In 1999, Waterworks participated in the Kips Bay show house with Thomas O’Brien, which coincided with the launch of the highly original and extremely beautiful Aero fittings. Looking through O’Brien’s new book, Aero: Beginning to Now, I am reminded of this earlier work and his influence in the design community.

For the design of the Kips Bay show house, Thomas was happy to have the servant’s quarters–a space that no one else wanted–of a grand Gilded Age mansion. The group of attic rooms lacked any architectural flourishes, which was his preference. He turned the small suite of plain rooms into a spa-like fantasy with a sitting room and bath. The space was fully fixtured with refurbished pieces from his Aero vintage collection and new pieces Thomas had designed and made locally. The running bond 1.5cm mosaic floor was extended out from the bath to the sitting room, and to soften the room, the walls were clad in celadon Bergamo sateen. It was a sympathetic merger of past and present.

His style was called “warm modernism.”  In Aero, O’Brien describes this style as giving a room personal and domestic warmth at distinct variance with cold, austere, modern interiors. He states that his goal over his career has been to create spaces that were reminiscent of something familiar, perhaps something found in a barn that is slightly distressed and unassuming.

The Kips Bay installation perfectly represented his point of view: the bath was more than just fixtures attached to the wall or floor, it was a retreat. Through it, O’Brien demonstrated that we had reached a new plateau in the way homeowners and designers approached the design of the bath; the luxurious bathrooms of the 20s and 30s had been transformed in to a compelling, vintage-inspired space with a modern vibe for the 21st century.


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