8 Shower Design Ideas from Expert Interior Designers

modern bathroom standalone tub shower

Shower design should strike a balance between form and function. Here are 8 design ideas from the experts on how to strike that balance in the bathroom.


Since your morning shower can set the tone for the day (or help you relax in the evening), a well-designed shower can turn your daily routine into a sanctuary. When designing a shower, there are several practical and functional details to consider even before you get to the aesthetics.

If the seemingly inexhaustible hardware options have overwhelmed you, not to worry. These eight tips from expert interior designers across the country will provide you with focus and inspiration. Having worked on a number of bathroom redesigns from start to finish, these designers can offer incredible perspective on key points to consider and the latest materials and accessories.

1. A Recessed Niche

Nicole Zeigler

Nicole Zeigler

A well-designed shower allows you to start (or end) your day feeling great.  The faucet itself plays a big role – today’s technology makes the most of water flow and gives you anything from a relaxing rain feel to an invigorating massage.  Another important factor is room – a spacious shower increases comfort, especially when there is room for a bench.  One of my favorite tools in shower design is a recessed niche.  These niches are functional for storage, but they also add a great decorative element to the shower.  When built low enough, they also create the added function of a shaving ledge.  The overall feel of the room also has a huge impact on the showering experience, specifically the color, lighting, and use of natural materials.

2. Function First

Jessica Love

Jessica Love
Spacious showers are trending.  In fact, most people are doing away with tubs in order to give space for large, luxurious showers.  I always recommend taking function in account first, and in showers you need to determine who uses the space and how each individual needs the shower to function.  I always start with talking about shower heads; rain shower heads vs hand held vs ceiling mount and wall mount, or all of the above.  Do not forget the wall jets for an unforgettable experience.  A bench and accessory niches are a must.  When customizing any shower take into account how many bottles of shampoo, soap, etc…and build space for every item.  With every shower you need a gorgeous surround, I love frameless glass and tile that reinvigorates your soul.

3. Plan Ahead

Michael Chambers

Michael Chambers
In designing a shower space, it’s important to know what the clients’ needs and desires are. Will more than one person be showering at a time? Then multiple showerheads, including a rain showerhead are imperative. Of course, if you’re in California, you’ll need low-flow fixtures to save as much water as possible. I love a handheld wand in case the dog needs a good washing or I want to utilize the multi function options like massage, rain, hard or soft flows. What activities take place in the shower? For example, if men want to shave in the shower, make sure there is a fogless mirror, storage space for shaver and supplies. For women who shave their legs, it’s important to have a shower bench to sit on and to prop a leg up. Are grab bars necessary now or later? Plan ahead and install the proper wall blocking to support any grab bars that might be needed in the future. The more light in the shower the better, so don’t scrimp on proper lighting, and if you have the opportunity to install a skylight over the shower with an operable opening, you’ve allowed more light and a natural venting system. Proper ventilation is paramount in the bath as mildew and bacteria build up in moist conditions. No one likes stepping into a cold shower so make sure you have installed instant-on hot water equipment to eliminate water waste. Lastly, install heated flooring inside and outside the shower area, creating a comforting and temperate environment.

4. Go Frameless

Shannon Miller-Rice

Shannon Miller-Rice

Tips on designing a great shower:

  • Don’t understate your expectations of a great showering experience, which includes the basic premise of water flow and pressure. Make sure you have a great plumber and select fixtures that will offer the needs you are looking for like a rain shower or, a handheld for easy cleaning & for families with children.
  • Consider going frameless on your shower enclosure. Framed shower enclosures will eventually rust, show water spots and are not easy to keep clean; just keep it simple and invest in a frameless shower enclosure.
  • Install your shower wall tile to the ceiling; this will help the room look taller and eliminate the potential for water damage above the shower walls.
  • Shower walls & floors are blank canvases wanting to be artful and should be celebrated. Get bold with your design, don’t be shy, the more creative the better.
  • Think about your lifestyle when selecting your finished materials. Natural stones take more work to care for whereas, ceramics & glass tiles can offer more flexibility for the fast pace lifestyle.
  • Do your research on plumbing fixtures as some of the major suppliers such as Kohler have limited finishes. If you want your bathroom hardware to match your plumbing fixtures, find a supplier who carries finishes that can be coordinate with all the other needs of you entire space.

5. Create A Mini Retreat

Susan Wintersteen

Susan Wintersteen

Nothing is more depressing than stepping into a small, cramped, dingy shower to wash off your day. When I have a client that uses their shower, even more than their tubs, I look to find ways to create a space that is better than wine or chocolate. To create these mini retreats in a bath, I look at maximizing the visual intrigue at the moment you enter the room. By opening up walls, expanding the spaces, ditching the benches (Yes, I said DITCH the bench) you will get more functional use. Unless you have a steam unit, are you really going to sit in your shower? How about a small recessed ledge, a enclave of sorts to corral up the shampoos and soaps and put our toes up to shave the legs?

Use accent pieces to highlight and make a space look taller, use horizontal oversized field tiles to make make it feel more grand. Get creative on the shower pans, small octagons, rocks, pixie stick shapes give a contemporary edge to even the most traditional spaces. Choose non slip options unless you are up for a hip replacement. Designing a shower space can be fun and creative, play with angles, but be mindful of how your new shower door opens, if you have to turn on the valve, is the shower head turned away? Or towards you. It’s one of the biggest mistakes out there I see.

6. Design For Two

Emily Mackie

Emily Mackie

A great shower is always designed for two people. This promotes couple time and morning conversations. Most people want to achieve a relaxing, calming experience for their shower that replicates the mood of a spa. Smart design also considers water consumption and on-demand (tank less) water heaters. Floor to ceiling glass surrounding the shower gives the feel of a larger, more spacious bathroom. A fabulous shower, like the master bathroom in the Hollywood Regency Residence (pictured), has a vessel air bath tub overlooking a window in a Chicago city neighborhood. It’s perfect for spying on daily neighborhood occurrences while enjoying a nice glass of Malbec.

7. Rectangles Are In

Design by Tal Goldstein and Ayelet Mendelovich/photography by Arnona Oren

Tal Goldstein

My tips for designing a great shower would be:

  • Don’t be afraid to use big tiles even in a small bathroom.
  • Squares are out, rectangles are in.
  • Make a good use of your niche – big horizontal niche makes more sense taking into consideration the height of your shampoos, it is also a great focal point.
  • Pendant lights are not only for kitchens- they can be a great design element in bathrooms too.
  • Floating cabinets are the new thing.
  • Be bold- don’t be a afraid to use bold colors on the walls.

8. Details Make A Difference

design by Corine Maggio/photography by Chipper Hatter

Corine Maggio

There are many details when designing showers that go unnoticed but make a huge difference! One of them is the grout color. If you have a fabulous shaped tile, especially if it’s handmade, I would recommend using a high contrast grout to show off the shape and imperfections. It’s also fun to add a splash of color in the niche where the soap and shampoo sit. It’s like a patterned jacket lining; totally unnecessary but a fun and playful surprise that brings more enjoyment to its use. Lastly, don’t be afraid to use unusual tile layouts. Often people resort to the slightly-higher-than-eye-level horizontal band of decorative tile. Look around at pictures before committing to that as there are many clever options!

What works for you?

It’s always interesting to gain knowledge from the experts. What piece of advice did you take note of for your next shower design project? Let us know in the comments below!

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