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Sherle Wagner: a trend setter in bathroom design

If anyone has been a pioneer in the bathroom revolution, it is Sherle Wagner, a New York designer-manufacturer who has brought unusual opulence and elegance to the bath scene.

He and his wife, Rose, started their business 38 years ago on the premise that bathrooms should have an attractive ambiance and be part of interior design , not just a stark array of plumbing fixtures. They were appalled then at the unattractiveness of the average bathroom.

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Over the years Mr. Wagner has introduced sinks, bowls, and tubs made of hand-carved marble and onyx. He has filled special orders for jade washbasins and gold-plated bathtubs, and has made gold-plated cherubs and dolphins in many sizes. He has introduced sculpture for hardware, and brought such gemstones to the bath-room as malachite, tigereye, rose quartz, agate, obsidian, jasper, lapis lazuli, amethyst, and rock crystal. Some of the gemstones are used for faucets and drawer pulls; others come in tile form, to be used for baseboards, wainscoting, floors, walls, counters, and tabletops.

He has presented collections of china and ceramic basins, faucet sets and accessories, as well as tiles, all hand-painted with poppies, waterlilies, mums, ming blossoms, and other floral themes.

Mr. Wagner, whose main showroom is in New York, says he filled a ''pent-up need for lush, beautiful bathrooms.'' Today, as one result of his influence, he finds bathrooms are often the most decorated rooms in the house. They not only showcase fine art, but are often works of art in themselves.

For those planning to install a new bathroom, renovate an old one, or merely change fixtures, Mr. Wagner has these suggestions:

* Consult an expert first. On the technical side, there are building codes and plumbing and installation requirements that must be heeded. An expert can guide the homeowner in choosing wisely and avoiding costly mistakes.

* When planning a new installation, get a diagram or blueprint in order to make the most efficient use of available space.

* For a renovation, locate existing plumbing fixtures on the blueprint and give their exact measurements. This will save time and money on the actual work.

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* If the bathroom is to serve different purposes, such as exercise, hair care , and make-up, the blueprint will be invaluable in planning extra storage space without upsetting the balance of the room.

* If you plan to do your own work, seek advice at the place where you buy fixtures and accessories to see whether the fixtures you choose are right for the existing plumbing.

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