Building a luxury shower is at the top of many homeowner’s to-do lists. Not only is a really nice shower a great little day-to-day indulgence that fits well with a busy schedule, it’s also an important feature for potential buyers, too. But if you’re getting ready to upgrade a standard shower to something a little swankier, it’s important to think about what exactly you want to get out of your new shower. For example, different shower heads can produce radically different shower experiences, and come with their own quirks, pros, and cons.
Standard, single-function shower heads are really a thing of the past. Because of the trend toward bigger and more decadent shower spaces and tighter water use regulations, even “basic” shower heads are getting a little fancier, with special aerators that help disguise a lower water output, and multiple functions that allow you to customize your shower experience. At the very minimum, you want to look for a three to five function shower head with a solid brass construction. Many manufacturers have special technology that helps further increase water pressure while lowering water use, too, if a high pressure shower is important to you.
But a really decadent shower needs something above and beyond the ordinary. Hand held showers or hand showers are a European-style shower head that’s become a popular luxury option here in the states. Rather than being attached directly to the wall, these shower heads are built to be held in the hand and are attached to a long flexible cord rather than a traditional shower arm. The shower heads hang on a hook on the wall so you can use them as a conventional shower head, but also detach so you can manipulate the shower head, using it to spray water directly on your head or back. Hand held shower heads are also great for cleaning the shower, as you can spray water directly into hard to reach places or rinse away cleaning products, and they make it easy to bathe pets as well.
Rainfall shower heads are another common feature in high end luxury showers. Unlike regular shower heads, which are designed to spray water forcefully through the nozzles, rainfall shower heads have large, flat faces that spread water out and allow it to drip naturally through holes in the face, recreating the gentle falling sensation of rain. These shower heads should be fixed much higher than a normal shower head, either attached to a long, curved shower arm or even mounted directly to the ceiling, to get the maximum effect. It’s worth noting that rainfall shower heads are often paired with other shower heads for the simple reason that they don’t have the same hard water pressure; they produce a decadent, relaxing, spa-like shower experience, but aren’t always ideal for washing or rinsing thick hair.
Using multiple shower heads in tandem is a hallmark of high end shower design, both using different types of shower heads and placing them in multiple different locations. Usually that means a fairly extensive shower renovation – ripping out walls and installing new plumbing in order to install new shower heads in unusual locations. Custom showers can have any number of shower heads, but often include at least one main shower head, one rainfall shower head, and multiple body sprayers attached to the walls for a 360 degree, all-encompassing spray of water. The problem with these showers is that they’re not only costly and invasive to install, but they can also be quite expensive to maintain, as they use significantly more water than a more conventional shower.
Shower panels offer a simple alternative to complex custom showers by fixing multiple shower heads to a single flat panel made of metal or sometimes plastic. The whole unit can be installed in place of the existing shower arm, allowing one shower head worth of water use to power a whole custom shower worth of shower heads. The over-all pressure will be a bit less intense and come from only one direction, but shower panels don’t require any invasive demolition or construction and use significantly less water, making them a better fit for smaller scale luxury shower remodels.
Shower systems offer a sort of middle ground between fully custom showers and shower panels. Unlike a shower panel, they don’t usually have built in body sprayers, so they won’t offer quite the same amount of coverage. But this more minimalist design means shower systems tend to be much leaner and more elegant, with a single adjustable-height hand shower affixed to a long, slim metal pole topped off with a rainfall shower head. The hook that holds the hand shower in place can be raised or lowered so the shower head can be used alternately as a traditional shower head or a body sprayer, while the rainfall shower head is elevated high overhead for a gentle all-over spray. Limiting the shower system to only two shower heads means both have a bit more water pressure than those on a shower panel (though still less than a fully custom shower), and can usually be installed in an existing shower without any major construction or plumbing alteration.
What features are most important to you as you build your new luxury shower? Are you planning on redoing your whole shower, or simply giving your existing shower stall a few upgrades and modifications? Let me know in the comments!