Why Wet Rooms Might Be Better Than Traditional American Bathrooms

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Alvhem)

Bathrooms are a little bit different all over the world. Bathrooms in Europe often have a hand sprayer but no showerhead. Many Japanese bathrooms have a tub inside the shower. In Pittsburgh, some houses have toilets in the basement, right out in the open. And in other countries, there is a particular style of bathroom known as the wet room.

(Image credit: Alvhem)

If you’ve ever used a bathroom on a train, the concept is familiar. Instead of having a shower head surrounded by a shower enclosure, a wet room style bathroom simply has a shower head out in the open, with the entire bathroom functioning as the shower enclosure. The advantages of this are obvious: they allow you to place a shower in a very small space, even in a bathroom too small for the smallest of shower enclosures. The disadvantages, too, are quite apparent: everything in the bathroom is going to get wet. Typically these bathrooms are completely covered in tile, and anything you don’t want to get wet, like towels and bathrobes, has to be carefully placed out of the path of the shower.

Another advantage of this setup, I would imagine, is warmth. I’ve never used a bathroom like this, but I do have plenty of experience with small bathrooms and cold mornings. When it’s chilly outside, a tiny, steam-filled bathroom can feel like a protective cocoon — you don’t get that cold shock upon stepping out of the shower like you would with a larger bathroom.

(Image credit: Entrance)

Photos of bathrooms like this can be hard to come by, owing to their extreme small size. Here’s one in a Swedish apartment from Entrance, with a tiny sink to boot. You could argue that a bathroom like this is easier to clean. Just spray everything down, and don’t worry about a shower door or tub to scour — although it’s a lot more grout to scrub.

(Image credit: Nooks)

The shower curtain in this bathroom from Nooks, instead of demarcating a small portion of the bathroom as the shower, sets off a small portion of the bathroom as not-shower, providing a place for a little dry storage.

(Image credit: Entrance)

This bathroom from Entrance is another semi-wet room, with a pane of glass separating the washer from the rest of the bathroom. (There is, in fact, a rod that a shower curtain could be hung from, but I’m guessing it is just for hanging things, because if we assume those tiles are six inches wide, then the whole shower is only two feet.)

(Image credit: Hammer & Hand)

Another advantage of a wet room is accessibility. Hammer & Hand created this wet room in a Portland home, which enabled them to squeeze a shower into what was once a powder room, creating a full (well, 3/4) bath on the home’s first floor. Since there’s no curb, the shower is easy to get into (although there would be a small lip at the door), and the toilet doubles as a seat for bathing. You can read more about the details of this project here.

(Image credit: Elizabeth Roberts)

This project by Elizabeth Roberts (via Coco + Kelley) is in Brooklyn, not Sweden, but if you look closely you’ll see that this small bathroom, which is completely covered in tile, has a showerhead almost directly above the toilet. It’s another example of fitting a shower into a very, very small (but still very stylish) bathroom.

So what do you think? Should more Americans adopt this bathroom style?