Many who vacation in Europe come home with a newly discovered passion. Fewer by far are those whose passion is sparked by kitchen and bathroom faucetry, but that was the case for Jay Eiring, who co-owns with his wife, Leslie, the kitchen and bath design company: Bathhaus.
“I went to Europe, that's how I got started and fell in love with knowing how faucets are made and how they look.” Jay said. “Most of the faucets that were made here at that time were hollow, just a piece of metal or plastic.”
He became the sales representative in Chicago for the Dornbracht company, establishing the faucet manufacturer from Germany in the area, more than twenty-five years ago.
“I know the family,” Jay said. “They're still the finest faucet made.”
The couple opened the kitchen and bath design company called Bathhaus in Lake Zurich in 1998 and, ten years later, moved to the corner of Northwest Highway and Eastern Avenue to be closer to their Barrington home.
The brick building is a little nondescript from the street, but once inside customers find not only a remarkable array of samples and room displays, but a comfortable customer first attitude.
“We're going to listen to you, it's all about the client,” said Jay. “It's not about me, it's about what their vision is.”
A walk through the store demonstrates a concrete vision of the multitude of components available to customer's who bring their visions to the Eirings. The walls are replete with displays of faucets and shower heads running the gamut from simple elegance to show stopping intricacy. Three sided rooms and decorated corners display bath and kitchen design with the details in place.
A display of a six basins are an artisan collection inspired by the Smithsonian Institution's collected works and feature historical patterns, textures and colors. Customers find a treasure trove for those who'd like a guided tour of what's possible when the world of design is at their fingertips.
Despite the quality of the merchandise, the store isn't intimidating. In fact, one of the employees is a black miniature poodle with his own business cards.
The family lives in Barrington with their three kids and knows their reputation with their neighbors is paramount to their long term success.
“We sell products that we can stand behind because I'm going to see these people at the Jewel and if they don't like something, that's me in a small town, Leslie said.
Word of mouth brings in new clients, but The Eirings like to see familiar faces as well.
“We have customers who come back from twenty years ago,” said Leslie, who holds a degree in Architecture. “And we plug their name into the computer and they say, I want to replace this valve or cartridge and we can get it and order it.”
The couple understands that a clients inner vision can be hard to convey, but they take pride in building a dream design built from their customers preferences.
“What we find works really well is that we create a design portfolio,” Leslie said. “We ask customers to bring in photographs of things they like. It can be an idea book.”
Leslie placed a binder on the table, filled with clippings from a current client with features circled and words like “Love this!” and “This is overkill,” written on the page.
“A lot of people have a pretty good idea what they like, from magazines, in pieces,” Jay said. “The magic is to put it all together.”
Maybe as a result of his Journalism degree, Jay has a talent for remembering product details and where to find them.
“Jay is the one who has the wealth of product knowledge he is able to look up in all of the books and all of the manufacturers we represent and say, this is similar to this,” Leslie said.
For her part, Leslie and architect partner, Karen Hollander, both of whom hold degrees in the subject, work together to construct a home's interior so it works with the design aspect.
“With one (client), we started doing her master bath two years ago and then we moved into the rest of her floor plan,” Leslie said. “The kitchen, the mudroom, the dining room, the living room, the hall path and I added a powder room.”
Walls were moved, a fireplace reconfigured, even ceilings were altered and in the end, Leslie received the reaction that makes her work worthwhile. The client came in, wrapped Leslie in a hug and invited her to lunch.
“With a client, and there's almost always a couple, it's fascinating and really gratifying and rewarding when both are both are completely elated with a job.” Leslie said. “It's seeing people excited about what they have which is a really well designed space with product that will stand the test of time and made really well.”
“It's very satisfying to work with someone in a very intimate area of their lives and to see when you've taken all the education all the knowledge and experience to really serve that client and see them smile,” Jay said.
“There was this guy, 6'7," and I was over as a follow up,” he continued. “He stood in the shower and said, 'Look at this. All my life, never been able to stand up and have the shower head above me.' He had a huge smile.”
“That's the part, with my education and your wealth of knowledge, that's where we're able to help these ideas become an idea and really make it custom,” Leslie commented. “It's not our dream kitchen, it's hers.”
“We're going to transfer that same initial passion for we found for pieces of metal, basically that bring water into everything; the cabinets, the lights, tile, to bring that whole passion approach to your space,” Jay said.
“That's what you get here,” he added. “That's how passion translates to the client.”
860 South Northwest Highway
Barrington, IL 60010