Barbara Sallick remembers when bathrooms got no respect. Options were limited, and that forgotten space in the home was not equated with style—until she turned on the taps. Growing up well acquainted with the plumbing supply company her father founded in 1925 in Danbury, Connecticut, she always felt an affinity for any space with faucets. But Barbara and husband Robert (who joined her father in plumbing supply in 1962) saw baths from a different perspective. Fixtures that merely got the job done were never enough for them. Somehow, she always knew that baths could become beautiful rooms.
However, there was no template to apply in the 1970s, when the Sallicks decided to create Waterworks. While maintaining the original showroom, Barbara came to realize that Danbury was not the place to revolutionize plumbing fixtures. In 1979, the Sallicks added a plumbing supply showroom in Boston, forging an aesthetic inspired by trips to luxurious European spas. No stranger to the decorative arts, Barbara came to the venture from a spell of working at the Yale University Art Gallery. There, she learned to assess objects. “I would look at twenty historic teapots and evaluate which parts I would change,” she says.
That discerning eye ultimately proved invaluable when evaluating shower heads. But she also found her own aesthetic passion. “We started collecting antiques,” she recalls of her awakening. “All our friends were doing Danish Modern, but we were deep into eighteenth-century American decorative arts.” It was an aesthetic of intricacy and attention to detail that colored the trajectory of Waterworks.
This story appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of MILIEU. To read the complete story or to see all photos, visit the MILIEU Newsstand to purchase this issue in print or visit Zinio.com to purchase this issue in digital format.
WRITTEN BY TOVAH MARTIN
PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY BY MAX BURKHALTER