Designing the perfect shower: 7 things to consider

We’re knee deep in planning out our second shower renovation and I wanted to share some of the things we’ve learned along the way, as long as some crowd-sourced features that you shared with me on Instagram last week. As with many home spaces, showers need to strike that perfect balance between incredibly functional to use and aesthetically beautiful.

1. Place your shower head opposite the shower controls

We did this in our primary shower renovation a few years ago and it has greatly improved our daily shower routine. I love being able to reach in to turn on the shower, close the door while the water heats up, all while avoiding getting wet. This design is a must-have for every shower we design going forward.

2. Don’t overlook the handheld shower head

If you have ever tried to clean a shower without a handheld shower head, you will realize just how hard it is to accomplish without one. The flexibility of being able to bring your water source to wherever it’s needed is so critical. We skipped adding one in our guest bathroom and I regret it every time I clean the tub or water plants. The handheld shower can also be great for kids, as you have more flexibility in angling the shower head and it’s typically placed lower on the wall than an overhead shower.

3. Consider your niche placement and size

If you have the option to hide your niche behind a wall you only see from inside the shower, do it! Shampoo and conditioner is not always the most attractive, so stashing those items out of sight is ideal. If you don’t have that option, consider placing the niche where it’s the least visible. Also, don’t forget to take inventory of the products you use in the shower so that your niche is both wide enough to accommodate everything and tall enough for larger bottles.

A few more thoughts on niches: I try to make them as inconspicuous as possible and steer clear of adding accent tile or anything else that draws attention to them. Another good option, if you have the space, is a long ledge, instead of a niche, as you have the ultimate flexibility in what you place on top of it. This can also be a beautiful design feature.

4. Consider adding a shaving shelf

This one was new to me, but adding a shelf or niche for putting your foot when shaving can be a big game changer for the functionality of your shower. If you have the room for a bench in your shower, that can serve the same purpose.

5. Don’t forget about your drain

You have two different options for your drain: a standard drain or a linear drain. If you opt for a linear drain it changes the slope style of your shower floor, so you can use larger tiles. If you opt for a standard drain, your tile size will need to be much smaller in order to slope properly into the drain. Also, don’t forget about ordering a drain that matches the aesthetic of your fixtures, as the standard one plumbers typically add is very generic and can take away from the visuals of the shower.

In our primary shower, we hid a linear drain under the bench and then further camouflaged it by tiling the drain, which is a pretty under the radar look. The linear drain also allowed us to use slightly larger tiles for a herringbone design.

6. Curbless can improve accessibility and visually expand space

Making your shower curbless can improve accessibility for those who are less mobile and can make for a more seamless aesthetic. One thing to keep in mind, since you need to drop the shower below the floor level in the room, going curbless can sometimes be trickier in an existing bathroom space without raising the level of the flooring in the bathroom to accommodate. We wanted to do this in our primary shower, but couldn’t justify losing the ceiling height and a less seamless transition into the space, but we think we may be able to pull it off in the bathroom we’re working on now because of some extra work that already needed to happen to level the floors in the space. One other thing I love about curbless showers is that they can visually expand the footprint of a small bathroom, as there is a less clear division between the bathroom floors and shower floors.

7. Play pretend

Bear with me, but one of the most critical steps we use as a gut check for the placement of all our fixtures is pretending to take a shower when only the framing is up. When you go through the steps, you can sometimes find out that you’ve overlooked something. It helps to think through where you’re going to put your towel when showering, where the shower door needs to be placed, where the ideal placement is for the niche to keep it out of the stream of water and more. Bathrooms are at their core function-driven spaces, so identifying issues early on can both give you the confidence that you haven’t missed something and prevent errors that may drive you crazy later on.

I hope this list can help you to maximize the function in your future shower renovations and to create a space that is a joy to use. Feel free to drop anything I may have overlooked in the comments.

And if you’re looking for help with choosing finishes, my friend Sarah at Room for Tuesday has pulled together 5 classic shower design plans that are all great.

4 thoughts on “Designing the perfect shower: 7 things to consider

  1. Thank-you for this really informative piece. We are just about to start a Reno of our master bath and the 3 piece on the third floor as well. Our research and discoveries echo yours. I would add that in our case we moved from putting in a stand alone tub to a undermount drop in tub with a stone edging/apron. We chose a curbless shower for the reasons you site as well.

    Several reasons– we don’t want the tub to be the focal point– no focal wall as it will be under a window, we want to better use all the space around the tub area and a ledge for candles etc. And the tables or stools that are typically placed beside stand alone tubs tend to be much lower and less accessible. This is why your point of play pretend is so important!



  2. My mother-in-law added a second holder for the hand shower about 3 or 4 feet off the bottom of the shower for all the visiting grand children. It’s a huge hit! Presumably also nice for combined shower/tubs where you might want it within arm’s reach to rinse your hair?

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