Interview: Waterworks' Barbara Sallick on why classic design is best

InterviewFeatures Fri 8th Mar 2024 by Amelia Thorpe

Interview: Waterworks' Barbara Sallick on why classic design is best

Interview: Waterworks' Barbara Sallick on why classic design is best

Feature by Amelia Thorpe | Fri 8th Mar 2024

Amelia is an award-winning journalist, specialising in kitchens, bathrooms, interiors and design. She has contributed to many leading national publications, and has written about the kitchen and bathroom business for more than 15 years. More

Waterworks co-founder Barbara Sallick is admired for her approach to quiet luxury – she tells Amelia Thorpe why classic design wins every time when it comes to creating a tranquil bathroom space.

Co-founder and senior vice president of design at high-end US brand Waterworks, Barbara Sallick is also the author of several books, including her most recent, The Ultimate Bath (Rizzoli, £45), with another in the pipeline.

After 6 years as an associate at the department of American Decorative Arts at Yale University Art Gallery, Sallick co-founded Waterworks with husband Robert in 1978. At a time when the bathroom world was full of yellow, blue and avocado, the Sallicks favoured white sanitaryware and refined classic elegance, no doubt informed by Barbara’s background – a tradition that has continued to this day. Now the company is led by their son and CEO Peter Sallick and owned by Restoration Hardware, but Barbara Sallick’s impeccable taste remains evident in the luxury brassware, fittings and tiles available today.

The Ultimate Bath by Barbara Sallick, published by Rizzoli, £45

"Our designs are classic with a modern twist," notes Sallick, who shuns "sharp-edged contemporary". "Our view of modernity has softer edges and a humanistic feel – after all, you touch the faucets in your house more than anything else." She cites as examples the Bond brassware collection, inspired by both the Aesthetic movement of the 19th century and modern industrial design, finished with textural guilloche etching and mixed metals, and the Riverun collection with its simple and gently rounded shapes elevated by black handles.

Riverun Gooseneck basin mixer with two-tone tri-spoke handles in Nickel and Matte black

"Our approach at Waterworks has never been about fashion, which is something that comes and goes," she says. Fresh from a visit to see the Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition of the work of fashion designer Gabrielle Chanel, Sallick quotes the famous Chanel line, "Fashion changes, but style endures".

From the new Italian stone collection, the Alatri bath in Prunella marble

"It’s an important idea and one that we ascribe to, because we want to create beautiful, enduring, expertly crafted pieces – in 25 years’ time, we want our faucets to still look as good as the day they were bought," she says. Two of Waterworks’ top selling lines, Easton and Highgate, have been available since the early days of the company. "Harmony and restraint apply to everything we do," she says. "The faucets are pared back, streamlined and nothing is extraneous."

Waterworks’ showroom on London’s King’s Road

Getting the bones of the bathroom right is key to success – and of longevity, she explains. "The bathroom needs as much planning as the kitchen, so take time and establish the priorities. Test the bath to see that it is comfortable and easy to get in and out of, test the sink and see that it’s at the right height – it’s not like choosing a chair, which you can put in your next tag sale if it’s not right."

 Inside the showroom, ground floor

She has specific pieces of advice – such as "without a doubt, you need 3 hooks in a bathroom" and "a hand shower is essential, otherwise how can you clean the shower or wash when you are a 105?" And "I hate stuff on counters – and honestly, these days we all have more stuff, so every bathroom needs some kind of furniture for storage." She also believes in adding accessories to bathrooms, such as art and rugs, to keep the look fresh, and in using natural finishes that patina over time, adding character to the space and a further layer to elegant fittings. "And I love marble – any marble – have fun in your choice but it will be expensive to change, so be sure you love it to death."

The Clothilde copper tub on display in the lower ground floor of the showroom

Tags: interview, features, barbara sallick, waterworks, bathrooms

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