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What is a Roman Shower?

By B. Turner
Updated May 16, 2024
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A Roman shower is a specialty bathroom fixture featuring a partially-enclosed design. Unlike standard showers, which use doors or curtains to contain the spray of water, Roman showers are open to the rest of the room. These units do not include any doors or curtains, but may include strategically-placed walls or panels to keep water contained or to offer some privacy. Roman shower designs are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also offer an effective bathing option for disabled individuals and those confined to a wheelchair.

Roman showers often require professional design to ensure they will function as intended while maintaining an attractive appearance. A poorly-designed unit may allow water to flood the room, or may not allow users to maximize comfort and functionality within the shower. Trained designers or architects determine wall placement, faucet orientation, and other features that enable builders to construct an effective Roman shower. This may include adding a recessed or sloped floor to control the flow of water. It may also include adding an alcove or wall to direct water towards the drain rather than across the room.

The Roman shower is often associated with the great baths of ancient Rome, which were technologically advanced and a testament to classical design. Modern units often feature the same grand, luxurious design features, and are typically found in high-end settings like spas and resorts. They often include rich, elegant fixtures and built-in lighting. Many are lined with fine tile, including marble, stone, or slate.

One of the primary benefits of the Roman shower is its versatility of design. These showers eliminate the cookie-cutter design associated with traditional walled showers or bath fixtures, and provide an open feel. Well-designed Roman shower units help the shower blend into the room to create a cohesive overall look. They also provide an effective option for small spaces or rooms with unusual shapes that would not easily accommodate a standard shower design.

In addition to its attractive appearance, the Roman shower also serves as a popular shower design for the disabled. In this type of application, this shower style may be known as a roll-in shower because it allows individuals to roll a wheelchair completely into the unit. The individual may remain in the chair, or transfer to a bench or chair within the shower. The wide openings and lack of doors or curtains on a Roman shower help to make these units more convenient for disabled individuals than traditional shower designs.

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Discussion Comments

By LisaLou — On Jan 04, 2012

I think I would feel very uncomfortable using a Roman shower. I like a confined, private space when I take a shower. Having such an open place like that would take some getting used to for me.

It also sounds like something like this would be quite expensive, as it needs to be custom made. I have seen pictures of them in magazines, and like the looks of them, but don't think I would want one in my house.

I am perfectly content to use my small corner shower and enjoy the privacy I am used to. I realize that you still have privacy with a Roman shower, but the big open space is what would feel weird for awhile.

By andee — On Jan 04, 2012

When my aunt and uncle recently had a new house built, they had two Roman showers built in their home.

I have not stayed over night in their home, so have not got to use one yet. I love the sleek, modern design though and would love to have one in my house.

I also think something like this would be much easier to clean than a regular shower. Since there is not a shower door, you don't have to worry about buildup on the door. That is the worst part about trying to keep my shower area clean.

It would be so much easier just to walk inside the shower to clean it, than bending over and trying to reach in and clean a traditional shower stall.

By everetra — On Jan 03, 2012

@MrMoody - I lived in the college dorms where we had walk in showers, in the truest tradition of the Roman showers. There were a bunch of us guys in these showers, so privacy was totally out the window.

The Roman showers described here are a significant improvement over that, so I would feel comfortable using them. It wouldn’t exactly be high on my list of features to look for when buying (or building) a house, but I wouldn’t mind it.

By MrMoody — On Jan 03, 2012

@Charred - I see nothing wrong with bathroom showers that are open in this way. What I like most is their usefulness to people who are disabled and have to use wheelchairs.

Let’s face it, there are not a lot of amenities nowadays that are wheelchair accessible, so it’s nice that they can create something like this that is also aesthetically appealing. As for privacy, you can always draw any open blinds.

By Charred — On Jan 02, 2012

@SkyWhisperer - Actually this concept is not that unusual. When I lived in Asia they didn’t have recessed showers as such. They had ceramic tubs filled with water. You ladled the water from the tubs and poured it over yourself while you stood outside the tub. The water would wash over your body onto the floor.

Of course over there the floors were concrete and there were drainage pipes, so it wasn’t a problem. The bathroom doors were closed so it wasn’t exactly the same thing as a Roman shower design, but it was close.

By SkyWhisperer — On Jan 01, 2012

Wow, that doesn’t sound too appealing to me. I understand the need for aesthetic design and flowing with the general décor of a room, but in my opinion the main purpose of a shower is not aesthetic appeal. It is to provide a confined space where you can safely take a shower without getting the rest of the room wet.

It also implies a certain degree of privacy as well. The openness of this shower design violates that principle, even though I realize that nobody else will be in the room. Still, it would make me feel uncomfortable to say the least.

The sloping floor design may prevent flooding of the water in normal circumstances but if there is a problem with the pipe then things could get out of hand in a hurry. Soon your whole floor is ruined. It’s not worth it in my opinion.

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