Baby Blue Tubs and Lemony Loos. Are Coloured Bathroom Fixtures Chic Again?
The divisive trend has design pros in a lather. Here, they argue both sides.
The divisive trend has design pros in a lather. Here, they argue both sides.
COLOURED TUBS and sinks are getting another shot. Design experts are revisiting the look, which originated in the 1920s. American waterworks brand Kohler recently revived two heritage colors they originally released in the ’20s and ’30s, and British manufacturers such as the Water Monopoly and the Bold Bathroom Company have found fans on both sides of the Atlantic.
Some designers, however, wincingly recall the avocado-hued tubs and sinks of the 1970s and hold that coloured fixtures are a trend that will date very quickly. For these naysayers, only white bath fixtures will do. Here, they debate the issue.
Many design pros applauded the news that come summer, Kohler’s bathroom fixtures—including toilets—will be available in two shades from its archive: Spring Green, an icy teal, and Peachblow, a mauvy pink. Fans of the chromatically diverse Rockwell collection from the Water Monopoly, meanwhile, appreciate the fixtures’ vaguely vintage eccentricity.
London interior designer Lizzie Green nestled a Powder blue Rockwell tub, one with a puffy upper rim and spheres for feet, against a wall of variegated green-blue tiles (above). “The playful design creates a center piece in a large bathroom,” she said. (In a similarly bold move, Ms. Green installed a blue art deco pedestal sink from British manufacturer the Bold Bathroom Company in a shower room clad in rose-pink tile.)
Elizabeth Metcalfe, of EM Design in Toronto, made a chalky green Rockwell tub the hero of a primary bath and a foil to some serious luxury. It sits amid walls of Breccia marble—a creamy stone veined in deep purple—and windows hung with pink cashmere drapery. The tub gives an otherwise conservative, grown-up room a “uniquely stylish” edge, she said.
The designers we surveyed agree that the trend’s biggest fans are older millennials who grew up in what Lauren Lothrop Caron terms the “beige 2000s.” The founder of Seattle’s Studio Laloc—a senior millennial herself—urges her contemporaries to be bold. For her own bathroom remodel, she’s eyeing Kohler’s Peachblow fixtures.
Noncommittal types might do best to choose one small colored fixture, says Jake Rodehuth-Harrison, founder of Los Angeles design firm Hubbahubba. Mr. Rodehuth-Harrison loves the “heavy dose of nostalgia” the pieces provide at a time when “the design world and algorithms are always looking forward and saying new, newer, newest.” He popped lilac ball feet onto another Water Monopoly Rockwell tub, this one white, in a Napa Valley, Calif., project. The result perches, most surprisingly, on muted green flooring he chose. If that’s too bold, “we can neutralize these fixtures by surrounding them with tiles in the same color,” he noted.
Another trick: Tiffany Duggan of London’s Studio Duggan suggests working with vintage fixtures that were born white. The designer recently updated an original iron tub with a wash of Farrow & Ball’s Red Earth. “If you change your mind, you can just paint over it.”
Doubters say hued baths will be a blip on the trend continuum. Unless you’re trying to preserve the aesthetic of a historic home, warned Liana Hawes Young, creative director of Wimberly Interiors in New York City, “colored fixtures will feel dated quickly, if not immediately.” And unlike trendily tinted shower curtains or wall paint that can be changed with little expense, this craze requires a spendy swap out, argued naysayers. Said Kristina Phillips, an interior designer in Ridgewood, N.J., “Clients looking for more long-term, classic design, along with keeping eventual resale in mind, might hesitate.”
Traditionalists say that if you really must, relegate such vivid choices to powder rooms and kids’ baths, spaces you don’t linger in. And well-intentioned salvage-scourers should be wary of mixing eras, said other concerned parties. “Vintage plumbing fixtures can date a space due to their scale,” explained Hattie Collins, founder of Hattie Sparks Interiors, in New Orleans. “Most times, coloured tubs and toilets are much smaller than present-day fixtures.” A safer bet, she suggests, is to focus on rescuing original floor and surround tile.
Powder blue is one thing, many say, but bright or hot-hued renditions of this trend read garish. “Neons and oranges could be a thorn in the room,” said Los Angeles designer Gilda Hariri. Even Ms. Metcalfe, who otherwise champions the trend, warned, “Avoid vibrant, aggressive tones, such as reds and oranges, that evoke a strong emotional response.”
Designers who actually can see a place for coloured fixtures couldn’t help but trivialise the trend as “retro” and “eclectic.” The rest of the room has to quietly suggest luxury, they suggest, to balance kookiness with class. Ms. Collins thinks wallpaper that has layered, expressive colours—the sort often offered by House of Hackney, Gracie or Cole and Son—could help coloured fixtures read higher end, as would lighting of reeded glass and high-quality metal finishes. “Lovely but expensive,” she added. Is the cost of a cheerful toilet really worth it?
The power of association doesn’t work well in the trend’s favor, either. A black bathroom, for instance, installed for a sense of refined moodiness, might evoke one from a 1980s basement nightclub, giving words like sterility and sanitary a new appeal. Austere white bathrooms, a holdover from the “hospital white’” tiled bathrooms of the early 1920s, are far more practical. Dark colours reveal water marks and chalky toothpaste smears. To Kristine Renee, co-founder of Sacramento, Calif., interiors firm Design Alchemy, “Nothing ever seems as clean as white.”
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Passwords aren’t enough to fend off hackers; these dongles are the best defense
Strong passwords are very important, but they’re not enough to protect you from cybercriminals.
Passwords can be leaked or guessed. The key to online security is protecting your account with a strong secondary measure, typically a single-use code. This is referred to as “two-factor authentication,” or 2FA, as the nerds know it.
I’ve written about all the different types of 2FA, such as getting those codes sent via text message or generated in an authenticator app. Having any kind of second factor is better than none at all, but physical security keys—little dongles that you plug into a USB port or tap on your phone during account logins—offer the highest level of protection.
Security keys have been around for over a decade, but now they’re in the spotlight: Apple recently introduced support for them as an optional, added protection for Apple ID accounts. Last month, Twitter removed text-message-based authentication as an option for nonpaying users, recommending instead an authenticator app or security key.
Some people are hesitant to use security keys because carrying around a physical object seems burdensome and they come with a $30-and-up added cost. Plus, what happens if they get lost?
I’ve used security keys since 2016 and think they are actually easier to manage than codes—especially with accounts that don’t require frequent logins. They’re not only convenient, but they can’t be copied or faked by hackers, so they’re safer, too.
Here’s how to weigh the benefits and common concerns of adding one or two of these to your keychain.
Many internet services support the use of security keys, and you can use the same security key to unlock accounts on many different services. I recommend two from industry leader Yubico:
Other options include Google’s Titan security keys ($30 and up). In addition to working with laptops and tablets with USB ports, these keys are compatible with smartphones that have NFC wireless. Most smartphones these days have that, since it’s the technology behind wireless payments such as Apple Pay.
Adam Marrè, chief information security officer at cybersecurity firm Arctic Wolf, recommends that your chosen key is certified by the FIDO Alliance, which governs the standards of these devices.
To add a key, look in the security settings of your major accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.). During setup, it will prompt you to insert the key into your laptop or tablet’s port or hold the key close to your phone for wireless contact.
Apple requires you to add two security keys to your Apple ID account, in case you lose one.
Typically, when you log in, you just go to the app or website where you’ve set up a key, enter your username and password as usual, then once again insert the key into the device or hold it close. (Some keys have a metal tab you have to press to activate.) At that point, the service should let you right in.
Getting those two-factor login codes via text message is convenient, but if you are someone criminals are targeting, you could be the victim of SIM swapping. That’s where thieves convince carriers to port your number to a new phone in their possession, and they use it along with your stolen password to hack your accounts.
Even if they don’t go to all that trouble, criminals might try to trick you to hand them your codes, by calling you or spoofing a website you typically visit. At that point they can use the code for about 60 seconds to try to break in, said Ryan Noon, chief executive at security firm Material Security.
Security keys protect you in two ways: First, there’s no code to steal, and second, they use a security protocol to verify the website’s domain during login, so they won’t work on fake sites.
You can also add an authenticator app such as Authy to your most important accounts, to use only as a backup. But once you add these secure methods, you should consider removing the text-message code option.
In the rare case that someone snoops your passcode then steals your iPhone, beware: The perpetrator could still make Apple ID account changes using only the passcode, and even remove security keys from your account.
The most important rule of security keys is to buy an extra one (or two).
“Think of your security key as you would a house or car key,” said Derek Hanson, Yubico’s vice president of solutions architecture. “It’s always recommended that you have a spare.”
If you lose a security key, remove it from your accounts immediately. You should have already registered your spare or an authenticator app as a backup to use in the meantime.
Start with your most valuable accounts: Google, Apple, Microsoft, your password manager, your social–media accounts and your government accounts.
When it comes to financial institutions, many banks don’t offer security-key protection as an option, though most leading crypto exchanges do.
Security professionals and tech companies widely agree that passkeys are the future. They’re a new type of software option that combines the high security of a physical key with the convenience of biometrics such as your face or fingerprints. Passkeys are supported across the Android, iOS, Mac and Windows platforms, and some of your favourite sites already let you use them.
You can create a passkey on Facebook in security settings by following the app’s instructions under the security-key option. Dropbox has a similar passkey setup. Once you’re done, you’ll use your face or fingerprint as a second factor, instead of a code or key.
Eventually, physical security keys could be what we keep safe in strong boxes, as backups for our biometric-enabled passkeys. Even then, you’re probably going to want to have spares.
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Adidas might sell its struggling Reebok brand, potentially taking advantage of the strength of athletic goods, which have been a bright spot in apparel during the Covid-19 crisis. On Monday, Adidas (ticker: ADDYY) said it was reviewing Reebok’s future, which could include a sale. The news comes ahead of the company’s five-year blueprint, which it is …
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