Design Notes Archive

En Plein Air

En Plein Air

If you’ve ever experienced an outdoor shower on a hot and hazy summer day, you know there’s nothing quite as refreshing. Unlike the ice cold, wash-the-sand-off variety along seashores, a private alfresco shower installed right off your main bathroom can be a luxurious part of your daily routine. One could even argue that garden showers—en plein air surrounded by verdant greenery—are more lovely than their coastal cousins, thanks to the soundtrack of chirping birds you’ll likely be dousing off to.

That was the “aha moment” for interior designer Gera de Wet, who recently indulged her love of the outdoors by installing a gracious courtyard shower off her en suite in Robertson, South Africa, left. Boasting a high stone wall for privacy, it’s accessed by French doors and features a shower mixer with exposed pipes in the centre as a focal point. “Water-wise” indigenous plants soften the abundance of stone while a long, narrow drain visually disappears into the crevice. Inside there’s a smaller shower closet for inclement weather, a freestanding bath, double vanities, as well as a toilet closet (behind the glass door, pictured). 

Just outside Mumbai in Alibag, India, an open-air shower floats in the treetops like a balcony, jutting off the first floor suite of a house by Studio Mumbai architects, centre. Walls are clad in handcrafted copper paneling with a window cut for views over the property. Using the power of repetition, teak floor slats pick up the lines of the wall cladding as well as a nearby freestanding teak bathtub. Brass-finish fittings are sleek and minimal and glisten in the sunlight. As is the case with most of Studio Mumbai’s work, the entire home was hand-built on site so as not to disturb the surrounding environment.

An outdoor shower in the California home of hotelier Jeff Klein, right, has dual entrances depending on the need. Tucked in a courtyard off the main bathroom, it can be accessed by passing through the marble-clad interior shower via a glass door, or through a patio door. From inside the bathroom, the view out (through a window above the bathroom sink and the glass door) looks like a lovely little terrace lined with climbing roses. That’s because the shower head is cleverly mounted up out of sight on the wood beam and water slips through the decking making a drain unnecessary.

If you’re contemplating installing an outdoor shower, you’ll want to consider surfaces that can withstand the elements year-round, from scorching sun to icy snow, depending on where you are. Stone, marine-grade wood, and all-weather tile are all fair game. Then consider how much privacy you’re after: doors, curtains made from outdoor fabric, or if you’re very brave, none at all—as photographer Douglas Friedman opted for. He recently tiled over the outdoor shower at his remote ranch in the desert of Marfa, Texas to stunning effect, but there’s nary a door in sight!

Photographs © Gera de Wet; Helene Binet; Roger Davies;