Universal design and an open bathroom feel are just two benefits of doorless showers. Here’s how to make the most of these design darlings

 

I’ll never forget my first experience with an open shower. On a French-class trip to Paris at the innocent age of 14, I arrived at my hotel tired, jet-lagged and longing for a good, hot soak. I pushed open the bathroom door and looked around, flummoxed. Where on earth was the bathtub? Then I glanced up and gaped: I was standing in the shower, which was just a handheld faucet and a grate in the floor — no tub, no door, no curtain, no threshold. The entire time I was there, I never mastered the art of soaping up and rinsing off without drenching the whole room.

It turns out, the French were onto something. Doorless showers have become a design darling in recent years. 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. And while they’re a little more sophisticated now than my Parisian puzzler, they still require careful planning. Here are eight things to consider if you’re thinking about the doorless approach.

1. Add a half-wall to protect against splashes. Ideally, an open shower requires at least a 6-foot buffer zone on every side to avoid flooding the rest of the bath with water. But a half-wall, such as the one that divides this shower from the vanity, can help to contain droplets.
2. Consider a corner location if possible. Orient the shower in a corner that faces away from the other bathroom zones. Not only does this guard against spraying water, but it also preserves some measure of privacy (more on that in a minute).
3. Prepare to combat chills. There’s no getting around it — open showers can be drafty, especially in the winter months. Installing a heat lamp and radiant heat bathroom flooring can offset the shivers. Mount a heated towel rack nearby, and you’ll be extra toasty as you dry off.
4. Choose an appropriate showerhead. Unless you have a very large buffer zone, a standard showerhead that angles outward can end up soaking your space. Opt for a rain-style model, which casts water straight down, or a handheld type that allows you to control the position and flow. If you do use a more conventional model, mount it so that the spray hits an opposite wall rather than the shower opening.
5. Ensure proper drainage. Not only will you guard against damage from standing water, but you’ll also protect yourself from skidding on wet floors. Angle the shower floor slightly so that water flows toward the drain, and think about adding a second drain for doubly effective siphoning.
6. Select surfaces that can stand up to moisture. Even with careful attention to an open shower’s design, splashes and steam will escape. Outfit your bath with surfaces that hold their own against moisture: porcelain or glass tile, metal, stone, solid surfacing, engineered quartz and some woods. Avoid fabrics and other materials that are prone to mildew.
7. Make peace with a loss of privacy. If you don’t like to feel exposed — even when you’re alone in the house — an open shower may not be for you. Even if you don’t have a bare window wall such as the one in this bathroom, you’ll be on full view from the rest of the space. Consider a frosted or textured glass half-wall as a compromise if modesty is an issue.

8. Integrate the design with the rest of the space. Because there’s no concrete border between an open shower and its surroundings, choose materials that will create a smooth transition. The wall tile in this bath continues seamlessly into the shower, with only a change in ceiling materials to provide a visual stopping point.