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Shower Niche Design Tips and Inspiration

By Ted Ryan

Shower Niche Design Tips and Inspiration

What are you hoping to accomplish with your bathroom remodel? Great design doesn’t just make a space more attractive, it makes it more functional, and if you have a shower caddy sitting on your shower floor or hanging from the showerhead like you’re still in college, it’s time to step up your shower design with a tiled niche.

Deciding what your shower niche will look like, what’s even possible in your space, can be a complicated task. If you’re working with a contractor, discuss with them your vision and budget to decide what works. Today we’ll tackle some basics to get you started.

Remodeling your entire bathroom? Start here with our complete guide to bathroom tile.

What’s a Shower Niche?

A shower niche is a recessed shelf built into your tub surround or shower wall and is designed to hold shampoo bottles, soap, and other bath necessities. A niche can be either custom-built or purchased prefabricated and finished with tile during installation.

Custom Tile Shower Niche

A custom niche offers designers near-total freedom to design the perfect niche for their bathtub or shower. Custom niches require custom framing to achieve the desired dimensions and waterproofing membranes must be applied to prevent water from leaking into the wall. When building a custom niche, it’s important to consider your environment and the function of the stud walls you wish to frame near or modify. It’s advised to work with a contractor if you wish to build a custom shower niche.

Prefab Tile Shower Niche

A prefab shower niche speeds up installation by using a preformed waterproof mold made from either foam, plastic, or steel. The prefab niche is fitted into the wall cavity between two existing studs and sits flush against the untiled shower wall. Tile is applied directly to the waterproof niche insert. Prefab niches are available from brands like Schluter and Tile Redi and can be purchased at most home supply stores. A prefab niche is generally more cost-effective compared to custom shower niche installations.

Shower Niche Placement

Great design improves your life, so a niche needs to work as well as it looks. Where you locate your niche depends on how you use your space.

If you’re running a custom niche the full width of your shower, you only have to decide on height. How tall are you and those in your household? Where would you and they be most comfortable reaching for your daily essentials?

This shower has a niche for any height, vertically stacked for everyone to access.

moonshine 3 stacked shower niche

Tile Shown: 4x4 in Moonshine // Design: Kelli Rainbolt // Image: Kelli Rainbolt

Centered, offset, corner, edge? Where you place your niche on the wall dramatically affects its appearance. Remember, studs, as well as pipes and other hardware, can interfere with where you locate your niche.

under window exterior wall shower niche

Tile Shown: Picket in Sea Glass // Design: Interior Wanderer // Image: R. Brad Knipstein Photography

This niche extends all the way to the edge with an open end to add even more definition to the shower’s design.

open ended tile shower niche

Tile Shown: 3x6 in White Wash, 3" Sheeted Hexagon in Gypsum, Salton Sea, Morning Thaw, Dusty Blue, Nautical, Cyclone, Carbon // Design: Tom McElroy Architecture // Image: Rachel Styer

Are you installing a niche in a custom shower or a tub surround where you’ll sometimes be showering standing up and sometimes bathing reclined? It’s a good idea to consider where you’ll be able to reach items in either situation.

ogee accent vertical tub surround niche

Tile Shown: Ogee in Lake Tahoe, 1 x 6 Sheeted in Ember // Design: Maria Causey Interior Design // Image: Christy Kosnic

Shower Niche Size and Shape

Are you looking for a discrete pocket for a razor and a bar of soap or a spacious focal point for curated sundries? The size and shape of your niche is another balance of function, appearance, and practical limitations.

Choosing a prefab shower niche will limit your choices to what’s available from the manufacturer, but there are several options on the market. A custom niche and flexible budget will greatly expand your choices.

The depth of your niche will ultimately depend on the depth of your wall cavity or how much you decide to frame out a parallel wall to accommodate a deeper niche.

This shallow niche would likely fit in any home.

shallow shower niche with bullnose trim

Tile Shown: 2x8 in Rosemary // Design: Erin Kestenbaum // Image: Erin Kestenbaum

A vertical niche matches the profile of narrow stall showers and offers space for taller items.

vertical shower niche with gold schluter trim

Tile Shown: 4x4 in Sand Dune // Design: Anthony Roxas Architecture // Image: María del Río

A horizontal shower niche offers room for a wide shower shelf and adds an attractive dimension to the shower wall.

extra wide shower niche

Tile Shown: 4x8 in Calcite, Small Diamond Sheeted in Calcite, Small Diamond Sheeted in Nautical // Design: Clara Jung // Image: Colin Price Photography

Use multiple shapes to create separate shelves with individual purposes and personalities.

black multiple sized shower niche

Tile Shown: 3x9 in Basalt // Design: Shavonda Gardner // Image: Shavonda Gardner

An arched shower niche adds an elegant design detail to your bathroom and some preformed niche manufacturers do offer arched inserts. Nevertheless, cutting the tile and trim for the arch will require a skilled hand.

arched tile shower niche

Tile Shown: 2x6 in Ivory // Design: Sara Combs + Rich Combs // Image: Margaret Austin Photography, Sara Combs + Rich Combs

Shower Niche Tile

Choosing the tile you want for your shower niche usually starts with choosing the tile you want for your entire shower, maybe your entire bathroom. But not always. Decide if you want your niche to blend in or stand out.

This glass herringbone niche uses the same tile and pattern to flawlessly match the lines of the shower wall.

herringbone shower niche with schluter trim

Tile Shown: 2x12 Glass in Blue Jay Matte, 1x1 Sheeted in Blue Jay Matte // Design: Ginny Macdonald, Styling by CJ Sandgren // Image: Jessica Bordner, Sara Tramp

Echo the floor tile, the bathroom backsplash, or choose something totally unique to draw attention to the niche.

This niche contrasts the bright white shower walls with the deep blue diamond mosaic tile featured on the floor.

blue diamond mosaic shower niche

Tile Shown: Small Diamond Sheeted in Aegean Sea // Design: Rachel Winston Design // Image: Zulu Whiskey Productions

Ceramic Tile Shower Niches

Think beyond the standard subway tile with a unique ceramic tile shape like the mermaid-inspired Ogee Drop tile found in this beach house bathroom.

ogee drop shower niche with quarter round trim

Tile Shown: Ogee Drop in Naples Blue // Design + Image: Bright Bazaar

Glass Tile Shower Niche

Glass tile is clean, sleek, and perfect for the shower. This niche with a marble shower shelf adds an incredible dimension to the wide shower wall.

Rosy Finch Matte shower niche

Tile Shown: 2x12 Glass in Rosy Finch Matte // Design: Metro Design Build // Image: Jeffrey Johnson

Brick Tile Shower Niche

A brick tile shower niche stands up to years of use with an earthy, organic look.

Olympic and Elk brick shower niche

Brick Shown: Thin Brick in Olympic, Thin Brick in Elk // Installer: Alisa Norris

Mosaic Tile Shower Niche

Mosaic tile gives a shower niche an intricate backdrop with endless artistic possibilities.

mosaic tile shower niche

Tile Shown: Hexite and 1x1 sheeted in Adriatic Sea // Design: Heather Cleveland Design // Image: HDR Remodeling

Handpainted Shower Niche

A handpainted tile niche lets you feature the one-of-a-kind artistry of handpainted tile without committing to the cost of tiling your entire shower in handpainted.

A colorful handpainted niche makes for a natural focal point and an exciting contrast to a white shower wall.

handpainted and star and cross shower niche

Tile Shown: 6x6 Handpainted Vitoria in Cool Motif, Star and Cross in Daisy // Design: Ali Hynek // Image: Becky Kimball

Shower Niche Trim

Blending the recessed shelf to the shower or tub surround tile requires trim, and there are lots of options for any tile you’ve chosen. From rough to smooth, there’s a trim to capture the look you’re going for.

Trimming more than your niche? Check out our comprehensive guide to bathroom trim.

Bullnose Shower Niche Trim

Bullnose trim has a rounded and glazed long or short edge (or both for corner pieces) that offers a smooth transition around the perimeter of the shower niche.

white bullnose trim shower niche and Ogee shower tile

Tile Shown: Ogee Drop in White Wash // Installer: Becki Owens

Radius Bullnose Niche Trim

A radius bullnose tile has a rounded edge like a standard bullnose that hooks and extends to form a 90-degree curve for a seamless bend from the wall to the niche interior.

radius bullnose shower niche trim

Tile Shown: 2x6 in Magnolia // Design: Brad Krefman // Image: Airyka Rockefeller

How to Trim a Shower Niche Without Bullnose

Glazed Edge Trim

The simplest form of trim is our glazed edge tile, available in both ceramic and brick, which offer a raw minimalist look without compromising the consistency of color.

elk brick shower niche

Brick Shown: Thin Brick in Elk // Design: Claire Thomas // Image: Claire Thomas

Quarter Round Niche Trim

Another popular trim for shower niches is the quarter round. Quarters rounds are narrow pieces of ceramic trim designed for turning corners and finishing edges.

quarter round niche trim blended hexite shower

Tile Shown: Hexite in Halite, Eucalyptus, Kelp // Design: Darling Magazine // Image: Darling Magazine

Schluter Shower Niche Trim

Schluter trim is strips of trim—usually metal like aluminum, steel, and brass but also available in PVC—that conceal the raw edge of tile giving it a clean, finished look.

white tile shower niche with silver schluter trim

Tile Shown: 2x8 in Tusk // Design: Caitlin Flemming // Image: Jacqueline Pilar

Now you're ready to get designing! Remember to consider your space and budget before starting your project and work with a contractor if you have any doubts about your DIY skills. With a little creativity and Fireclay Tile, you'll have a functional niche that fits perfectly in your new shower.

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