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Emily Henderson

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by Emily Henderson
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A month ago (pre-haircut) I had the very fun opportunity to fly to New York for an event at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, celebrating National Design Week with Delta® Faucet. Rough life. It was a night full of design inspiration and a lot of fun with some of my favorite people in the industry. Nate Berkus spoke, we were taken on a private tour of the museum and at the end of the night a new Delta® Faucet concept was revealed to a room of design experts. It’s not like anything you’ve ever seen and the reaction was interesting.

As a prop stylist for catalogues and ads it was my job to take a product and put it in a context that would help it to ‘sell’. Sometimes it was easy – a pretty floral pillow just needs a pretty tufted sofa, for instance. Sometimes it was harder, say if the product was generic or something I wouldn’t necessarily own myself. And then there were the times when I had to flip the entire perception of the piece and give it a whole new context, not because it didn’t have an identity on its own, but because it didn’t fit the common mold. Context changes everything folks, and one of the most fun parts of my job has always been to give new and innovative products a context.

However, sometimes new technology and innovative product design can be harder to frame because we’ve never seen it before so we don’t know what its “home” should look like. When it comes to designing a house, not just styling a shoot – buying and installing faucets for instance isn’t often where many of us want to take risks. But embracing innovation and technology shouldn’t negate or supersede the design, it should enhance it both visually and technically. One of the things that the Delta® Faucet designers try to do is master both the exterior aesthetic of the product with the technology of the inside. Thus the new faucet.

But first, the party… Because I didn’t put on blue eyeliner and buy new shoes to not take some photos.

Design Forward With Delta Faucet At The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Museum

Myself and these folks were there to create some content around this event – you may know them. From left to right, Me, my “boyfriend” Nate Berkus, Christina and Robert of New Darlings, Coco of Coco Cozy and Amber Lewis of Amber Interiors.  I knew some of them before (Amber and Nate) but it was so lovely to meet the others, especially at such a fun event.

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The event was full of food, drinks and music with a lot of professionals in the design world – and a lot of magazine editors. We hob-knobbed, took a bunch of insta-stories and rubbed elbows with some New York design folks. Below is Newell Turner, the head of editorial for all the Hearst magazines.

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That’s some hob-nobbing, right there (we have shared a meal before, and he’s super lovely).

We took a private tour of the design museum – a place that I frequented often in my 20’s while I was just getting into design. It’s totally inspiring and somewhere I can get lost – both because of the history and the visual stimulation.

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The whole museum is much more about innovation in design than décor. If you are in the design or art world and are visiting New York soon, check it out. It’s in a stunning old building and full of design icons that have shaped everything we touch.

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But we weren’t there just to party and walk around. The main even was Nate Berkus and Delta industrial designer Seth Fritz speaking about innovation in design. They had a really inspiring (and entertaining) conversation about design and innovation through the decades, calling out what their experience with trends, styles and their feelings about them then and now.

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Obviously I know a decent amount about design in the 20th century, but it was such a great perspective by two experts with personal anecdotes and controversial opinions. It was a mini-history lesson, and focused more about how the culture and technology of that time period affected the design and style of homes and architecture. As society changes and evolves, how we use our house changes, too. Trying to forecast trends becomes an impossible game in which we all win and lose, with the more interesting conversation being the ‘zeitgeist’ factor.

Design Forward With Delta Faucet At The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Museum

They spoke a lot about designing to be timeless yet innovative (Nate referencing interiors, and Seth referencing product). I’m pretty sure at one point Nate said that he designs without trends in mind, which I find virtually impossible but totally inspiring. He edits each object in his home, curating his life story and letting nothing in that doesn’t contribute to that very personal story.

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We laughed a lot. I especially did when he referenced how many of his clients just pull up “Emily Henderson’s Instagram Feed” to show him what they want. I think he was being a bit hyperbolic, showing how much the design process has changed and how social media has influenced this process – but it was still lovely to be called out publicly (especially in a room with lots of potential brands and clients).

Then, the dramatic ending of the night, these two Delta® Faucet designers, Seth Fritz and TJ Eads, unveiled a new concept faucet – essentially an ‘idea’ for a faucet not necessarily one that is on the market right now.

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It’s called the Delta ®Sphere and it certainly doesn’t look like any faucet I’ve ever seen.

Design Forward With Delta Faucet At The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Museum

As a prop stylist for photo shoots I rarely had to think about function or innovation of the pieces that I used. Ironically you care more about how the room feels, aesthetically without often caring as much about how it actually feels when you sit down to use the room. As a designer I care much more, and the more experienced I get the more I rely on innovation to help guide my decisions. But technological innovation can sometimes be really intimidating in the style world, and often goes against design. Architects and product designers are focused on the future, creating something that has never been made before and often this can make it hard to place in older homes. Contemporary (or new) fixtures often look best in contemporary homes – homes designed and built during the era of the fixture (now). So a faucet so different than any others was initially a shock – in what bathroom, with what sink, in what home could this actually work?

The reaction to the faucet was interesting and it may not be something very many of you would put in your homes (nor should you necessarily … keep reading) but its innovation both in design and function is remarkable – let me tell you about it.

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The Delta Faucet designers have a mantra they try to work with: See Beautiful Design, Do Beautiful Work. Beautiful design on the outside, with innovative technology inside. A good designer doesn’t design something that has already been designed, so even with their more classic and traditional styles they design them to be fresh and new, with the newest technology to match.

This faucet was designed to enhance the senses and be a better experience in terms of touch, sight and sound. The way it trickles out is both lovely to feel, nice to watch and obviously nice to hear.

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A lot of us had a ton of questions. What would the finish options be? Is it environmentally friendly? What is the price point? How do you turn it on? We were reminded that this is actually a 3-D model, just a concept of a faucet designed in celebration of National Design Week. It’s not something on the market right now, it is more of a concept for discussion and for the designers to be challenged to do something absolutely different.

Now, there were skeptics and I know that some of you might be in that camp. I think when we see a version of something that we use every single day, designed to be virtually unrecognizable it’s hard for designers/stylists to place it in a room – especially in a city like New York with such old architecture.

My initial reaction was what is that? but my thoughts quickly shifted to, wait, it has clean lines and is very simple and graphic, it’s just different. Which leads us to the obvious question – how would I use this faucet in a bathroom design? I had a couple immediate thoughts – it would have to be a super modern and new space – a new build with very forward architecture, and it would need to be high-end. A cheap version of this would fail, but if it was solid clear glass with really simple and high end metallic finishes I could make this absolutely work.

So I designed three fantasy bathrooms with the sphere in mind.

Spanish Modern Bathroom Delta Faucet Moodboard

I felt that something so modern, like this faucet, could work in a Mediterranean house with modern architecture, but some old-world references.  I pictured a spa or a house near the water, either in a new build with Spanish references or a reimagined centuries old building. Old-world vibe but with modern technology. We played on the sphere shape and brought in more curves in the room to create more of a theme. By making the finish of the faucet black I think it gives it an edge – this masculine meets feminine juxtaposition that totally works. I paired cement walls and handmade zellige tiles with sleek matte black and really simple, sleek finishes.

I also pictured it in a Japanese spa:

Japanese Minimal Bathrooom Delta Faucet Moodboard

See? I think the contrast of this shiny metallic, with the warm wood works so well. The trickling sound would be so lovely in a spa and the sculptural shape of the sphere contrasts really well with the slats of wood. When I think of spa bathrooms I want light and movement, with warmth and soft shapes – and when this can be done in a modern and technologically innovative way then you truly do have some luxury happening.

But then I thought – what if I were Kelly Wearstler? How would she design it in one of her uber-modern hotels?

Abstract Regency Bathroom Delta Faucet Moodboard

When your finishes are simple (glass and a metal)  and the shape is super graphic it’s so much easier to place something like The Sphere in different contexts. Had they added a lot of detailing in the metal it may not work, but because it’s so graphic and modern it makes a statement in a simple way.

This post wasn’t about selling this particular concept faucet – it may or may not ever be for sale. But I love the conversation that surrounds contemporary product design (and architecture) and how stylists and designers work with them. This sphere isn’t one that I would recommend for a Victorian or Craftsman style home, nor should you put it in a bathroom that has simple subway tile and more basic finishes. Super contemporary product need a special context to help understand the simplicity of design and to help show off the technology. A faucet like this could easily look out of place, but when styled right I think could be amazing. The sound of the water, the action of the waterfall over the sphere, and the feeling of it falling over your hands – it was really exciting. It just took me a second to make sense of it and then once I did I got so excited.

Delta® Faucet sponsored that event, my trip and this post with the goal of showcasing what their team can do – that they work daily to create product that is visually really interesting and technologically advanced.

Working in the digital field we try to innovate every single day, and yet often with furniture and decorative items I lean towards pieces that reference the past – maybe out of comfort or maybe because it works better with the homes in which I’ve lived. But I do rely on companies to innovative, both in classic designs and contemporary products like The Sphere.

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Thanks to Delta® Faucet for facilitating this conversation and creating an event where thoughtful discussions about contemporary design could happen.

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And thanks to The Cooper Hewitt Museum for your continued dedication to highlighting innovative design. When a new invention emerges with technological innovation and a beautiful exterior it absolutely should be celebrated.

I’d love to hear your constructive thoughts on the topic of technological innovation in design. Could you see that faucet working in one of those fantasy mood boards? Or does the contemporary design scare you?

*This post was brought to you in partnership with Delta® Faucet, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

**Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp for EHD

  1. It’s strange. It’s beautiful. It looks like something I’d love in concept but struggle with in execution. Your room layouts help with context…which is key in all design. As a prototype it needs work to be more eleventh to our current lives. As an inspiration it’s stunning and a real paradigm shift in how one thinks of such a basic and common object like a faucet. I love it. But it’s like couture fashion….not for the faint of heart and more conceptual art then clothing. Sometimes I get sick of all the “regular” design stuff like shiplap, subway tiles, linen duvet covers, schoolhouse electric lights etc. It’s just so pervasive. So it’s nice to see something unexpected and thoughtfully designed. I hope you get to use it in a house someday. If anyone could make it innovative somehow Democratic in home decor it would be you. Interesting idea…weird looking…beautiful…I’ll certainly keep thinking about it. And isn’t that the point…

    1. I totally laughed reading this because I’m struggling with all the “regular” design stuff too. We just bought a house and it’s a basic builder with zero existing charm. It does have the original hardwood floors and a wood burning fireplace and I immediately wanted to recreate Schoolhouse Electric’s house or of course Emily’s house. BUT I got stuck. Shiplap out, kitchen is a ways out to no subway tile and it might be out anyway because it’s so ubiquitous. So now we’ve got white walls and that’s about it (though we did paint our bedroom black with creamy white ceiling, moulding, and doors so that’s something. Anyway HELP! Do we like blue velvet curtains? Why did I buy a cream couch when I have a two year old?! WHY ARE RUGS SO EXPENSIVE???

      1. HA. You are not alone. Hopefully our series ‘how to add character to basic homes’ will help. In a way some builders are doing us a favor by not making too many design decisions and leaving it blank. One of my best friends just bought a new house that doesn’t have hardware or a backsplash in their kitchen and its great because she can put in what she wants without having to rip out something generic and bad. So at least its a blank slate, right? And scotch guard that sofa. And bind carpet for large inexpensive rugs!! 🙂

  2. The faucet is a cool idea. It looks modern & I really like the idea of hearing the water trickle, like a peaceful fountain. I like a modern look myself & would consider a faucet like this in my home. The only “but” for me is that innovative and modern pieces such as the faucet invariably make me think big money. Personally the more I mature, the less I’m inclined to have a piece like this because it’s too strongly linked to money. In other words, if I saw it in a friend’s house, I would assume she spent a lot of money on it. I have zero problems with that notion, however for myself I find that I don’t want pieces that look overly expensive if that makes sense. I wish there was good modern, innovative design that was actually affordable for the masses but I get that’s not how it works.
    Thanks for the update, and your shoes are awesome.

    1. I guess all i’m saying is that some pieces can’t be cheaply made to be executed properly. Of course i’d love for it to be affordable, as well, and there are many affordable pieces out there for sure … its the same in fashion. As I was shopping for over the knee boots I tried on a million $100 pairs and they all fall down immediately and were made of the bad kind of fake leather. I think to execute a boot that will stay up, over many different types of knees takes a particular material and design execution. But oxfords, loafers, booties or flats don’t need this same high quality level. Does that make sense?
      And thanks. I love those shoes, but i tripped the other day and they ripped and now i’m VERY Sad because they were expensive … going to try to see if Opening Ceremony will take back or fix .xx

  3. I love the Cooper Hewitt! I used to work down the street and this post took me back. Loved your ideas designing a room with the product.

  4. P.S. could find the presentation online somewhere?

    1. I don’t think so, sorry! I tried to find it myself …

  5. Really cool post! I was skeptical until I saw your design concepts.

  6. Wow. LOVE that faucet. Those origami inspired tiles are amazing. You should check out Kohler Wisc next….

    And any chance you’ll give the details on your dress??

    1. Yes , I also want to know about your dress! I love it!

  7. Ha Ha! Loved your post. You really are something and as popular as you are now I see you becoming even more a huge mainstay in the design world.
    Plus one of the funnest things about the whole post was seeing your bright fun outfit and everybody else (at least in the pictures) as staid and safe in their dark colors. You go Girl!

    1. Yeah I thought the same thing. I could definitely Emily is the one from LA….

      It’s frankly kinda hard to hear about this kind of thing – Emily talking about how this sort of faucet only belongs in an expensive contemporary home. I know she’s right, but as someone who lives in an uber expensive housing market my home is already pricey but will never be the type to support high design. Seems cruel…

      On the other hand I can see this in a really nice European hotel.

  8. As someone whose background is in law and whose day to day is staying home with kids, but yearns to be in the design world this conversation was fascinating. (Also, Nate Berkus is MY boyfriend too. LOL.) I had two thoughts about the faucet: 1) My kids would love to play in it, and 2) I wish the spherical shape continued around the entire thing so the water trickle over the sides. Loved this!

    1. Hi Rachel, right there with you, I’m an attorney pining for a design career. Why does the law suck everything out of us??!

      As for the Faucet, love it!! And I Love the three concepts Emily.

      To me it feels very Milan 1920s.

      Can you post a video of the faucet? I even went to the website and social medial sites bc I want to see it in motion and hear it too.

      1. Ahh… There’s an idea for a whole ‘nother post! Lol.

        1. Well, i do need a lawyer 🙂 thanks for coming, ladies. xx

  9. Your design concepts were super helpful, I was not feeling it on first blush but actually have fallen for it…it’s very pretty, elegant, simple. It almost seemed tacky at first but you’re right, high end finishes are absolutely necessary to make it successful.

    I agree it is definitely well suited in a high end space. I could see it doing well in hospitality (restaurants, hotels) as well. Definitely a talking point in a washroom. I dig it.

    1. Thank You! That is what we thought too, in the right space, that really works with the design of the faucet it could really be pretty incredible. xx

  10. Love this fresh take on a sponsored post 🙂

  11. I would’ve loved being at that event. The faucet is very pretty–I think it’s more commercial than residential.
    So it’s basically like a tiny fountain? Does it get dirty? How do you clean it? I’d be tempted to lean over and try to drink the water from the top, but I’d probably bump my forehead against the wall 🙁 Also, I am sure kids would LOVE it and play in the bathroom sink even more often than they already do.
    Incidentally, I love your dress and I love your SHOES. If I wore shoes like that I’d tower over everyone in the room, then I’d probably trip and twist my ankle.

    1. I totally agree about it being more commercial than residential – hard to say why, but the three concepts we did i pictured in a hotel or spa, not a home. But with the right architect and designer it could be anywhere. xx

  12. Amazing what the right context could make of a product/idea that seemed so inaccessible at first. What a well-articulated and exciting read!

  13. Love the concept of rethinking paradigms here, and I’m not a fan of super shiny finishes (sorry chrome trend) but if it came with other options I could totally get behind this. I love the idea of bringing in a pleasant water trickle sound, and if it doesn’t need to be touched to turn on that’s even better. My major concern here is there is no discussion around sustainability or conservation. I feel like product designers, especially for something like this related to water conservation, need to use opportunities like this to offer innovations that help the planet. I think that angle is completely missing here and it hurts the relevance of it for me. I’m all about art for art’s sake, but I also love this planet and this is a missed opportunity. I want to know how the uniqueness helps save water and reduce the need for too much soap for example. On a completely different note, I LOVE that you wore such a bold, fun, colorful outfit to this and didn’t play it safe. You go girl!

    1. I had the same initial reaction. It looks cool, but doesn’t it waste water? The “soothing trickle sound” is a faucet running and wasting water, right?

      1. That question was asked and they said that they considered the low flow when designing it, but I think the conversation is a good one and agree. When being innovative with design we should also be innovative with sustainability.

  14. The contemporary design doesn’t scare me. Visit it would work in your mood boards or in commercial, hospitality spaces. My question is: Is it going to wash the soap off your hands!? I have this issue with waterfall faucets too. The steam isn’t aerated enough to be forceful enough to wash soap off. This looks the same way so for me it’s a hard NO.

  15. Your spanish modern bathroom design is my favorite with that faucet! At first i was thinking how in the world would you make it not look like it was plucked from the bad 80s/90s modern but of course you pulled it into a beautiful space. As one other commenter mentioned, i would have loved to hear that presentation from Nate.


  16. What a cool compliment from Nate Berkus!!! Faucet would look beautiful in my backyard where I could use a small fountain.

  17. It’s amazing how your mood boards made this product seem so much more accessible (within the special context you mention of course, not the everyday house). The Japanese Minimal board is my favorite and a space I can see it integrating into well, most likely because of the other clean lines and pared back space. After re-reading the post and soaking it in, this concept doesn’t seem all that foreign to me – Quite lovely in fact.

    Thank you for sharing such forward thinking content! I love this glimpse into the design world. As another commented asked, is the presentation available to watch online?

    1. We will check in with the Delta team and see if the presentation lives online anywhere! xx

  18. What a great concept, and I love the idea that Delta created a larger conversation around the idea of design and innovation. By creating a dialogue about how to implement new technology into our everyday lives, it’s easier to see how well an idea such as this could be adapted and changed to fit a variety of design styles. While the initial impulse tends to be to use this exact product in high-end design, after seeing your mood boards, it’s easy to see how one could extrapolate on these ideas to create contexts outside of these to implement the faucet into more homes than might have initially been thought.
    AND kudos on the shoutout from Nate. 😉

    1. THANK YOU. I love this debate so much .xx

  19. Into it. I can’t decide if it’s whimsical or uber modern. Both? Neither? Don’t care. Into it.

  20. I think new designs are always really fun, and I love your suggestions for the ‘Spanish Modern’ mood board; my concern is that in the prototype there is water dripping all down the sides of the bowl, which leads me to thing this faucet would be kind of messy in actual use and I wouldn’t want water getting all over my (obviously high end if I had it) bathroom. I’d say it’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine – I hate when water splashes everywhere – but I feel like that’s also just logic?

  21. I think the faucet works perfectly in all thre mood boards, but my favorite is by far the Spanish modern. So gorgeous and unexpected in the best way. But what about this faucet makes it technologically advanced, besides the way the water pours over the sphere? If that’s the only “advance,” then I don’t think a product like this would work.

  22. These designs you have crated around the faucet has brought it to life for me. Before I saw it in the room mock ups this faucet was strange to say the least. It was a stretch for my imagination to think of how it would work in ANY home. Truthfully I thought maybe a business would have better luck using this concept because it reminded me of old school house community sinks, with the foot lever. Your mock ups brought this faucet back into the home and the designs around them and using them are perfect! How cool to be apart of such a thought provoking project!

  23. Wow your designs make it look so good and normal! And i love your colorful dress in an endless sea of black!

  24. Lovely content out of a paid post as always, Em, but the way Delta required you to use the registered trademark throughout the piece is so tacky and really takes away from your authentic voice. Cut it out Delta(R) and your overly nervous lawyers!

  25. Hi Emily,

    I had one thought, how does this work to fill a glass? Hubby and I fill up a water glass at night before bedtime. Kitchen is woefully far away (I know, I’m hearing myself as I write this)..but in looking at the pictures, it looks like it would take some work to get the water in the glass. But it could be just my perception.

  26. I think it’s seriously cool-looking. One of my first thoughts when I saw the picture was that the water flow from that would feel so good, so relaxing, so pampering. Imagine being pampered every time you washed your hands? Of course, the mom/housekeeper/home owner in me is asking: how easy is it to clean? What parts get dirty and can you actually get to them to clean them properly? What parts on it are likely to break, and how easy are they to fix?

    In any case, I really appreciate breaking out of the mold on faucets and just attempting something different. Kudos to Delta.

  27. I wonder about this because it doesn’t solve a problem but I guess it’s a design idea so it’s about reimagined design and not reimagined faucets. I would love to have an added benefit though like “saves water though aeration” or “sphere heats more efficiently so less energy is used” but I guess I am just not a designer haha
    Still an interesting way of looking at something as mundane as a faucet and realizing that there is always room for innovation.

  28. I could also see this working really well in commercial spaces: architectural firms, creative studios, certain retailers, certain bars/restaurants. I like it a lot. Great post. Good design is good design, and that will always be so.

  29. Great post!
    I don’t like Kelly or Spanish that much but it works in Japanese. I also like the brass version you mocked up.
    It does seem better suited to a commercial situation, but I disagree that it wouldn’t work in an older building. It would have to be in the right setting but there can be something unexpected and beautiful about a modern item in an older setting, as long as the older setting is good quality and good design itself and not just old. Whacking it in a gas station bathroom isn’t going to work but a panelled powder room for example?
    There is something about it that reminds me of the tilting soap dispensers so I could see it in a well kept or repro 50s bathroom. There’s also a hint of jellyfish about it so bright brass in an otherwise white or pastel coloured beach house bathroom could work.
    It does feel like the water should be aerated somehow to minimise water usage, but balanced with the need to provide enough flow for actually rinsing things.

  30. What a delightful post with new ideas to think about. The blending of the old and the new is a fascinating task and you do it well. What a great trip this must have been and so thought provoking. It is always fun to have our thinking jolted so that we can explore new options.

  31. Cute dress!

  32. Wait, where are those origami inspired tiles on the Japanese spa board from???

  33. I don’t see this as particularly controversial…it’s not dissimilar to a waterfall faucet, both in function and in that it will only really “work” in very specific instances. I love how your post focused on innovation. I think that’s a really interesting way to view new ideas, instead of just good/bad. And I think this was a smart choice for Delta. I have several of their faucets in my house, and while I definitely associate them with quality, I don’t associate them with cutting-edge design. To be brutally honest, this feels a little stunt-y, but it does have me interested. And thinking about their brand.

  34. There is something so elemental about this design, I hesitate to even refer to it as a faucet. It’s like a waterfall or a spring, rather than a man made mechanical delivery system. Fascinating concept. Depending on the metal finish I see Star Trek, or the Lascaux cave paintings.

  35. Pre-haircut! Lovely! After a pipe broken I hate when I hear water flowing around. It could be comforting but not this year!

  36. I think it’s stunning! I love it! But the real question is….how DO you turn it on? I’m dying to know!

  37. ok, nate berkus was definitely not exaggerating… i am getting 2 new bathrooms built in my house and my houzz ideabook is literally just pictures of bathrooms designed by emily henderson. your design concepts for that faucet are gorgeous and a fun kind of aspirational, “i’d never do this in my house but i would definitely enjoy stopping in this bathroom at my fancy friend’s house” way.

  38. What an amazing event this must’ve been! Thanks for sharing the details with us!

  39. Awesome post, SO interesting and inspiring. I think the faucet is amazing and works well with all 3 styles. Would you mind sharing where you bought those incredible shoes. LOVE!
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  40. This is appreciable and wonderful post that you have provided for us.Great site and a great topic as well i really get amazed to read this.

  41. I really want to say thanks for these interesting post. Keep it up and post continuously …

  42. Thanks for Nice and Informative Post. This article is really contains lot more information about This Topic -!!

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