Barbara Sallick, the co founder of Waterworks, recently published her latest book, The Perfect Bath. I was invited to the London book launch a couple of weeks ago at their King’s Road shop and was lucky enough to interview Barbara before the event.
The Perfect Bath
Grant: Why did you write the book?
Barbara: I have 40 years of experience thinking about the bath, talking about the bath, learning about the bath and intimately understanding what needs to go into a bathroom. I’ve thought about how to make bathrooms feel more or less comfortable and how you arrange your products. I felt it was just my moment to put that all in a place. You have a moment and you just say it’s time.
Grant: I love the way you talk about designing a bathroom, because it’s the same way that designers talk about designing other rooms in the house. You just hinted about layering pieces in a bathroom, can you tell me a little bit about your design process for a bathroom?
Barbara: The first step is planning, so look in your closet and identify patterns and colours from the clothes you wear, take tear sheets out of magazines, make folders and when you’re done with that, you have to edit.
Then edit some more until you actually have a vocabulary for what it is you want to do or hope to do. That in some way helps expedite the shopping process, which can be daunting. You can see, by coming into the Waterworks shop, there are a lot of things to choose from.
If you have a better sense of the experience you want to create by planning ahead, then that’s how you really start.
Design tips for a small bathroom
Grant: In the UK we have really small, awkward tiny rooms and bathrooms are even more smaller and even more awkward. Do you have any design tips for those small awkward spaces?
Barbara: I have them in my own house. I do not have one of these giant lavish bathrooms, I might dream about it, but, I don’t have it and it’s inappropriate in my house. The thing that you need to do is edit.
Too many things make a small bathroom feel perfectly awful. We need to be careful about what you use, how you use it, how much of it you use it, the scale is important, the balance is important, all that proportion. If all of that is wrong in a small bath, then what happens is it just feels terrible and you go in and feel claustrophobic. Think about what feels classic, elegant and timeless.
Colour in the Bathroom
Grant: What about colour, do we use colour? Don’t we use colour? What colours are acceptable in the bathroom, what aren’t? What’s your own personal take on colour in the bathroom?
Barbara: While I am indeed the Queen of White, I think of it in some ways as a kind of colourless colour, but it has shades and ranges and I find it a symbol of cleverness and purity, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love colour in the bath. I do, and most particularly if you look in your closet, I had someone here in the shop this morning who had on an orange shirt with flowers all over it and I thought, “There’s a person who wants colour.” If in fact you’re going to use colour, the thing that’s important is not to be to be timid about it.
Grant: Do you see a particular popular colour at the moment? And what about metal tones, I know that metal in all sorts of finishes is really popular at the moment?
Barbara: I always think of colour in terms of surfaces on the walls and floors. The jewel colours are the colours of faucets, so if I had a navy blue bath, I probably would want nickel.
The colour and fittings all have to align, think about it as getting dressed. Think about what you might put with what, except, you have to remember that you’re not going to take it off that night. What you are going to do is live with it for 10-15 years.
You need to be pretty careful about how you make your choices.
Technology in the bathroom
Grant: Technology is infiltrating our homes in ways that we could never even imagine just a couple of years ago. How are we seeing technology being added into the bathroom?
Barbara: The first way is on that Toto Toilet. You know the one that’s got a hot seat and water that sprays up to the ceiling, the sink that sings “Welcome, welcome, welcome” and flushes itself, all fine. However there have been a few things that we’ve incorporated into our assortment that feel like they are within our curated assortment. There’s an electronic shower valve which is cool. It looks like a light switch that measures 3 x 4 inches and it’s on the outside of the shower. You press your button, you set the temperature and walk in.
You can do that with the thermostat as well. Recently, we’ve added some shower heads with lights. It’s something new to the bathroom. But we’re more about classic style here at Waterworks.
Making bathrooms comfortable
Grant: With all the hard surfaces in the bathroom, how do we make a bathroom comfortable and enjoy the ritual of bathing?
Barbara: We’re probably still talking about these teeny little English bathrooms. I love a chair in a bathroom, just something that is more furniture-oriented than for example, nothing.
I have a really small bathroom with a beautiful little telescope stool in it. I have an orchid on it and I pile towels on it. Already, we’re beginning to add soft bits to the space.
I think what happens is, that all of a sudden you begin to add a sequence. You can certainly add a beautiful rug and I at times, I have had an oriental rug in my bathroom. I find something quite wonderful about having these textiles in the bathroom.
How to use Art in the bathroom
Grant: I noticed in the book, there were quite a few bathrooms with pieces of art hanging in them.
Barbara: Oh. Don’t you love that?
Grant: I just think it is so great. What room should not have art in it? I think every room should have at least 1 piece of art in it, including the bathroom.
But what sort of art do we need to be looking for to place in a bathroom? Does it need to be really expressive? How would you place art in a bathroom?
Barbara: I think a bathroom, particularly a master bathroom, is a great place for photographs. I love them, even photos you take yourself. It becomes really personal. Although, clearly in the book, there are lots of amazing pieces of art, but these bathrooms are rooms, they are not just bathrooms.
They are rooms with terraces and curtains and fabulous art and great natural light and outside views. It depends on the kind of bathroom that you are aspiring to achieve. Additionally, there’s one other factor here. That is, everything comes back to your personal style and taste.
The one thing I recommend for every bathroom is to clean it up. Everybody has five more lipsticks than they need and seven more bars of soap. Just have a pretty little tray with about five things that you need every day and keep it clean.
Barbara’s Perfect Bathroom
Grant: Can you tell me about your perfect bathroom? Whether that’s an experience or an idea or whatever it is. Walk us through your perfect bathroom.
Barbara: A perfect bath has absolutely the right amount of lighting both incandescent and natural light. There’s something very warm and relaxing about natural light. I think that makes a huge difference for me.
Of course, always it’s going to be, how did the materials layer from the floor, to the wall to the paint to the towels. When all of that comes together, and then you add one beautiful piece of art. Perfect. You go in there and you close the door and you have your private space to relax. You talk to yourself, no phones allowed and all of a sudden you have created an experience that’s meaningful for you.
The Perfect Bath by Barbara Sallick
© The Perfect Bath by Barbara Sallick, Rizzoli New York, 2016
Image credit: Alistair Veryard, Waterworks
Book images: ©The Perfect Bath by Barbara Sallick, Rizzoli New York, 2016