The bathroom can be a fortress of solitude, a sanctuary from the hubbub.
But the bathroom at Norman Broad and Carol Salomon’s contemporary mountain home along Junction Creek has become known as a busy gathering place for party guests, who will take plates of food with them into the bath.
They all have to check out the bathroom’s ponderosa pine and the garden of tropical bromeliads, which give the bath a lush ambience and feeling of an oasis.
The grandkids don’t call the Jon Pomeroy-designed home “the nature house” for nothing. Pomeroy, who said he was influenced by the Frank Lloyd Wright philosophy of building in harmony with nature, said he just couldn’t separate the tree from a pair of boulders so he built the house around them.
Because Pomeroy originally built the house for himself, he felt he could take chances.
“It’s been a healthy tree growing for the last 30 years,” Pomeroy said.
The tree extends through a hole in the ceiling with a hidden screen to keep out the rain and “small critters.”
Broad and Salomon are the second owners of the home. When their adult children return home, “they fight over the bathroom,” Salomon said.
Because the home is surrounded by wilderness, bathers don’t feel the need to pull any shades on the majestic views of Silver Mountain.
A giant yellow rubber ducky provides bathtime companionship.
Great bathrooms are hard to come by. In La Plata County, 409 homes lack “complete plumbing,” meaning they probably need outhouses, according to the most recent estimate of the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census.
Beside economic deprivation, the bathroom is often treated as an afterthought, a place of function and not play. In some quarters, this is an attitude that is getting flushed.
Explodes when you flush
Designers have treated rooms of necessity as mothers of invention. Mark Galbraith of Galbraith Builders, for example, has designed bathrooms in the themes of a mine shaft, military jets and an old Western jail cell surrounded by iron bars.
Flushing the toilet with an antique detonator-style handle in the mine shaft mimics the sound of a blaster explosion followed by a quick strobe light flash. “Push it down and ‘da-boom,’” Galbraith said.
A voice recording says “Fire in the hole!”
Similarly, those who lock themselves into the powder-room jail cell will hear a recorded message about a secret escape plan. “Slim, we’re going to bust you out of here at midnight,” whispers a husky cowboy voice. “Me and Rowdy and the boys are going to yank this window out.”
Because a powder room is usually limited to the functions of a toilet and sink, Galbraith said there’s often room to play with quirky gimmicks. He does not have to worry, for instance, about needing room for a shower or medicine cabinet.
Galbraith said he enjoys designing a powder room to reflect a client’s sense of humor and personality.
The mine shaft powder room, for example, has its sink atop an old mine cart. Hand pumps work the faucet.
Restaurant owners like stylish bathrooms for the buzz they create.
Dave Woodruff, general manager of El Moro Spirits and Tavern, 945 Main Ave., is proud of his restaurant’s steampunk restrooms.
“People will come to eat, but then they’re like, ‘Oh, you have to check out the bathrooms,’” Woodruff said.
There are antique light bulbs and plumbing fixtures that recall the start of the 1900s.
The women’s restroom has an elaborate vanity and a pull-chain toilet, the kind made famous in the first “Godfather” movie where Michael Corleone hid his gun to shoot the corrupt New York Police Capt. Mike McCluskey.
Framed photos of women in burlesque costumes and wallpaper of sprockets and airships decorate the walls.
“It’s part of the ambience, so you still feel you’re part of the restaurant,” Woodruff said.
The tavern and restaurant play on the theme of Durango’s early history. It’s named after one of the city’s original saloons and was the site of a notorious shootout.
Owners did not think they should skimp on the restrooms.
“Why not add to the allure and make it fun? It’s one of those easy things,” Woodruff said.
Woodruff also made an analogy to real estate.
“Whenever you’re trying to buy or sell a house, women love the bathrooms and the kitchens. So if you sell them on the bathroom, they love it,” he said.
Going to the restroom at the Sushitarian, 601 East Second Ave., is like taking a trip to Japan. Its elaborate Toto toilets will make Western bathrooms seem primitive.
The toilet has bidet features for personal hygiene as well as a warm toilet seat for cold winter days. It is operated by a control panel on the wall.
The high-tech toilet is so unusual for Durango that an electrician was curious why the restaurant needed an extra power line extended to the restrooms, said Toshi Hiraoka, the owner.
The Toto has done its job of creating buzz.
“The girls gather and talk about it,” Hiraoka said.