Property: Lavatory humour

Discreet or not so discreet, personalised loo seats are a great way to show off. And there are thrones to suit the wackiest of tastes.
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Elvis Presley died while sitting on his specially commissioned Nautilus loo, made for the master bathroom of his Graceland mansion by the English sanitaryware firm Chatsworth.

Ornately designed with a lion's head, but with motifs originating from the mariners of Ancient Greece, a single Nautilus loo requires 27 individual moulds to produce it. It comes in cream and dramatic high-gloss black, but can be made to order is almost any colour.

On The Peak, Hong Kong's most prestigious address, one of the leading families, the Kaibong Chans, both Cambridge-educated lawyers - famous for their conspicuous wealth and their his 'n' her's Rolls-Royces (one pink, the other gold) - have a scarlet loo seat embedded with real gold coins.

A customised loo is a private joke. It provides an opportunity to be considered flamboyant and witty in your interior design, without disturbing the equilibrium of the remainder of your living space.

It's toilet humour for polite society. Nobody claims it is tasteful, but a loo seat embedded with tin tacks or barbed wire does raise a smile (both available from branches of John Lewis, price pounds 85) in even the most po-faced visitor.

Staffordshire-based Screwy Loos is just about to celebrate its first birthday as an unusual loo-seat supplier. When it launched last July the company sent a mail-out to 1,000 bathrooms shops. Its humour struck a chord: on the first day it did pounds 50,000 worth of business.

Peter Brophy began the company with a friend to escape the stress of the computer industry. Now there are more than 30 people employed in Lochgilphead in Scotland producing the limited-edition loo seats, while he has a great deal of fun thinking up suitably silly designs (Royal Flush, with playing cards, and Break The Sound Barrier, with miniature aeroplanes).

No two seats are identical as they are hand-cast. A labour content of six hours each helps explain the cost.

In The Mood is a seat and cover embedded with miniature orchestral instruments, quavers, semi-quavers and clefs; there are fishing seats and golfing seats and, for the sailor, seats embedded with ropes, knots and anchors.

Pit Stop features chequered flags and tiny mechanics' tools, while for the railways enthusiast there are train carriages, tracks, signals and locomotives.

"Cost depends on the items to be cast," says Mr Brophy. "The classical music seat is our second most expensive at pounds 385 because all the instruments have to be plated with 24-carat gold. We were asked to make one with penguins in it, but we had to first find our penguins. We've also made a seat with CD covers in it for a Rory Gallagher fan."

Prices begin at pounds 200 and go up to pounds 450 for the Time Off In Lieu seat which has wristwatches cast in the Lucite acrylic. Most seats are in limited and numbered editions of 500.

So popular have the designs become, the company is expanding to produce matching wall tiles and mirrors.

London-based Instrumental Furniture also caters for the musically inclined bathroom designer. It produces a viola-shaped lavatory seat and cover at pounds 92 plus delivery in antique pine, maple or mahogany, or, for pounds 155, in American cherrywood.

Such individual loos are obviously wasted if you don't spend a lot of time on them. So The Holding Company has thoughtfully designed a magazine rack that fits on to the cistern, only pounds 6.95.

Traditionalists and stately home owners are more likely to head for Sitting Pretty, which produces seats in mahogany, beech, sycamore, elm and oak, which start at pounds 125 plus VAT. The company has just begun to make a range with a mirror finish for the foreign market, which apparently prefers shiny loo seats. But they also sell the classic Victorian-style thunderbox throne seat and any may be adorned with a monogram or coat of arms.

Too conventional? Well there's always Aquatic Design, the company that can put a fish tank almost anywhere you'd like one. They'll accept commissions to fit a fish tank cistern which uses fresh water from a separate flushing tank. The fish are most likely to be cold-water fish such as goldfish. Depending on the amount of work involved, the cost starts at pounds 600.

Chatsworth Bathrooms 01695 559874; Screwy Loos 01782 719120; Instrumental Furniture 0171-328 0058; The Holding Company mail order 0171-610 9160; Sitting Pretty 0171-381 0049; Aquatic Design 0171-636 6388.

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