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Is Your Bath Perfect or Just Perfectly Nice?

By 10/28/2012July 17th, 202019 Comments

Is your bath perfect or just perfectly nice? When done well, a bathroom design will be perfect. You can’t just purchase the perfect bath, it must be created and designed. And, just like any other room in your home, it all starts with inspiration.

the perfect bathroomSource

I recently attended an event at  Cantu, a fabulous bathroom and kitchen showroom in Vancouver. Their special guest was the co-founder and vice president of Waterworks Barbara Sallick. She gave a talk on what it takes to have The Perfect Bath.

Barbara Sallick

Barbara Sallick – The Perfect Bath

Waterworks Brass Faucet

Waterworks Henry Faucet

How to design the perfect bath.

I gathered so many bathroom design nuggets that I wanted to share some with you in this post. Here are some of the highlights.

“Design integrity in a bath means that you must select the right ingredients and assemble them with clarity and style.”

My two most favourite parts of her talk was:

1. The way she set up her advice. It started with this:

“I’m not saying I’m right, I’m just saying this conversation comes from my point of view.”

2. She loves a white bathroom as much as I do. 🙂

If your bath fixtures are white, you must have additional white in your bathroom design.

Barbara believes that bath fixtures should always be white. Almost every image in her presentation had some element of white repeated in the room along with white plumbing fixtures.

For example, there’s nothing worse than a bathroom filled with tile in multiple colours and not a stitch of white in any of it. And then there are a bunch of screaming bright white plumbing fixtures.

In the image below, there is no white in the tile and notice that the sinks are also not white. It would look odd if the only white in this bathroom was found in the sinks as there are already at least four colours found in the tile – and not one of them is white.

Taupe Bathroom sink


She told an interesting story where Waterworks mailed 70 instant cameras to selected customers and asked them to take photos of their bathrooms and mail them back. Waterworks would develop the images.

15 sent them back for a total of 322 photos. Barbara liked only two of the bathroom images.

The rest of the photos? Well, to her eye, there was always something that didn’t work. Most of the bathrooms photographed were just “perfectly acceptable or nice” bathrooms, and not the perfect bath.

  • The tub is too big or too small
  • The vanity looks like it belongs in the kitchen
  • The tile installer didn’t dry lay the tile or plan for balanced cuts
  • No one took the time to plan the right variations and balance
  • The grout colour is completely wrong

Perfect Bathroom

Velvet & Linen

The perfect bath design begins with inspiration.

According to Barbara, the best (and perfect) bathroom designs happen when you set out to create a total experience. You have to design inside the experience. You can’t just buy the perfect bath – you have to create it personally and tastefully.

And, all of it starts with a bath that is inspired.

Just as it’s very difficult to design a room without any inspiration or starting off point, it’s the same for a bathroom.

Brass Antique Mirror Bathroom Detail


First she showed us a bathroom with just a plain framed mirror and said, “See how this is a perfectly nice bathroom?” And then she shared the same photo (above) with this fabulous mirror. It’s the mirror – a detail both grand and unexpected – that suddenly turned this bathroom into something much more extraordinary… and made it perfect.

Barbara noted that the bright colour trends have not migrated to the bath and there is good reason for this. Almost everything in the bath is attached to the wall or the floor and it is both difficult and expensive to change a fixture you no longer like.


However, colour on the walls is easy to change and if your bathroom is all Carrara marble. Nothing brings grey tile/marble to life faster than a bright pop of colour like turquoise, yellow, or pink.

Read More: What countertop looks good with Carrara Marble tile?

aqua blue carrara marble bathroom


Is Your Bath Perfect or Just Perfectly Nice?

The most important reason why I was inspired to share her bath design tips with you is this:

Here is a designer, and in fact the co-founder of Waterworks, and someone who has been in this design business for a very long time  – and she, too, is trying to save the world from yet another “meh” or just perfectly nice looking bathroom.

And you know what else? There wasn’t any accent tile to be found in a single photo of her presentation. No. Accent. Tile. Just in case you’re new to the blog, here’s one more reason you should skip accent tile altogether.

Ceramic architecture? Yes. (example below) Here’s the difference.

ceramic architecture wall mosaic bath tile



At the end of her talk, she shared a glimpse of one of the bathrooms in her own house. And guess what it was?

White Subway Tile

I rest my case. For today anyway. 😉

Related posts:

Selecting your Kitchen or Bath Backsplash: Accent tile or Not?

One More Reason Why you Should Skip Accent Tiles Altogether

The Best Backsplash Tile for your Kitchen

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

962 pins


  • Great post, Maria, and great information from Barbara. Thanks for sharing this call to reason!

  • Ginger says:

    My bathrooms are ugly. Beige fixtures. 1992 builder’s grade. The one added later has white fixtures and the dreaded multiple not-white tiles that do not match each other.

    I wish I lived in an older home with nice standard white or black and white tiles. Or even a pink 1950’s bathroom. I rather like those.

    The only tiles that I’ve had that were worse than the beige were a late 60’s brown powder room. The main bathroom in that house had yellow, which was quite charming.

    • Emily says:

      I had the 1950s pink bathroom. Actually, three of them. Might be good for some, but I was not a fan!

      I was very happy to move into our new (to us) 1974 home with harvest gold fixtures, blue carpet and flowered wallpaper. I didn’t feel guilty at all about ripping it all out and starting completely new!

  • Alison Hodd says:

    You say ” notice that the sinks are not white”. The sinks are undermount, and they look white to me. What am I missing? Thanks.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Thanks for pointing that out Alison, picture an all white sink instead of the under mount. That’s the image it should have been! But my point is the same. Maria

  • StagerLinda says:

    Always great to learn from another great teacher. Thanks for the post.

  • Thanks for this post, Maria. My next challenge is going to be our bathrooms. I started by painting the peach walls, mirror frame, and pink-beige-maple stained vanity WHITE. I lost the burgundy shower curtain and added a white shower curtain. The tiles and counter are at least both yellow-beige with white accents and the fixtures are all white. That helped SO much that many people thought I’d re-done the entire bathroom! Let me just note that the previous colors were from the previous owners!

  • Cherie says:

    I love the photos in this post, Maria. I have a couple of questions:
    If Barbara Sallick says bath fixtures should always be white, why does she go on to say there is nothing worse than screaming white fixtures in a bathroom where nothing else is white? Does she mean that one should always have some element of white so that the white fixtures relate to that element?
    And is the last photo an good example of using accent tile, or are you showing what not to do?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Cherie,
      Good questions, to clarify, Barbara did not say the ‘screaming fixtures’ part, that was me 🙂 However, I did note that in all the images she showed there was always an element of white repeated in the room somewhere so that the white plumbing fixtures looked good.
      And the last photo is not what I would consider accent tile. Accent tile is the strip that people throw in on their kitchen backsplash or shower surround whether they need it or not. Maria

  • Grover Deborah says:

    The bathrooms are very pretty but I think the gold mirror looks out of place with the silver faucet and gray tones in the counter top and green cabinets
    It also breaks your rule of not to make backsplash out of the stone countertop material.
    I also think the sconces are too high

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Deborah,
      Her point is simply that the mirror personalizes the bathroom. And some people might repeat the gold somewhere so that it looks even more like it belongs. I think the backsplash here has been done well because it’s finished with that edge. I have some more good examples here on my pinterest board of bathroom backsplashes done well., thanks for your comment! Maria

  • I love the fixtures in the first photo! the message makes perfect sense but somehow it evokes great anxiety for me!

  • Maria says:

    There’s a comment about the gold mirror beint “out of place” in the grey and marble bathroom. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t there some gold veins in the marble (left-hand side by the glass jars)?
    I love the last photo of the blue architectural tile 🙂

  • Angie says:

    Hi Maria,

    Great post, as usual. I love white in bathrooms as well, even with small children:) My question is what wall colour would you suggest for a very small basement bath with no window/natural light that is all done in wood panelling. The only good thing about it is the original cast iron tub.


  • pf allen says:

    Loved the bath with the gold antique mirrow-anyway to find out the marble and paint color on the cabinets?

  • Katherine says:


    I share your love of white in kitchens and baths! I am frustrated, however, in our search for a new home in the Spokane Wa area. Even the best builders are using almost solely medium to dark stained cabinets, granite countertops – usually black – and medium to dark grey tile in the bathrooms. The baths often look like they are inside a battleship! I would like to buy new construction and there is a limited inventory available in our price range. Do you see lots of white used in new construction? We cannot afford to buy in a nice, secure neighborhood AND tear out all of the tile and replace it.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Unfortunately most builders are men and they operate like a stained wood cabinet is more valuable than a white one. Maria

  • Kimberly says:

    Had to laugh at your “for today anyway” 🙂 I really appreciate you sharing so much of what you learned. Great information!

  • Lucy says:

    Maria both you and your followers bring up such interesting points that most “normal” or inexperienced people never even think about. Obviously a lot of designers don’t either. Your blogs are like seeing with new eyes. Your examples are perfect and your explanations are priceless! Love all of your posts, you are a great teacher!

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