Q&A with Barbara Sallick

Barbara Sallick is the cofounder of Waterworks and its Senior Vice President of Design.  In addition to this Barbara has written four books: The Perfect Bath, The Definitive Guide to Designing the Perfect Bath, Waterworks: Inventing Bath Style and most recently The Perfect Kitchen which is being launched in the UK at the end of April, and is available to buy on Amazon here.

In her capacity as a spokesperson for Waterworks Barbara presents design and product lectures across the U.S. and internationally.  

We are delighted to have caught Barbara in between writing, speaking engagements and her design duties to talk to her about the inspiration behind her latest book, her varied career and her plans for the future.

*Please note interview was given before the current pandemic.*

Barbara, thank you for taking the time to talk to us.  You set up Waterworks in 1978 with your husband Robert.  What inspired you both to set up the now iconic brand? 

On our early trips to Europe in the ’70s and ’80s, we discovered several captivating bath showrooms. The colors were interesting, the fittings modern, and the displays inspirational. It’s not exactly the norm to investigate bath showrooms on holiday, especially when there are fabulous museums and architectural monuments to see, but the visits aligned with a family business in the US. We were like any self-respecting entrepreneurs, eager to find a way to express our creativity in an industry that had remained unchanged for 50 years. We saw an opportunity to change the paradigm in the American bath.

You’ve written a number of books including your latest, The Perfect Kitchen.  What is your writing process?  Are you a disciplined writer or do you find it hard to sit down and focus?

I’m very disciplined when I write in my office. I stay focused, create complete thoughts and edit. At home, however, despite having a lovely office, I am completely distracted: birds at the feeder, an eagle eating a fish in the tree outside the kitchen window, a weed or two in the garden, a window to wash or an unexpected errand to run. So many distractions. At the office, I can close my door, or not, and simply put my head down and work.


You’ve got many feathers to your bow – designers, author, writer.  Which do you enjoy most?

This is like asking me which of my children I like most. It’s very difficult to answer specifically; designing requires visual inspiration and imagination, the ability to layer materials and to quickly see and amend choices. Whereas writing, for me, requires a quiet place and contemplation and is a bit solitary. Nevertheless, both activities tap into the creative process and are very satisfying.

You are a busy lady with an impressive CV – how do you fit it all in?

That is a really good question. Sometimes I wonder how to do more and still have time for my husband and dog, grandchildren, a walk on the beach and personal travel. I am blessed with lots of energy and believe that if I stop I will fall apart. The other part of the answer is that I’m good at deciding what’s important and where my efforts can make the most impact, and I don’t take myself too seriously.


Do you prefer designing a kitchen or bathroom?

I’m more familiar with the bath and find the design easier. There are just four elements (sink, WC, tub, shower) and the design is less technical than that of a kitchen. But both cases require a similar thought process in regards to layering materials, ensuring functionality and deciding on the kind of experience I want to create. Both rooms must hit the mark visually, emotionally and aesthetically, 100% of the time.

Of all the things you’ve achieved in your career is there one stand out moment of which you’re most proud? 

There have been a number of remarkable moments, some business-related and others family- and service-related. But in retrospect, it’s overwhelming to think that over my long career, I’ve helped change an industry. The bath, in particular, was a tiny, cramped and unattractive space when I started out. Our efforts have transformed it one of the most special rooms in a house, a place for quiet and reflection that caters to one’s personal and private experience.

You’ve achieved so much already -but dare we ask what is on the horizon for 2020 and beyond?

At the moment, I’m eager to introduce The Perfect Kitchen to colleagues, clients and friends. After that, there will be new surfaces to explore, fresh sources of inspiration to be found and – if I can fit them in – more moments to relax!

Thank you again for taking part Barbara.  We loved looking through The Perfect Kitchen and recommend it to anyone looking for inspiration, or to give to someone who has an interest in interior design. 


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