From the Architect's Desk
I have been practicing architecture and specializing in residential design long enough to have seen several trends come and go.
Tastes change, technology changes. Sensibilities change. The de rigueur exposed brick walls and butcher block countertops of the 80’s gave way to granite countertops and stainless steel appliances (OK–still with some exposed brick walls). The small steam shower and adjoining, mammoth Jacuzzi-style bathtubs that took up a ton of space have morphed in to large master showers with every accoutrement.
The switch to a great shower rather than an enormous tub is one trend that I can applaud wholeheartedly. The huge tub took too much water and, as all good architects know, all that water is VERY HEAVY. Best not to place it just anywhere on the old floor joists. It typically took a separate heater to keep it hot and took forever to fill. And the worst crime – it was not used frequently enough. The little kids had a great time in it, but what then? Use it for tub toy storage?! The same can be said of the steam shower with the jaw-droppingly expensive seamless glass door system—rarely used.
So now we arrive at the time of the “Great Master Shower.” Without blushing I hear of what is requested for the new shower for two: a large area typically with multiple showerheads, a tiled bench and wall niches for soaps and shampoos. But as these showers become the size of what used to be considered an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) sized area, I wonder why we still need the expense of a frameless shower door system?
Ah-ha! With a smart design layout, this costly door system is not needed.
As Lisa Frederick wrote in her piece on door-less showers:
“Not only do they create an open, expansive feel in a bathroom, but they also lend themselves well to universal design and aging in place.”
I could not agree more. I travel all over the world and frequently I stay in small hotels with lovely functional showers designed without shower doors. No doors to drip water on the floors when opening and closing, and never a face full of cold water spray, which can happen when you turn on the taps when using an overhead ceiling mounted showerhead. With the right design the floor slopes to a linear floor drain and not even a threshold is needed. Had my mom had a design such as this as she became more infirmed she would likely have been able to stay living in her home.
With smart design these showers can be quite private, make a smaller bathroom feel larger and more open, and free the designer and the owner from conflicting door swings. And wouldn’t it be nice to never, ever squeegee clean another glass shower door?