I’ve spent a lot of time over the years talking about how to build the ultimate shower, from fully custom designs to budget-friendly hacks. But I recently had the good fortune to experience one of the most indulgent showers of my life, in a shower that had relatively bare-bones hardware. While, of course, it can’t compare to a spa shower with 360 degree spray from a dozen shower heads, it opened my eyes to how simple it is to transform a so-so setup into a truly luxury shower without tearing out your walls or breaking your budget. So what’s the big secret?
Double Down With Two Luxury Shower Heads
This first step might seem like a little bit of a gimmie: you absolutely want to have two shower heads. But while this advice might seem obvious at a first blush, I want to clarify that I don’t mean you should have more than one shower head, but specifically two shower heads. Really high end, expensive luxury showers can have a dozen or more shower heads, from body sprayers to rainfall shower heads. But two is a magic number. Why? It lets you get double the coverage, but without having to tear out your walls, upgrade your plumbing, and install a new water heater. It’s true that many shower panels offer more sprayers without these upgrades, but once again, two is the sweet spot for maintaining your ideal water pressure, rather than dividing one standard feed between too many sprayers, leaving them all a little lackluster.
…And Make One Of The Two A Hand Shower
Step two: make one of your two shower heads a hand shower. Whether the other is a standard shower head or a rainfall shower head is a matter of personal preference, but having at least one hand shower is a hands-down must. Why? I’ve sung the praises of hand showers before, but the short version is, they’re much more versatile than any other kind of shower head. They can easily stand in for a standard shower head, a rainfall shower head, or a body sprayer, depending on where you mount them (and many come mounted to bars, which lets you adjust their height to your preferences). They can also be unhooked to get a deep scalp massage, blast hot water on your sore shoulders, or even easily clean your tub and shower enclosure.
Decide if You Want A Rainfall Shower Head
A whole lot of high-end shower heads these days have rainfall-style sprayers. That is, rather than being designed to blast you with an intense, concentrated spray, the water is spread out over a wide head and many nozzles, to provide a gentler, rain-like fall of water. Why are rainfall showers so popular? Simple: they create an incredibly soothing, relaxing shower experience. The problem? The same lack of intense water pressure that makes them feel so nice also makes them a lot less practical, say for rinsing shampoo out of your hair, and they have to be pretty far over your head to actually feel rain-like. If you have the budget for it, a rainfall shower head can really take your shower to the next level (and a long, curved shower arm can give you the height you need without putting another hole in your tile). Just make sure your hand shower has a setting that’s strong enough for practical everyday use.
Raise Your Main Shower Head As High As You Can
Whether or not you opt to include a rainfall shower head in your new setup, the height of your shower heads is something you absolutely need to take into consideration. Nothing will ruin a supposedly luxurious shower experience faster than a shower head that’s mounted too low, as just about any tall person knows all too well. If you have to duck to get your hair wet, you aren’t getting everything out of your shower that you could – or should! If your current shower head is lower than you’d like, look for shower arms or shower pipes that can hook up to your existing plumbing, but help elevate your shower head.
…But Keep Your Controls Reachable
On the flip side, if multiple people of very different heights are using the same shower, you also want to make sure the controls are reachable by everyone. And that doesn’t just mean the on/off and hot/cold controls – you also want to make sure the diverter (which lets you set the shower to one head, the other, or both) is easily reachable and not far overhead for anyone smaller using the shower! Shower pipes generally require a little more invasive installation (they need to be mounted to your shower wall), but also ensure all the controls are easily accessible, usually at about waist height. On the other hand, less expensive (and much easier to install) setups that attach directly to your existing plumbing may have controls located at the height of the shower arm.
Decide Which Is For You: DIY Luxury Shower or Drilling Tile
The last big thing you need to decide before you upgrade your shower is whether or not you want to drill into your existing shower enclosure. It’s entirely possible to get two high-up shower heads without doing so – you just want to look for a single-piece shower head plus hand shower mount that installs directly to your shower arm. But doing so might mean losing a little bit of reachability, and will mean your hand shower mounts at a fixed height that’s relatively close to your other shower head. The alternative is to opt for a shower pipe or shower system that allows you to mount your shower head separately or to an adjustable bar, with a final look that’s a little more spread out and shower spray that gives a little more coverage. The drawback here is that you’ll need to install the hardware as well, which is a much less DIY friendly project. The difference in the cost of parts isn’t huge, but the difference in labor is pretty substantial.
Installing a high-end, magazine-quality luxury shower might be out of the question for most of us, but getting a really decadent shower experience is more attainable than you might think – even with your existing shower enclosure and plumbing. You just need to pick and choose the right parts (and maybe hire someone to set it up for you!).