interiors & styling

How to Plan and Design a Shower Niche

How to Plan and Design a Shower Niche - roomfortuesday.comYou probably knew this post was coming. Obviously I have tile and bathroom renovating on the brain since we’re smack dab in the middle of redoing our guest bath! If you follow along on Instagram, you might have watched my little adventure to Lowe’s to find materials for the guest bath shower niche, because I totally spaced and didn’t pre-plan that portion of the shower (unlike our last bathroom reno, pictured above). I ended up getting lots of messages and thought a post might be helpful if you have a bathroom renovation planned and are pondering a niche. Click through to see how to plan and design a shower niche… there is LOTS of pin-worthy inspiration packed into this one! 

First of all, a shower niche is highly functional and comes in super handy for bath and shower products. That’s probably obvious, but it’s really a must-have if you’re renovating a shower or bath. It certainly beats a corner shelf, a shower caddy hung around the shower head, a suctioned soap dish, or any other after-the-fact alternatives. A niche just feels more intentional, permanent, and aesthetically pleasing- from a design and architectural perspective.

If you’re wondering how to go about designing your own magical niche moment, I’d recommend asking yourself these questions before getting started…

  • How many bath & shower products will need to live in the niche?
  • How tall, wide, and deep are the aforementioned bath & shower products?
  • How much space do you have to work with? Consider what is behind the wall… that influences depth.
  • Will more than one person be using this shower? If so, should you consider creating a niche for each person’s products?
  • What type of tile or material lives in the shower and will surround the niche?
  • Is this a moment to get creative with pattern, color, or texture? Contrast is always a good thing, in my book.
  • Do you want the niche to stand out or blend in?
  • What is your overall aesthetic?
  • What is your carpentry / tile skill level? Or will you be hiring this project out?

Your answers to the above questions will definitely influence how the design of your niche will unfold, and help you squeeze out the most functionality. A lot of people prefer to buy a pre-built niche insert (yep, that’s a thing!) and tile over top of it. However, Emmett and I typically take a different route.

How to Plan and Design a Shower Niche - roomfortuesday.com

source : the makerista

Rather than purchasing a pre-built niche, we both agree it’s easier to let the materials and answers to our questions influence the design… rather than a “one size fits all” solution. For example, you want to make sure the tile, stone, or material looks balanced, the cuts are equal, and you have enough for the back, surrounding sides, and bottom shelf. If you buy a pre-constructed option, sometimes it’s difficult to force your material to fit. We prefer to build the niche box to fit our material instead. I think it’s just easier from a craftsmanship perspective and you get a cleaner look.

How to Plan and Design a Shower Niche - roomfortuesday.com

source : alanna dunn

I think it’s also worth noting… think outside the box! I absolutely love how the above niche provides a gorgeous backdrop for the plumbing fixtures. That is so creative, adds a ton of depth, and perfectly combines classic materials like subway tile and marble. Perfection!!

Both above and below, you’ll notice the use of a ledge. That’s another clever idea and play on scale for a shower niche- and a great way to add depth if your bath products are larger. Don’t be afraid if the bottom shelf underneath the products protrudes a little. I actually think it’s a nice visual difference.

If you don’t love the idea of making your shower niche stand out, it’s perfectly ok to continue the same tile and pattern into the niche. I’d recommend making sure your tile lines up exactly and the grout line is very clean (see above), or use a thin pencil trim to frame the box (see below). The goal is to create a niche that looks well-built, balanced, and has nice craftsmanship. Tiling a niche can be challenging, but if you take your time and plan in advance, it’s certainly manageable and will be worth it in the end!

I also have to share my friend Erin’s master shower, because it’s incredible- but mostly because the negative space surrounding the niche is genius.

A niche doesn’t have to be an ugly interruption in a sea of pretty tile. I love the way she framed hers with plenty of negative space, perfectly centered tiles, and a pencil trim panel detail. It really adds a great deal of emphasis on something pretty standard.

I’d say you score major bonus points if you buy or make matching toiletry containers. Want a little spoiler? I bought these for our guest bathroom niche that we’ll be wrapping up in a couple weeks. Although we haven’t even started tiling quite yet, I’m already itching for the big reveal. Haha!

I’ll wrap things up by saying this… there aren’t really any hard and fast rules when designing a shower niche. It’s safe to mix and match materials, pattern, and color. Anything goes as long as it’s done with intention and good craftsmanship. I’d also put functionality high on the “successful niche design” list because that’s the point, right? It needs to hold all of your shower junk!

Looking for more tile posts?

Questions? I’d love to hear them in the comments below! Did you have a favorite inspiration niche from this post? I was able to dig up so many beautiful options- hopefully they don’t put my own niche to shame. Ha!

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  • Reply
    Peggi
    February 7, 2019 at 4:13 am

    I don’t know when I’ve thought so much about shower design! Ha. Neither of our bathrooms have a niche; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a bathroom that had one. ( I must not stay in the right hotels.) I’m pretty sure that I now consider them a must-have if I ever get to renovate. I like the look of the two stacked niches with tile that blends. Although, the one with the marble inset around the plumbing fixtures is kind of genius… Getting excited for the reveal!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      February 7, 2019 at 8:52 am

      Really?! I’m so surprised to hear that. You definitely have to consider if a bathroom renovation happens in your future :)

  • Reply
    Michelle | Birds of Berwick
    February 7, 2019 at 5:58 am

    When I was designing our niche I think the biggest thing I lacked guidance on was framing it out with tile and what to do about the cut edge of tile being exposed? do you have to buy bullnose? Is there a heavy grout line there? Do you buy an accent tile to frame the opening? If you want it just a simple square like some of the ones above do you just flip the cut edge to be at the grout line and keep a honed edge at the border of the niche? Like the marble inset niche above- did they miter the corners of the subway tile to make it that clean??? HOW??? :-) I was pressed for time and a decision (read: at home depot the night before) so we ended up going with an different border tile, same color, that I really do like very much, but the bathroom I’m designing for a friend now will just have a simple niche, no borders, so want to be sure the tilers do it properly. When I was searching I saw a lot of information about the designs, but no much about the details… maybe you can flag that to do a post on when you tile yours? I’d love it!!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      February 7, 2019 at 8:58 am

      I’ll do my best to answer those below :)

      Do you have to buy bullnose? Is there a heavy grout line there? … I prefer a finished edge to a heavy grout line- it just looks more finished, IMO. Therefore, I’d choose a pencil trim with a finished edge or cap the surround with bullnose tile. Schluter is another option, although it gives a more industrial look.

      Do you buy an accent tile to frame the opening? Typically yes- my preference is pencil trim! Whether that is a contrasting color or material… that totally depends on the design plan.

      If you want it just a simple square like some of the ones above do you just flip the cut edge to be at the grout line and keep a honed edge at the border of the niche? Like the marble inset niche above- did they miter the corners of the subway tile to make it that clean? … That specific one definitely looks mitered- and we actually mitered the pencil trim in our previous bathroom. That’s the best way to do it, but obviously it’s tedious. Otherwise, you could use a bead of the same color grout or sealer as the tile around the niche box to make it less noticeable and hide the raw tile edge.

      Hopefully this helps!! xox

      • Reply
        Dawn
        February 8, 2019 at 10:21 am

        Such great questions (and answers!). I am so excited to see the reveal of your finished bathroom but I’m enjoying all of the projects and design inspiration along the way.

        • Reply
          Sarah
          February 8, 2019 at 11:27 am

          Thanks so much for following along Dawn! Happy Friday :) xox

  • Reply
    Caiti
    February 7, 2019 at 11:47 am

    I love our niche! We planned it around our Costco size shampoo and conditioner 😂 the worst thing we did was letting our tile guy talk us into fusion grout on the pebble backsplash and floor. 3 years on and we have to somehow redo the whole floor because it disintegrated. Wish I had followed you back then!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      February 7, 2019 at 12:00 pm

      Ha! That is awesome!! We just got a Costco membership at the beginning of the year and I have never been so amazed. lol!

  • Reply
    Lori
    February 7, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    Sarah, love your website! Keep it up! I was afraid to do a niche in our new downstairs shower because I didn’t know if it would retain water or be hard to keep clean. Is there a slight tilt to the ledge to encourage water drainage? We need to remodel our two upstairs baths and now I’m thinking about niches again.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      February 7, 2019 at 5:13 pm

      Thank you so much, Lori! They don’t really retain water and I personally don’t think they’re difficult to keep clean, but it all depends on the material and tile I suppose. I’ve seen them built both ways, but for the most part- I’d say they’re typically level. Since they’re not very deep, water retention isn’t really an issue, in my experience. Hope this helps! xox

  • Reply
    Abby
    February 7, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    We recently had our bathroom renovated and our (less than stellar) contractor tiled our niche but never got shelves installed. He used a pre-built niche, but I would like to have 2 shelves added to it and I don’t even know where to begin. Where do I buy glass for the shelves and how do I find someone to install them? Any ideas you have are appreciated.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      February 8, 2019 at 10:46 am

      Hi Abby! I would probably have the glass custom cut… maybe you could drill in some little brackets to support the shelves and do it yourself? That’s probably the route I would take. It’s tough once it has already been installed.

  • Reply
    stacey villaran
    August 5, 2019 at 4:23 am

    We are almost done with 3 bathroom remodel. When I came home from work all of the niche’s have metal trim. I hate it. I’ve never seen this before. I can probably live with it in 2 baths but in the master we did marble and it takes away from everything. Is it a real pain to take it off and blend it in like all of the niches I’ve ever seen?

    • Reply
      Sarah
      August 6, 2019 at 10:19 am

      Hi Stacey! Congrats on your bathroom renovations- that’s really exciting. The metal you’re seeing is called schluter. If you didn’t specify the niche design to your tile contractor, sometimes they use that particular project to finish an edge for a clean, industrial look. If you’re not into it- unfortunately it would be difficult to remove and it’s tiled into the niche. I’d recommend calling your contractor and pay to have them demo the niche and start over with your preferred design. Hope this helps! That application is often used in modern or commercial settings.

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