Bathroom Trends of 2020 - Shower Shelf Deep Dive

MAY 2020

Bathroom design trends for 2020 continue with the minimalist look, focused on a spacious place to relax. Even though we dream of relaxing in a bubble bath, realistically the majority of us use our bathroom for washing and grooming our beautiful bodies as quickly as we can!

For those of us building a new home or renovating we quite often look for inspiration on Instagram, Pinterest and in glossy magazines with their many amazing photos of minimalist spacious bathrooms. My question is whether this minimalist trend is actually compromising bathroom practicality?

I am not suggesting we move away from creating beautiful spacious bathrooms, the part I would like to explore is more around the latest fixtures and whether they are suitable for our daily bathroom needs? Let's examine some of the latest bathroom design fixtures in more detail with respect to practicality, functionality, aesthetics and hygiene. 

For this article I have chosen a fixture that people use every day when showering: the unassuming shower shelf.

With the trend for 2019 / 2020 being either a shower niche, an in-built shower ledge, or a slim screw-in shelf, let’s look at these with the aim of helping you make the most suitable choice for your new, or soon to be renovated shower.

Since so many bathroom photos on Pinterest, Instagram and in magazines are stylised with few items on the shower shelf, I encourage you to think about what you use in the shower other than the usual soap, shampoo and conditioner. Many people use a facecloth, shower puff, loofah, toothbrush, shaver, body glove, shower cap, and many more items in the shower. So to meet the criteria of a shower shelf being practical, functional and contributing to an aesthetic bathroom, all your showering items should fit on the shower shelf.

In-built Niche

The niche is often seen as the unobtrusive shelf since it is built into the timber wall. If you have brick/block walls, the niche can become intrusive as the whole wall needs to be built out by about 100mm to accommodate the niche. You can blend the niche tiles with the main wall or make a statement with feature tiles. Too small a niche can be very frustrating due to overcrowding and the need to stack items on top of each other, so best to design your niche large enough for lots of showering items.

The main downside of the shower niche is that there are no hooks, so there is nowhere to hang anything. Are you one of the many people using a facecloth, shower puff, body glove or loofah? Many studies have shown that damp material is a great breeding ground for mould and bacteria, so these items should be hung to dry with as much air exposure as possible, to dry quickly. This is where the functionality of the shower niche ends, with most people hanging these items amongst the shower frame and taps, or installing additional hooks around the shower wall, which totally goes against your original vision of the aesthetic uncluttered bathroom.

Stylised marketing photos of shower niche:

Non-staged ('as found') photos of shower niche:

Some building specifications to be aware of:

  • the niche should have sufficient gradient for water drainage;
  • larger niches require the standard timber wall framing (studs & noggins) to be modified, which can increase cost
  • for small bathrooms with brick/block walls - a niche can take up valuable space.
In-built Ledge

With a ledge typically running the whole length of the shower wall you have plenty of room for as many bottles and showering items as you like, including toothbrush, shaver, shower cap, squeegee, etc. As per the shower niche the major limitation with the in-built ledge shelf is that there are no hooks from which to hang items. This means items that really do need to be air-dried for hygiene reasons, end up being hung in an unruly manner around the shower!

Stylised marketing photos of the in-built shower ledge:

The in-built ledge creates a more spacious look than the niche as only the bottom section is built out as a false wall. Don’t forget the gradient for water drainage to prevent leaks and mould build-up.

Single wall-mounted shelf

The wall-mounted shelf has been around for many years and will continue trending in many bathroom designs well past 2020. With the minimalist bathroom trend the shower shelf has also become simplified, with the latest designs typically a slim single glass or metal shelf without drainage.

The majority of the wall-mounted shelves have nowhere to hang showering items, so again, you either hang them over taps and shower head, or install additional hooks. Even though most hooks have your items hanging against the wall with limited air exposure, this is more hygienic than sitting on a wet shelf (as per the niche and ledge).  Whether you hang them over the taps, shower head or a variety of hooks, your aesthetic uncluttered bathroom has disappeared.

Stylised marketing photos of wall-mounted shower shelf:


From my original question of whether current bathroom trends are compromising the function of a bathroom, this example of the shower shelf highlights that marketing trends are definitely not working to help our daily bathroom experience. This deep dive highlights a considerable gap in hygiene, and even functionality, for these top three ‘in-trend’ shower shelf fixtures for 2020. This gap then impacts on the overall bathroom aesthetics.

Sharing My Experience

Like so many people building a new home, my bathroom inspiration came from many hours of browsing photos on Pinterest, Google and magazines. We ended up installing the ‘in-trend’ shower niche which soon afterwards resulted in us adding hooks for hanging my ‘to be dried as fast as possible’ shower items.

The limitations of my shower niche prompted me to find out what other people had experienced. Realising they had similar experiences, this inspired me to solve the hygiene and functional problem by designing a shower shelf that accommodates all items in one place, with particular attention to hygiene and of course style! They are made in Australia from marine grade aluminium with industrial grade powder-coating, making them very strong, lightweight and highly durable. Standard stocks are available in a lovely textured matte black and white, but you have the option to choose your own colour to match any bathroom decor.

Photos of a shower shelf which focuses on hygiene, functionality and style: 

Please don’t get seduced by all those beautiful stylised minimalist bathroom photos scattered across social media, the internet and throughout glossy magazines! Remember to keep it in perspective that your bathroom is for YOU – it is a place to clean and groom your beautiful body. Practical items like a functioning shower shelf make your showering experience easier, more hygienic, enjoyable, and enhance your bathroom aesthetics.

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