As an interior designer, Kathy Monteiro would often help clients design every room in their house — including the bathroom. Three years ago, while helping a friend remodel her bathroom, Monteiro was asked an evocative question.
“She said, ‘I don’t want to put an ugly toilet back in here, it’s going to ruin it,’” Monteiro recalls. “‘Isn’t there such a thing as a good looking toilet?’ I said, ‘No, a toilet is a toilet,’ and she said ‘Why doesn’t somebody invent a chair that goes around a toilet?’”
Monteiro thought it was a great idea, so she began to delve into different toilet designs that would work for a bathroom. Monteiro, though, realized that there was no hinge that had been invented that would allow the installation of a chair onto a toilet. But after working with mechanical engineers for two years, Monteiro developed a hinge and toilet cover through her company ToileChic.
“I just introduced it at the Las Vegas Furniture Show two weeks ago,” Monteiro said. “And it was named one of the best products at the show. That’s saying something because there’s over 3 million square feet of product there, and it was selected to be showcased in a seminar for over 200 designers. So we really got off to a very exciting start.”
Originally from Danville, Monteiro has lived in Grass Valley for more than 15 years and has a background in real estate and interior design. Being an interior designer, Monteiro says prepared her to run ToileChic because it gave her experience in remodeling and designing homes, choosing patterns and accessories that would work for each individual room.
Monteiro says she personally designed all five chair styles that ToileChic sells, and says she plans to expand the selection to include chairs with carving and upholstery on them.
“I realized also there was an even more important application in this, when people started mentioning that it would be great for seniors or the disabled,” Monteiro said. “To get on and off a regular toilet, which are horribly ugly, it is not very safe if you fall on them. But with the ToileChic, it’s a lot safer for them to get on and off because it’s padded and it’s a lot safer.”
Monteiro says ToileChic chairs are made from Crypton Super Fabric, which contains an impenetrable barrier that stops liquid from seeping into the fabric. Crypton, which has been used in the White House and Buckingham Palace, is also stain, mildew and odor-resistant.
“Crypton, you know like Superman cryptonite, it was actually developed 20 years ago for senior care facilities,” Monteiro said. “Over the years they have developed it so you can not tell that there is anything different from an ordinary fabric. Nothing gets through this fabric, it’s nonporous. It cleans with just soap and water, and even comes with its own EPA improved disinfectant. Until such a fabric was invented toilet care was impossible.”
Each of Monteiro’s chairs come with a pillow and a little rack to hold newspapers or magazines. A Lazy Boy recliner handle is also available for installation onto the toilet’s flush knob, along with a little tablet and tray users can put food or drinks on.
“There are a lot of men who enjoy spending time in the bathroom,” Monteiro said. “And this would allow them to keep comfortable and do the things that they normally enjoy.”
Monteiro says the chair has an easy three step installation process that anyone can do, and says that when toilet issues arise, the back of the chair lifts off completely giving plumbers easy access to fixing the problem. The chairs are available online to order and run for close to $5,000, while ToileChic bidet covers cost around $2,500.
Monteiro says she will be speaking with distributors to get her chairs out to upscale retail spaces, plumbers, senior and medical care facilities, high-end night clubs, country clubs and hotels.
“I was approached at the show by a five star hotel in Las Vegas to start out in their penthouses,” Monteiro said. “So there’s a lot of different uses for this, and it can be an upscale product.”
Monteiro runs her manufacturing through San Leandro and holds an office in Danville, but runs most of the business remotely from her Grass Valley home, and has hired local customer service and graphic design staff to help run her company.
“I really project that in 10 years people are going to look at toilets and say ‘Oh my God, did we really have those ugly things in plain view at one point?’” Monteiro said. “Because everything else has changed in the home except for the toilet, for 100 years it’s still the same. So ToileChic is going to make all the difference in the world.”
For more information go to www.toilechic.com.