No More So-So Shower Curtains
For most homeowners with a super-sized master bath, a shower curtain is small potatoes, if they own one at all.
"The showers and whirlpools in new master baths are so big that most homeowners and designers are opting for glass doors instead of a curtain," says Dawn Williams, an interior designer and Interiors by Decorating Den franchise owner in Hingham, Mass.
But in a more modest bathroom, the ever-reliable shower curtain is still a big deal from a design perspective. If you have a smaller, older bathroom or guest bath, you should carefully work your choice of shower curtain into your theme or scheme.
"If the bathroom will have wallpaper, I would plan that first, and then choose a shower curtain to coordinate with it," says Williams. "But if the walls will be straight paint, pick a fabric for the shower curtain first and then choose paint that draws on the colors from the curtain."
The easiest way to come up with your precise fabric preference is to go the custom route, or sew or stamp your own curtains. "If you're trying for a Victorian or cottage look, you can have a shower curtain customized with more of a 'frou frou' look, ruffles and that sort of thing," says Williams, "it all depends on your style."
If you're not working with an interior designer or don't have the budget for a customized shower curtain, there are lots of great "off the shelf" options, too, if you know where to look.
Old faithful Lands End, for example, sells a shimmery 100 percent cotton sateen shower curtain with very thin stripes of jewel tones throughout, a solid option for someone with a blue-based color scheme or seaside bathroom theme.
The Pintucked Sateen Shower Curtain from Restoration Hardware has a nice style for an Art Deco or minimalist bath, mostly white with a wide band of light pink overscored with a black accent.
For a shabby chic style, the Ruby Killim shower curtain from Saffron Marigold offers an Asian or Bohemian touch with its handcrafted block print of rich red and gold.
Of course, you might not want to choose a fabric shower curtain based on looks alone. The Bombay Company's amber and gold Belvedere Fringe Shower Curtain, for example, is rich and regal with its alternating patterns of tonal scrolls and fringes. But, unlike the machine washables mentioned above, the cotton linen blend requires dry cleaning, not such a good idea in a heavy traffic bathroom with a lot of moisture, hairspray or grimy hands people forget to dry on hand towels.
Make sure to read the fine print, because some curtains might pleasantly surprise you. Garnet Hill's Ribbon Shower Curtain, for example, seems rather fragile but it turns out its deep-toned grosgrain ribbons hanging loosely from a cotton canvas header are washable by hand.
Other fabric curtains are a little more convenient to wash and re-hang because they've got buttons and fabric loops, not curtain hooks and grommets. One such is the Elegant Button Shower Curtain from Green Culture House Wares, a neutral, 100 percent natural curtain that could blend well in either a contemporary bathroom with rich paint tones or one that already had lots of color in the wallpaper. Its authentic Tagua nut buttons hold fabric loops over any curtain rod.
Still, its makers, along with the companies that make just about every other fabric model, "recommend" a vinyl shower liner. Realistically, your floor will be a sodden mass after every shower if you don't use one, unless you're trying Plow and Hearth's Amazing Watershed Shower Curtain, which acts as its own liner, is machine-washable and is handily attached to a curtain rod with tie tops. It's not so practical that it can't be attractive, though, and it comes in hues that include butter, French blue and sage.
And speaking of vinyl liners, how about all those vinyl shower curtains? In 18 years of helping clients design and decorate bathrooms, Dawn Williams says she has never once used one.
"But if that's your style, they can really be fun and punchy," she says. "If I were using a 'just for fun' vinyl curtain, I'd have fun with the paint, too, maybe painting each of three walls a different color, or only painting the top third all the way around."
She also recommends that when the pattern on the curtain is bright or funky, like giant magenta polka dots, you choose paint in a color that complements the magenta, not something in the same shade. "You can have too much of a good thing," she says, "You don't want the colors to drown each other out."
That's a delicate balance, but finding loud and funky vinyl curtains isn't much of a problem. Just the tip of the iceberg includes a curtain with oversize, primary color puzzle pieces on it from the U.K.'s Showerail and a Marco Polo Luxury Leather Look Shower Curtain (six colors!) from Domestic Bin.
Or how about the same company's "Easy Rider" vinyl curtain, complete with flames and seven or eight bikes? Just remember, you're the one who needs to know when to say when.
Interiors by Decorating Den national locator
Striped Sateen Shower Curtain
Lands End, www.landsend.com
Pintucked Sateen Shower Curtain
Restoration Hardware, www.restorationhardware.com
Ruby Killim Block Print Shower Curtain
Saffron Marigold, www.saffronmarigold.com
Belvedere Fringe Shower Curtain
The Bombay Company, www.bombaycompany.com
Ribbon Shower Curtain
Garnet Hill, www.garnethill.com
Elegant Button Shower Curtain
Green Culture House Wares, www.ecohousewares.com
Watershed Shower Curtain
Plow and Hearth, www.plowhearth.com
Marco Polo Luxury Leather Look Shower Curtain
Easy Rider Shower Curtain
Domestic Bin, www.domesticbin.com