Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Kohler Retreat

I've just returned from a three day adventure to the Village of Kohler, Wisconsin, the home of Kohler Plumbing.  
I was one of about 18 California designers treated to an informative tour of the Kohler facilities.

We visited the cast iron factory (that produces tubs, sinks and various commercial machinery parts) and the vitreous china factory (that produces toilets and sinks).  
I found both tours fascinating.

We even saw the casting process, in which molten iron is poured into various forms. 
That wasn't too surprising, but the real surprise is how the end items are colorized. 
The iron piece is heated to 2700 degrees, and then a coat of powder is applied with a device that looks like a flour strainer. 
The powder that falls on the iron piece doesn't have any color initially, but as the piece cools, the color comes up!

Casting itself is also interesting to observe, apart from the powder coating aspect. 
As you might imagine, it takes a negative form to manufacture the vitreous china end product, and to get it a positive "pattern" is pressed into loose sand, which then is the basis for the negative form.

Our group was also shown sneak previews of new products, but no photos were allowed!  
Kohler's three story design center was filled with vignettes of bathrooms and kitchens created by designers from all over the country.  
Kohler owns the upscale plumbing company Kallista, as well as the modestly priced Sterling line. 

Our Carriage House Hotel was beautiful and furnished in Baker and McGuire furniture, companies that are also part of the Kohler corporate family (along with Ann Sacks).  
We were offered a marvelous massage at Kohler's world class spa, which boasted every pampering amenity one could imagine.  
They treated us especially well when meal times arrived.  The beef Wellington hors d' oeuvres were unforgettable!
photos by Kohler

A Kohler Toilet Primer

Kohler makes four types of toilets.

We are all familiar with the single flush gravity feed toilet.  In addition, Kohler now makes a dual flush gravity feed toilet that uses only 0.8 gallons of water for liquid waste and 1.6 gallons for solid waste.  Most residences would use one or the other of these toilets.  For a "never plug" toilet necessary in commercial applications they have two additional options.  The Pressure Lite toilet uses the street water pressure to activate a sealed canister which acts as a power booster to eliminate waste.  The Power Lite toilet has an even more aggressive system.  An electric motor pressurizes a canister to activate the flush.  This type of toilet has a very sleek, "tank-less" look as exemplified by the Hatbox toilet.

Portrait toilet, standard gravity feed  

Persuade toilet, dual flush gravity feed

Wellworth toilet, Pressure Lite flush system

Hatbox toilet, Power Lite flush system

photos by Kohler