Not all glass walls are created equal.
There is nothing better than a good shower. On a hot day, it’s better than air conditioning and popsicles. On a cold day, it’ll wrap around you like cashmere except, well, slippery and not at all cashmere. Showers are one of modern life’s best creations. But, unfortunately and unfairly, not all showers are created equal. Have you ever gone into a new bathroom, ready to shower, and been confronted with only half of a shower door, made of glass? Yeah, that’s right, I said it, half a glass door. One side is there, ready to support you in your endeavor, and then it just ends, cemented to the shower frame but hanging in the air like half of a high five.
It’s called a “fixed panel seamless shower door” and it is a bullshit design invention. This isn’t an opinion. This is a fact. And the worst part is that they seem to be everywhere now too. It’s a staple of trendy hotels that you regret staying in and new apartment buildings that gentrify Brooklyn. So many new constructions have these dumb-dumb nightmares that at times they feel like they’re inescapable, which I realized when I moved into a new apartment this month and was faced with one to shower in every day for the next year.
There is exactly no reason to have them, from a consumer perspective. In fact, they make showering miserable. “Hey guys, you know what’s fun? Standing naked in a giant bowl!”, said no one ever. The lack of a second door means that one side of me is always exposed, making me play favorites. Do I want my butt to be out in the open, or do I risk it all and go full frontal? And where do I put my body when I don’t want to be directly in the line of the water? Oh I know, I’ll just stand over here, basically in the middle of the room, shivering until parts of my body fall off.
Meanwhile, all of the water that should have been on my body, keeping me warm, is now on my bathroom floor, creating a flash flood-style disaster for me to walk into post-shower. This is just downright mean to the bathmat. This is not what the bathmat signed up for. It was there for minimal water contact, not to be my own version of Noah’s ark.
Infuriated and unconvinced that anyone would actually ask for this trash design, I decided to do some research to find out what I was missing. My internet sleuthing led me to two theories: a hatred of cleaning and a love of baths. Apparently people don’t like cleaning their shower so much that they think that having just half of a wall to clean once in awhile is worth all of their trash showers in between. Which is, I’m sorry, pretty lazy.
People also seem to find it easier to take a luxurious bath without a second glass door in their way. This, I kind of understand except that baths are totally overrated, as you’re just laying in your own dirt water. So, neither of these explanations are terribly compelling to me. Thus, I decided to go to the source of this bullshit invention: interior designers. Is this just one of those things that designers love so now we all have to suffer for it?
I started with my girlfriend’s mom and dad who happen to be an interior designer and architect, respectively. First I asked what they’re called, to which her mom said, “structural glass floating,” which is not a thing. My girlfriend and I eventually realized she is referencing “floating structural glass,” which is something they use in conference rooms and stairs at the hospitals and large scale buildings they design. Her dad just called it “a whole bathroom shower.” I think he got to this from the idea of a “wet room.” But the difference is that the wet room is even worse than what I’m talking about.
A wet room can have a half-glass door but sometimes it has no door at all! The floor area of the shower is flush to the ground so that the water drains away through an outlet set into the floor! Basically half of your bathroom is a shower! I’m livid! He was not wrong but I’m livid! The other option that exists is called a “European shower door,” these “enclosures,” as they are called over and over again on Google, are often half-glass but they’re even worse somehow, because they are on hinges and swing both in and out. This means that your tiny dumb-door drips, just right onto the fucking ground or that you swing it into you, which I have done and you are lying if you say you have not. After all this research it was nice to find I was on the right path but upsetting that there were so many different types of terrible. I needed another round of support, so I reached out to another source: a residential interior designer.
Enter Emma Lesser, a designer from design firm, Emma Beryl. She makes her client’s New York apartments look like they aren’t located in a city that is covered in rat-piss. She told me that the biggest benefit of these monstrosities is that it actually can make a bathroom look and feel bigger. “From an aesthetic standpoint your bathroom will appear larger because there’s no visible shower barrier, your shower itself will feel roomier and less claustrophobic.”
This [dramatic pause] makes sense and is probably important in a small space like a hotel room or New York apartment. Also, apparently there is no standard size for these things, you can customize the size of the door, which gives them design flexibility and makes them easy to install. I asked another designer, Casey DeBois from Debois Design, who said she also felt that the benefits were design-based. “When using really interesting and unique tile in the shower, the last thing I would want to do is cover it with a shower curtain.” Ah, fair.
But what if you’re just a normal plebe who doesn’t have fancy shower tiles? Turns out the benefit actually is cleanliness! Both Emma and Casey referenced the fact that they’re easier to clean, leading to less mold and will show less wear than a typical framed shower door. This made me feel slightly bad about making fun of people who are too lazy to clean their shower doors, oops.
Anyway, does all of this mean American bathrooms are being recognized as an important space in your home, as opposed to where you shit and read articles about Trump? Emma seems to think so, “In my opinion, in recent years there has been an emphasis on designing your bathroom to be more personalized, comfortable, and relaxing. The simplicity of frameless shower doors is an appealing way to cleanly enclose your shower without distracting from other design choices.”
Hmmmm. Okay. Well. I’m down with the idea of treating your bathroom with the respect that it deserves, especially if I’m staying in a nice hotel that I only spend a few hours in on my whole trip. But can we agree to rethink this one? For my ass and my poor, poor bathmat?
Mackenzie is a writer and creative consultant based in Brooklyn. You can follow her on Twitter, where she just talks about One Direction, or you can check out her website, which is not nearly as embarrassing.