Out of the water closet

As the co-founder and senior vice president of design for the luxury bath haven Waterworks, Barbara Sallick is on the front lines of bath style in America. Founded in 1978 by Sallick and her husband, Robert, Waterworks has dozens of stores across the country, including posts in Pasadena, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Los Angeles. From fixtures to tubs, tile, textiles, accessories and personal-care items, the Waterworks experience is an extravaganza of haute bathroom design. We soaked up trends, tips and do’s and don’ts in a recent consultation.

Why has the bathroom become such a big star in home renovation?

It’s taken a long time for people to start talking about the bath. It’s always been such a hush-hush subject. The bath used to be about hygiene. Now it’s about privacy and good health. Hotels have been phenomenal in promoting the bath as important. You never go in the living room except when you have company. The bath is every day. The things we use the most we should talk about and plan for.

The bathroom seems to be seen now as a refuge from our busy lives. Can a great bath really solve our problems?


Obviously not. What it can do is give you time and refuge to think, a chance to calm down and take deep breaths. Let’s say you’ve been collecting art pottery. Wouldn’t it be great to incorporate some of the things you really love? If you meditate, wouldn’t the bathroom be great to have a place for a Buddha? It’s a way to say, this is my space or a shared space.

After three decades in bathroom design and counting, what new developments seem distinctive to you?

We’re seeing bathrooms that have become more compartmentalized. If you have space, you might keep your sink near your dressing room and the water closet in a closed compartment. The tub and shower could reside where there is fabulous light. Some people are putting grooming bars outside the space. Some bring the washing machine to the space so towels are done daily. Music in the bathroom is a great trend, but do I think you need televisions in the bathroom? Absolutely not. Another new trend is clients asking for more simple lines with modern styles. In the future aluminum tiles could be a trend. We continuously push the envelope.

Your 2001 book “Inventing Bath Style” discusses the “unchanging rules for the bathroom.” What are they?

You have to perform certain functions, which means that you have to have running water, and you have to bring that water from somewhere else in the house. You need surfaces that are easily cleaned. And it’s the one place where you’re expected to close and lock the door.

What are the essentials when creating a stylish and functional bathroom?

Identify the size of the space. You need a place for everything. If you have to throw your towel on the floor when you shower, it doesn’t work. Where will the paper holder go? How can I corral the makeup, shaving creams and tweezers so that they are always neat and tidy? If bathing in a bathtub makes you feel fabulous, sacrifice the stand-alone shower if there isn’t room. Make decisions based on things you’ve dreamed about for years. Decisions should be made with the help of an architect, designer or trained sales staff.

What can people do when complete renovation is out of the question?


Take off your bubble glass shower doors. Clean the bathroom. Fix the grout. There’s nothing better than a sparkling bathroom. Paint the walls neutral or bright, buy new textiles and put up a beautiful shower curtain. Throw out everything you haven’t used in three months. Put up hooks and new lighting.

Describe the perfect bathroom.

For me it’s not about size as much as about how I’ve managed to personalize it. It would include a bathtub long enough to stretch out in. It would have a fabulous shower with a seat. There would be room to have some personal piece of furniture, whether it’s an upholstered chair or a beautiful table. There’s elegant decoration and handmade tile. Luxury isn’t about space; it’s about the wise and comfortable use of beautiful materials.