Do you really need a bidet?

  • A bidet is integrated into this toilet in a new home in Corona del Mar on Friday, May 26, 2017. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    A bidet is integrated into this toilet in a new home in Corona del Mar on Friday, May 26, 2017. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A panel that controls the bidet in the master bathroom of a Corona del Mar home on Friday, May 26, 2017. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    A panel that controls the bidet in the master bathroom of a Corona del Mar home on Friday, May 26, 2017. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A bidet is integrated into this toilet in a new home in Corona del Mar on Friday, May 26, 2017. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    A bidet is integrated into this toilet in a new home in Corona del Mar on Friday, May 26, 2017. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A bidet is integrated into this toilet in a new home in Corona del Mar on Friday, May 26, 2017. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    A bidet is integrated into this toilet in a new home in Corona del Mar on Friday, May 26, 2017. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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If you are remodeling your bathroom or buying a new home, an interior designer might suggest a bidet.

It is one of the most fashionable accessories in the high-end bath, said Valerie Saunders, owner of Serendipite, an Irvine interior design company.

“People like a bathroom to feel more like a spa,” she added. “They are investing in wonderful appliances – steam showers, free-standing bathtubs.  Our lives are so busy, and they want to come home to a restful experience.”

Bidets historically have been mysterious and a bit troubling to Americans.  Many us first encountered them on a trip to France or Italy or Japan and were baffled by what to do with one. Were they associated with sex (tradition holds, WWII soldiers encountered bidets mainly when they visited prostitutes) or simply cleanliness? And how exactly did you use one?

When I first went to Europe in 1979, I was admonished by a college friend married to a Frenchman that a bidet was NOT a place for a tourist to wash her weary feet.

Good to know. Back then, a bidet looked essentially like a low sink.

Since then we’ve figured out their hygienic value for both men and women and modern bidet-toilets have moved into the digital age. The bidet I encountered in a $4 million home in Corona del Mar was in what can only be called a water closet:  A very small room away from the opulent shower, sink and dressing area.

But the DXV Washlet had everything needed for hygiene.  On a touch screen:  A heated seat.  Two cleaning water jets, one more forceful than the other.  A dryer.  A flush.

“It’s environmentally friendly and has become a luxury item,” said Saunders, who designed the house.

It was nothing like the bidet spoof in the 2016 movie “Why Him?”  For those who have watched the scene with Brian Cranston and Keegan-Michael Key, approaching a bidet/toilet  might be intimidating.  It’s the latest stereotype of the bidet, updated for the big screen.

The bidet installed in the women’s restroom in the bath/kitchen store Pirch in SoCo is a Toto Washlet, a regular toilet with a bidet seat.  It’s computerized, so has a control panel.  There is a choice of spray, and the water is warm.   It also has a dryer so no toilet paper is necessary.  Though there is a roll of tissue, in case the experience still feels a bit foreign.

“Bidets and Washlets are definitely popular and sought after,” said Beann Shumaker, assistant store director at Pirch.  “A lot of people go for the Washlet. You need an electrical outlet, but they are very easy to install on your existing toilet.”

Many toilet manufacturers sell them.

At Pirch, bidets range in price from $1,100 to $10,000.  The one installed in the women’s restroom is the $1,100 model.  For the $10,000 Toto, you have to make an appointment for before or after store hours.

At B&C Custom Hardware, customers have the opportunity to try out the luxury model Toto in an upstairs bathroom.

It has a nightlight.  When you approach, the lid raises.  When you sit, an air filter switches on.  When you are finished, the seat automatically lowers and the toilet flushes.  Then a UV light turns on and reacts with a zirconium lining in the toilet to help waste wash away.   Essentially, the toilet cleans itself.

“The bowl is pearlescent; it looks like a seashell,” said Rebecca Whiteleather,  one of the owners of B&C Custom Hardware.  “If there is any organic matter left in the bowl, it just disappears.  It’s like you have a brand-new toilet every time you use it.

The bidet-toilets are also water-saving to comply with all the California codes.

Lisa Conley, of  27 Diamonds Interior Design in Irvine has installed three in the past year.  “They are definitely clients with higher scale budgets,” she said.  Two recent installations were in houses in Newport Coast.  “They are well traveled.  They have encountered them abroad and wanted them at home.”

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