Are we talking avocado again?

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The Independent Online
The year was 1968 and the biggest thing that has ever happened in bathroom suites was being mixed up at Armitage Shanks in Staffordshire. That was the colour avocado - now a cliche, then a huge hit that went on to sell an estimated 1 million suites.

"It was a one-off. It could never happen again for something to become so popular, so dramatically. It bordered on the freakish, but in the nicest possible way," says the commercial services manager, Sam Woodberry. "From 1972 to 1978, avocado outsold all other colours put together. It really did become accepted to talk about bathroom suites at the swishest cocktail parties. You could say, `Oh, we've got an avocado bidet.'"

How soon we forget. The words "avocado" and "bidet" are now only mentioned in the same sentence as "care in the community". Witness this months Elle Decoration: "The all-white bathroom representing purity in the Twenties is now a clear statement of superior taste. Even estate agents now talk disparagingly of the avocado bathroom suite, which has replaced garden gnomes as an object of ridicule."

Never believe anything you read in a magazine devoted to "emotional photography", but this did check out. Hillreed Homes in Sussex speaks for all estate agents when it states coldly that the "once-ubiquitous avocado suite is out".

It may be out of production but is it really out of mind? After all, only months ago Black Forest gateau was a cliche. Now, according to EatSoup magazine, it is on the comeback dessert trolley. If avocado prawn can be fashionable again, why not avocado suites? Paul Curtis of Roy Brooks estate agents in London snorts: "Well, I think we are talking about something that is around just a bit longer than a gateau."

But this is exactly the point. Fashion gurus keep saying that brown is the new black, but nothing can replace avocado. Already the whisper in sanitaryware is that some of the darker Seventies colours (remember plum?) are poised to return and liven up a decade that so far has been whiter than white.

Mr Woodberry has followed the market for 30 years and he says it is not a question of whether avocado will return, but when. Of course by that time, they may be extinct if current rip-out rates persist. One idea to avert this would be to start listing all avocado suites (1969 launch suites could have a special status).

Parliament is already showing interest. Not long ago, Peter Viggers (Conservative, Gosport) spoke on a related topic: "The House will be entranced to hear that men take an average of 45 seconds in the lavatory and women take an average of 80 seconds." He then argued that women need three times the amount of provision. "I hope that that plea will be heard by some of the people who make the decisions about the provision of public lavatories."

If we are on the brink of a boom in women's bathrooms - and this really would be a vote-getter with Worcester woman - then why not colour that future avocado? It's the kind of thing you just don't hear enough about at cocktail parties these days.

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