Justin Homewood on finding a bath that works for your home, how to make a statement and why mixing old and new is easier than it looks.
The Water Monopoly, a brand easily recognisable for its modern takes on antique baths, has been at the forefront of redefining the idea of bathing. In a world where baths are being swapped for power showers for both temporal and lifestyle reasons, the company is reframing the product as an indulgent luxury. Where perhaps scrubbing in a tub was seen as a time-consuming activity compared to the convenience of showers, baths are quickly being recognised for their meditative and restorative powers. The bathroom, Justin Homewood – the founder of Water Monopoly – jokes, is the only door inside the house we lock.
Beyond its function as a place for quiet contemplation, personal hygiene and stress relief, baths are making waves in the design world as vehicles of self-expression – a statement piece in any modern bathroom. Whether it’s a traditional claw-footed, roll-top bath or a contemporary clean-lined inset tub, the variety of products available has grown to meet the demands of consumers.
With so many options on the market, how do you know where to start? The aesthetics and practicalities of each style are important considerations when browsing for baths and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed – something that Justin is all too aware of.
The Water Monopoly creates products based on classic and antique styles, reworked to have more contemporary silhouettes. Sophisticated and comfortable, the company offers a range of colours and finishes that will work with any room. So whether it’s a paired-down palette or bright, flamboyant style you’re after, you’re bound to find inspiration in their northwest London showroom.
The owners of this house on Clarendon Road, for example, have chosen two exquisite Water Monopoly baths to complement the ornate living rooms, artfully creating bathrooms that feel opulent.
So, double or single-ended, freestanding or built-in, modern or antique? Justin offers some advice on finding your perfect fit and why you should wear good socks when you go to the showrooms.
What do you think makes baths so romantic?
It is the only door in the house with a lock on it so it becomes the room where you can spend some peaceful time away from the rigours of everyday life.
I work three days in London and then spend the rest of my time with the family in Devon. The first thing I do when I return home is to light the candles and have a bath. It helps me adjust to the change of pace.
Do you think bathing has a lot to do with nostalgia and memories of childhood?
Yes, I was brought up by my grandmother – she lived in a house with 1950’s pink and yellow baths and ceramics, they were called the ‘pink and yellow bathrooms’. We often have clients that fondly reminisce about the bathrooms they had when they were children.
When it comes to choosing a bath, how do you suggest customers begin?
The first decision would be to either choose a single or a double-ended bath. A single-ended bath has the waste at one end, a double-ended bath has the waste in the centre of the bath. Where the bath is positioned in the room will usually dictate which bath you decide to opt for: if the short end is coming off the wall with windows on either side, it would make sense to choose a single-ended bath, whereas if the long side is sitting in an alcove or a bay window, it might be best to opt for a double-ended bath.
Then, you can either choose a boxed bath or a freestanding bath. If you have a tight alcove, you may want to choose a boxed-in bath. If in a bay, you may choose a freestanding bath. Freestanding baths take up less space both visually and practically, and in my opinion, look a lot better, however, some prefer the practicality of a boxed-in bath, especially if it has a shower over it.
Can you mix modern with classic-style fittings?
You should decide which route you want to head down and stick with it. However, a lot of The Water Monopoly customers will mix modern and older styles. We make a lot of ‘transitional’ styles. Our Rockwell collection is more mid-century, so has a complete look of its own and therefore, is versatile when it comes to what you pair it with.
Of the baths you sell, which is the standout signature shape?
The Jennings bath with the wooden trim is my favourite.
What are your top tips for buying a bathtub? One of the best we’ve received was ‘get in it’!
Exactly! It is very important to get in; some smaller baths are more comfortable than the larger ones. My tip is when visiting showrooms, wear good socks! If a bath is comfortable without any water, it will feel even better when it’s full. With regards to design, I always suggest returning to your decisions a few times for a couple of months if you can. If you still love the product, then go with it!
Are there any things people should avoid in their bathroom design?
Orange-coloured wood. Also, some salvage baths and basins have manufacturer’s threads that plumbers are unable to get onto. We can make adapters in our workshops, however, your average plumber will not have these facilities to hand.
How can The Water Monopoly help with design?
The Water Monopoly does not offer a design service as such, however, we are happy to give suggestions on either layout or design. We only sell bathroom fittings that include baths, basins, lavatories and accessories. While we don’t fit these products, our in-house plumber and engineer can offer advice on the plumbing side.
Do you find coloured, enamel baths are most popular?
Approximately 20 years ago, polished and patinated cast-iron exteriors were all the rage and would be used with beige limestone. The colour palette then changed from browns to greys in about 2014. The grey palette has allowed colour back, especially in the bathroom. In 2015, we launched the Rockwell range of coloured crosshead taps, and then expanded it to include baths and ceramics in 2016.
What about the vintage-look baths with feet – are they still popular?
Not as popular as they used to be in the 1990s. However, we still sell baths on feet, namely the Jennings and the Delafon bath. Clients tend to use these baths in larger bathrooms where they want to make a statement, especially with the Jennings bath. I have the Jennings bath in our master bathroom at home.
What kind of accessories do you recommend for bathrooms?
I love to find small antique cabinets to keep the nice products in. Interesting antique etageres with open shelves that sit next to the bath are also a nice addition if you have the space. You can also find old towel racks and robe hooks, they add character to the bathroom without having the same fitting issues as antiques. Our very useful Trove Mirror doubles up as a recessed cabinet over a basin, where you can keep the products that you don’t wish to have out on display.