out.

When it come to form, the crux of the matter is in how a toilet seat supports the back of legs. Because the primary concern is cutting off circulation while sitting, we developed a long gentle curve over the top of the seat, to maximize the contact surface. At the inner and outer edges, that curve falls away smoothly to avoid creating a hard edge. What’s perplexing is how often plastic toilet seats are molded with a continuous downward slope towards their centers; not only is that generally uncomfortable, but it creates a line of pressure at the outer edge aimed right at your saphenous veins.

Wood makes for a beautiful object, but needs thickness to keep its strength. The toilet seat edge is treated with a slight undercut for a reduced profile, while still maintaining core thickness for strength. For the form as a whole, parallel inner and outer edges add an element of geometric symmetry.

Form Is Greater Than Gadgetry

On Purity of Form and Definitions of Best

Design is a process that makes more objects; for better or for worse. And when the discipline defines and validates itself through problem solving, the end result is a vast multiplicity of objects trying desperately to distinguish themselves via functionality.

The Japanese market has witnessed toilet and seat development in a way that vastly outstrips any comparable efforts or introductions in the Western market. To compete with heated seats, ambient sound generators, cleansing sprays, lights-- what would the 'best' toilet seat do?

To make the best toilet seat it's necessary to reevaluate our interpretation of best. After all, even the most elaborate functionality in the world can't overcome the fact that I'd rather not have my bathroom looking like it walked out of a Honda-sponsored remake of 2001.

The best toilet seat is a formal archetype, not a swiss army knife. Before everything was designed, there was craft. The best toilet seat adds to the aesthetic sensibility of a home space, and guilds both human physical and psychological comfort. It's absurd that we're accustomed to equate feature count with comfort these days.

Good Materials for Material Goods

Or, if you’re going to make it, make it well.

Toilet seats suffer from material limitations in ways that very few other pieces of furniture do. Chairs, couches, loungers, tables, all of these draw from a rich history of furniture design. They have gone through historical iterations in the gorgeous hardwoods of American Craft, the steel and leather of the Bauhaus. Toilet seats, by contrast, went plastic and got stuck there.

If you’re going to make the best toilet seat, start with excellent materials. North American maple is hard, fine-grained, and elegant. With the ready availability of CNC, we can easily get whatever geometry we want. After smoothing, we need a finish. A bar-top finish should do nicely; they’re engineered specifically for long-life water resistance.

As for the lid, we’re going to experiment with something a bit different...

Lifting the Lid

We built our first toilet seat about a year ago.

It started as an exercise in absurdist furniture design, designing a toilet-seat-chair for Pinkhouse's "Don't be Sad" collection. This first design was inspired by the Macbook Air: highly minimal, made from wood and steel, and -- perhaps most notably -- square. It was, needless to say, distinctly uncomfortable. To complete the scene we brought in a model for some creative product photography:

And yet, as we worked, we found the project increasingly, genuinely, compelling. We began to pay attention to toilet seats everywhere we encountered them, and to make mental comparisons. What we found was a woeful state of affairs: cheap plastic, cold seats, loud crashes when lids dropped, mismatching, uncomfortably shaped profiles.

What began as a humorous side project became a full-fledged endeavour.

This is a story about designing the world's best toilet seat.