The all-important question of the showerhead has been the last to be resolved in my bathroom. Let us pass lightly over Saturday’s struggle over toilet paper holders. Everything else in the bathroom is going to be so very special that I’ve become convinced that the toilet paper holder has to be special too. Although the weight and beautiful nickel finish of the Rohl Cisal faucets I chose is truly impressive, somehow none of the choices of toilet paper holders in that line (the loop, the stirrup, and the classic spring-loaded) really, well, spoke to me. I was also shocked at the idea of paying $150 or so for such a thing. By the time I’d finished shopping on line, I found myself paying around $100 for this:
I was wondering about functionality, but reviewers of a similar style on Amazon.com report “the TP unwinds with complete ease” and furthermore point out that the holder can be installed at any angle you choose. The third of these five-star reviews describes a first encounter with a vertical toilet paper holder in Paris: “Can you fall in love with a toilet paper holder? I did.” Sold.
Let me note, for this price – and $100 was the discount price from Amazon – it had better be Made in the U.S.A. I will report!
In fact, Rohl Cisal does have something in the same vertical style, identified as a “spare toilet roll holder” – however, for my particular space, I prefer the less bulbous design of the Kohler for this purpose. Here is the Rohl:
What would Sigmund Freud say? What would Thorstein Veblen say? What would all kinds of people say?
Does it help at all that I have a lesser, admirably cheap, standard TP holder in my upstairs bathroom, and the fake chrome finish has worn off the spindle over the years, revealing the plastic beneath, and every time I change the roll, this seems like something of an affront? Probably not.
Let’s move on.
The question of the showerhead, being much more about the physical experience of the shower than mere looks, is something that I hope more people will understand as a legitimate problem. My research on the Bathrooms Forum at gardenweb.com – along with the Plumbing Forum and the Kitchen Forum, a great resource for appliance obsessives – had turned up more than one endorsement of the higher-end Speakman showerhead. On Sunday, I received a promotional e-mail from Restoration Hardware advertising a sale on bath hardware. RH has loads of tasteful stuff, but I’ve been studiously avoiding them all through this bathroom re-do, just because they can feel so ubiquitous. Also – have you noticed – despite their costly prices, so many of their items are Made in China. Still, I thought I’d better see what they have, now that things are wrapping up, and I found this, presented in RH’s typically high-testosterone fashion, the Speakman Ultra 8-jet Showerhead:
For the sale, it was marked down to $239 from $299 – this includes the arm and flange, which are worth around $25. $239 still seemed rather steep, but the folks on Gardenweb had emphasized that you have to get the more expensive Speakman, and it was available in my preferred finish of polished nickel, so maybe this was the way to go.
Crucially, the RH website describes the showerhead as having “Low flow spray option (2.5 GPM)”, and its “More About the Collection” PDF contains this carefully-worded paragraph:
Flow Restrictor Instructions:
The flow restrictor device limits the amount of flow in your showerhead to 2.5 gallons per minute. The small orifices may become clogged with scale and other minerals found in potable water. If it is necessary to remove the flow restrictor, remove the showerhead from the shower arm and unscrew the ball joint coupling nut from on top of showerhead. Push out the flow control from the small hole in the backside of the swivel ball. Clean the flow control as necessary. Upon reassembly, make sure the flow control is fully inserted and all threaded connections are tightened down before using.
Let me explain something: my house has undergone major flooding three times in the past six years. The field across the road frequently has standing water. My own water is pumped out of my well, through my showers, sinks, toilets, dish and clothes washers, and then drains out the side of the house into the septic tank, whence it returns to the earth. I think that my responsibility to the environment certainly includes using phosphate-free soaps and avoiding harsh chemicals, but for goodness’ sake, there is too much water around here. I shouldn’t have to conserve it as though I were living in the Southwest, or dependent on a municipal treatment system. Surely, if I’m living in what often feels like a swamp, I can have a nice, strong shower.
My next stop was the Speakman website, where the Anystream Icon 64 Spray Showerhead, also available in polished nickel, looked like the equivalent to the “Ultra” at Restoration Hardware:
However, I noted some differences:
1. The placement of the SPEAKMAN ANYSTREAM lettering on the face plate varies between the Ultra and the Icon models.
2. More importantly, the Ultra at Restoration Hardware appears to be designed with more of a faceted nut at its back end to facilitate taking it apart. In fact, judging from customer images on Amazon of older Speakman Anystream packaging, the Restoration Hardware Ultra appears to be simply the older model of the Icon.
3. Adding to my questions, the Speakman company generally describes the Icon thus:
GENERAL SPECIFICATION Water conserving pressure compensating Autoflo® device reduces flow to 2.5 GPM/9.46LPM maximum, to meet existing ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1 Standard.
In other words, the showerhead as a whole is described as a “water conserving device”. Uh-oh.
4. Furthermore, in its cleaning instructions for the Icon, there is no talk from Speakman of removing a flow restrictor:
In certain water conditions, mineral deposits may form. To keep your showerhead like new we recommend soaking the showerhead in 2 parts white vinegar and 1 part water for about 1 hour or more, depending on the amount of buildup. Rinse thoroughly. Brush off any remaining mineral deposits if necessary.
5. The Icon, in polished nickel, can currently be had for $159 on Amazon (chrome is around $125). This price difference is really too large to ignore. Restoration Hardware charges a $25 shipping fee for its Ultra as well – with tax, this brings the total “sale” price close to $300 after all.
The question is: can the re-designed, sleeker Speakman Icon still be taken apart, if necessary, to extract a flow restrictor? Is it necessary to pay, +/-, a 100% premium to Restoration Hardware in order to get a hackable showerhead? Readers, I have ordered the Icon, and I will report. Don’t hold your collective breath, because it is coming “FREE Super Saver”…
UPDATE: It is possible to disassemble the Speakman Icon showerhead and remove a little white plastic device that I believe to be the flow restrictor. I had to use needle-nose pliers to get mine out, and it got somewhat deformed, so I really don’t recommend doing this unless you plan to keep the showerhead and don’t plan to reinstall the flow restrictor. The resulting shower is really lovely, though not what I would call torrential. Truth be told, it did not seem so very much stronger than the perfectly respectable spray that came out of the showerhead before I tinkered with it. I think this may simply be because of my own limited water pressure. Sigh. The shower head is extremely heavy, looks handsome, and adjusts very, very smoothly.
And: the expensive Kohler TP holder is, alas, Made in China – excuse me, “crafted” in China, as it says on the box. But I have to say it looks great, and I’m now a convert to the upright Euro-style TP holder. The TP dispenses perfectly, and there are no more little fumbling annoyances while changing the roll. I do not regret my extravagance – in fact, I think I, too, am in love. Success!
(I tried to figure out, from the packaging and any markings on the showerhead, where it was Made, but I guess that’s a secret…)