Bathroom Workbook Design Ideas
Bathroom Workbook: Turn Your Shower Niche Into a Design Star
Clear glass surrounds have upped the design ante for details such as shampoo and soap shelves. Here are 4 standouts
They may seem like tiny details, but shower niches play a role in how well a modern shower functions. They prevent a jumble of bottles from taking up residence on the shower floor or cluttering up a windowsill or shower bench, instead keeping products neat and within easy reach. And because clear glass surrounds and open showers are so popular in bathrooms today, the niche has become a design opportunity.We asked four designers for the nitty gritty on five-star shower niches and tips to consider during your next shower update.
Beth Kooby Design1. Calm, Seamless Look
Niche material:Sheets of Starphire glass custom-painted on the back to match the surrounding tile
Shower tile:2-by-12-inchLucian glass tile in Oxygen Glossfrom Ann Sacks
Niche size: 10 inches high by 24 inches wide by 5 inches deep
Beth Kooby Designer : considers bottle sizes and overall proportion of the niche in relation to the rest of the shower. “What’s also very important to me is that there are no cut tiles, so I usually wait to decide on the final dimensions of the niche once we have the tiles on site and I work it out with the tile installer,” she says.
This bathroom serves as a quiet retreat, so a calm, peaceful and uncluttered look was key. Koobyextended the Ann Sacks glass tiles from the shower across the vanity wall for a seamless look. The concrete vanity counter also has bits of recycled glass mixed in it. Beth Kooby Design Here we get a closer look at the floor tile, Helsinki marble from Walker Zanger.
Niche tips:“I don’t like grout lines in niches — there is too much gunk from shampoo and soap to clean out,” Kooby says. “Also, it’s always disappointing to me when it’s obvious the builder made the niche to just fit within the studs.… I love a long, horizontal niche. It’s cooler, more dramatic and holds more stuff.”
But even with a larger niche, “I also always advise clients to take a hard look at the amount of stuff cluttering up their beautiful shower — does one really need five different types of shampoo?” New England Design Elements2. Pattern Play
Niche tile: On the insert, the designer used a strong herringbone pattern composed of Falcon White Thassos and Carrara (from Soho Studio NY). The outside perimeter of the niche is Cobsa Black polished square tile (from Cancos). Inside the top and bottom of the niche is Lifestone Statuaria (also from Cancos).
Shower tile: 12-by-24-inchLifestone Statuary
Niche size: About 44 inches wide by 12 inches high and about 45 inches off the floor
Designer:Heather Alton, Londonderry, New Hampshire New England Design Elements Because the view into this shower is so open from the rest of the bathroom, the shower niche and tile detail around the fixtures play an important part in its design.
The wide niche is the yin to the long accent feature’s yang, providing pleasing proportions between the two rectangles of accent tile. New England Design Elements The wainscoting in this bathroom is adorned with “jewelry” in the form of upholstery nailheads. The small mosaic tiles around the niche play off this detail across the room.
Niche tips:The best-planned niches may have to be altered during construction, designer Heather Alton says. “When renovating, there is the occasional instance where niche locations will need to change due to the fact there is plumbing or vents inside the wall, especially on an outside wall.” In these cases, some reconfiguration may have to happen during construction. She also notes that with an exterior wall, you’ll need to ensure that it’s properly insulated.
Alton considers everyone who uses the shower to factor in how much room they’ll need. In the case of siblings who share a bathroom, she tries to give each a personal niche. She likes to have the clients present when planning shaving shelves, to find the most comfortable height. She also advises a two-niche solution in a tub-shower combo, one at a comfortable height for showering and the other within easy reach of bathers. Fluidesign Studio3. Three-Niche Focal Point
Niche tile: The tile in the niches is 1-by-2-inch Bianco Carrara brick tile. The niche surround is edged in Hampton Carrara polished marble pencil tile (0.625 by 12 inches). The niches themselves are framed with a narrower pencil tile, Carrara Somerset (0.375 by 12 inches). Solid Carrara pieces line the top, sides and bottom of the niche. The tile is from The Tile Shop.
Shower tile:Ceramic 3-by-6-inch subway tile
Niche size: Each niche is 14 inches wide by 16 inches high. The bottom niche is 24 inches off the floor and is intended as a ledge for shaving. The niches and surrounding accent are centered within the 9-foot-high shower wall and are a total of 5 feet high.
Designers: Shelly Lindstrom and Carrie Steiger, Minneapolis “The challenge with this shower was that it was so narrow — only 3 feet wide,” designer Shelly Lindstrom says. To address this, she placed the shower fixtures on the adjacent wall to provide elbow room. “When you look in the shower, the niche wall is the direct line of vision, which is why we chose to put the niches on that wall — it provides a nice focal point,” she says.
Niche tips: “Typical large bottles of shampoo with pumps start around 12 inches high; we added a few more inches to account for taller bottles and room to reach your hand over the pump,” Lindstrom says.
“Avoid exterior walls when possible, or make the wall extra deep so that you can get appropriate insulation behind it,” she adds. “In general, if there is room to make the wall extra deep, that helps, but more often than not mechanicals get in the way, and it’s hard to get the niches placed where you want them.”
Lindstrom concurs with Kooby and highly recommends using a solid surface like one piece of Carrara marble on the bottom of the niche to avoid having to clean grout lines. She also advises sloping the bottom slightly to allow for water runoff. Fluidesign Studio Here, in the same bathroom, you can see the matching Carrara marble on the countertops. The color of the vanity plays off the veins in the marble.
Janine Dowling Design Inc.4. Large, Organized and Elegant
Niche tile: The back of the niche is a mosaic that matches the mosaic on the floor of the shower and the mosaic carpet on the bathroom floor. The mosaic is Carrara with a dark gray marble mini square. The tiles are from Prosource (Canton, Massachusettes)
Shower tile: 12-inch squares of Carrara marble
Niche size:38 inches high by 24 inches wide and 38 inches from the floor
Designer:Janine Dowling Janine Dowling Design Inc. This couple wanted to update their house in suburban Boston in a transitional yet classic style. “Their only request for the niche was having several shelves to organize their products,” says interior designer Janine Dowling. “The location of the niche was mainly influenced by the space on the interior wall, as the wall to the left has plumbing, the wall to the right has a bench and a glass panel window, and the facing wall was the glass door. This space was best ergonomically.”
In order to please the eye, she placed the niche on the same plane as the handheld shower.
“Niche size is really about the range in size of the bottles and ensuring there was more space than they needed — they didn’t want to have any products on the shower bench,” Dowling says. The framing was able to accommodate the dimensions, which are taller than the typical shower niche.
Niche tips: Dowling advises measuring not only the bottles you have on hand, but also thinking about other products that might need to fit in the niche in the future. She also recommends placingthe niche where you won’t hit it with your arms and where it won’t be directly hit with water from the shower head. Finally, she prefers adding a separate wire basket for gloppy soaps.