April 20, 2016
Niche, nitch, notch, it doesn't matter how you pronounce it, just make sure you mention it as a "want" when prioritizing your next remodeling project. I can't think of a space that wouldn't be improved by having one.
The best examples of the usefulness of a niche is in the shower walls. Here, you can simply build into the wall, any shape or size "box", and tile over it and you have your shower niche. The benefits are many. It reduces clutter, organizes your products and adds a custom layer to your design.
Over the years at Concept II, we've observed some changes in what our customers want from the niche. In the beginning, they were relatively small, maybe only 12"x12", with a shelf at the bottom. Now, I would call a 12"x24" box a "small" one. The theory being that once you're cutting into the wall, you might as well make it as big as you can, and put 2 or even 3 shelves in it.
Also, it was common practice to put a decorative tile in the back of it, and place it prominently so that it was a design feature, visible to all who enter the room. We noticed though, that unless the products we minimal, and organized and color matched, that you could end up with a chaotic/messy look. Essentially drawing the eye to clutter and blocking the decorative feature. To remedy this, we started putting the niche in a half wall, or tucking it in elsewhere in the shower so that it does not detract from the design.
In these cases, we don't put decorative tile in the niche because we just want them to do their job, and not call attention to themselves. Both avenues can be successful designs, to be sure. It really has more to do with how the customer intends on using it. If the niche is to be the feature, we would make sure that it's big enough to house all of the products while still showing off the fun sparkly stuff. Here's a fun example of a little girls bath/shower niche, right here in Rochester, NY.
I like to consider the tile size and layout when specifying a niche. For example, when the tile is a 12"x24" tile and it will be installed vertically, I like to support that design by recommending a niche that is 12" wide and a height that is divisible by 24". A 12x24 would be fine, but on the small side for my taste, I'd rather see 48" tall. In this next example they made the height of the niche the same as the tile, and went all around the tub, complementing the design perfectly.
Something we are seeing more of these days is a long horizontal niche, sometimes even going the length of the entire wall. I like to call this a "notch". It's a very cool, clean look, whether you are adding a decorative tile or not.
A pitfall to avoid when thinking about this aspect of your design is, outside walls. If you put a shower niche in an outside wall you lose insulation, and no one likes to be cold in the shower. You also want to avoid the plumbing wall, it can be done, but it limits the size and shape it can be, and can confuse the overall look. I would also recommend building a custom box in the wall, as opposed to buying a pre-made box. The pre-made ones are expensive relative to the cost of building one and available in odd sizes, that most likely won't line up with your wall tile. That can result in weird, butchered cuts in the tile that would otherwise be "clean" if you go with the custom option.
As a designer, I like to think about niches in a practical way. First & foremost it needs to do a job, it needs to keep your products organized. I think they should be placed in a spot that is comfortable reached while showering. Beyond that, whether you make it a feature of the design is up to you. How many products do you need to store? How tall are they? How wide are the bottles? Do you buy matching shampoo & conditioner? Do you use a puff, or do you need to hang a washcloth? Do you take the time to neatly space and face your items or are they just jammed in wherever they fit?
These are the kind of questions to ask yourself when planning to go into the wall for storage. Once you start thinking about walls this way, you'll see possibility for niches everywhere.
For more examples, please visit our Pinterest page.