Showers can be just as rejuvenating as a good soak in the tub, provided you have the features you need for comfort and indulgence. A bench seat is fast becoming a popular shower addition not just in steam showers but also to perch on mid-shower – when you’re washing your hair, perhaps – and to conduct one’s beauty routines (shaving legs just got easier).
They can also serve as a handy shelf for lotions and potions that turn the showering experience from practical to pampering. Adding a shower bench to an already exisiting shower is possible, but there are some important considerations to be aware of before heading down that road. We talk to the experts to find out more.
What to consider
Do you want your bench to provide somewhere to sit, or is it likely to be more of a handy shelf on which to place your things? A bench built for sitting on will need to be structurally sound to cope with the weight, and if you’d like it big enough for two, this is twice as important.
Architect Scott Weston, who designed this striking tiled blue shower and bench, had the floating bench seat installed with the help of a steel frame for structural integrity. In an existing shower, he says this design feature isn’t quite so easy to add.
“It can’t be floating; if you’re connecting it to a wet area wall, you’re going to ruin the membrane,” he says.
Drilling into any wet area can cause problems with water penetration, and potentially disastrous water damage elsewhere in the house.
“If you’re building from scratch, on the other hand, you can put brackets in the wall, waterproof over it and conceal its fixings, so it doesn’t have to go wall to wall,” Weston says.
Smalto tiles in ‘Blue’: Bisazza
Weston suggests a freestanding bench as an easier way to go in an existing shower. If you don’t like the look of legs, a stone bench can have a plinth to give it a more solid appearance.
TIP: Plan ahead for the wobble factor. Because showers are designed with a slope to allow water to run into the drain rather than pool, either have a bench custom made for your particular shower or buy a bench with legs you can adjust to make it stable.
Read more: Bathroom Inspiration: 9 Life-Changing Additions to Your Shower
If you love the look of stone, Weston suggests either positioning the bench out of the way so water doesn’t pool on the surface, or making sure it has a slight fall so water runs off.
The same is true for timber. This slab of timber is shaped to allow natural run off. In the case of other timbers, Weston suggests battens or slats to allow water to drip through.
Darren Genner, managing director of boutique bathroom design company Minosa, says it can be problematic installing a bench seat if you have a glass wall opposite a solid wall and hope to install a bench seat in between. A bathroom built from scratch is another story, though – you have many more options.
In this amazing steam shower, the bench seats are attached to the wall on one side and rest on steel legs on the other.
“Fold-down seats can be an option, as long as you have one solid wall,” says Genner. Herecommends teak as the most appropriate timber because it’s so dense – there’s a reason tropical outdoor furniture is so often made with it.
If you’ve enlisted a cabinet maker to custom-build your vanity in a renovation, consider asking for a teak bench seat at the same time.
Tiles or composite stone are sleek materials for shower bench seats, especially when the seat extends out of the shower. Such a design means there’s no gap between the seat and wall, which can be a pain to clean.
TIP: Solid stone or composite stone can lighten the cleaning load.
BONUS TIP: If you really want an indulgent shower experience, consider a heated seat. Or at the very least, run some warm water over a stone bench before you take a seat – nakedness and cold stone are not a good mix.
If you like the idea of a bench seat but would rather avoid the expense or inconvenience of a built-in version, why not add a simple portable version instead?
Genner suggests a lightweight Kartell stool as an easy option because it can so easily be moved – over to a bath, for example, to provide somewhere to place your towel (or glass of wine).
A Chinese garden stool can serve the same purpose, especially if it’s positioned within access of both bath and shower and doesn’t have to be moved.
If all you really want is a ledge to shave your legs, a bench seat or stool may not be necessary. Scott Weston designed this bathroom inset for a Sydney client who wanted to do just that with ease.