|First of all, I’m not an architect or a builder, just a civilian who over the years has had a couple of outside showers built, and we’ve learned from our mistakes. Although we’re still hardly state-of-the-art, we have picked up a few tricks along the way. Some have to do with the way the shower is constructed, some just have to do with getting the most bang for your outside-shower buck.
It’s funny, we rent our house in the summer and we’ve found that maybe only half of our renters actually take outside showers. Not that we’re peeking or anything, but you can just sort of tell. Which is unfortunate because taking a shower out under the stars is one life’s greatest pleasures.
Here’s what else we know:
A few questions for South Mountain Company’s (SMC) Ryan Bushey (architecture co-manager and co-owner) and Matt Coffey (architect & co-owner) about the showers pictured on these pages.
Ryan worked on the Abel’s Hill project; Matt on Prospect Hill.
What did each of the clients say to you about what they wanted with an outdoor shower?
Ryan: The shower design was based on the same design guidelines that we created with the clients for the house: emphasize the natural beauty of the site, celebrate natural materials, incorporate curves, and make it well so it works simply and it lasts.
Matt: They were interested in having a shower that was convenient to them when returning from the beach, close to the driveway and also nearby the bedroom wing to act as a second shower option for the three bedrooms on the first floor that share a bathroom. The shower offers privacy from neighbors, as well as from any spaces in the house, and has a bench space for changing. The shower geometry opens to the north, framing views of the Elizabeth Islands, and is equipped with flush step lighting so that it can be used after sunset as well.
Was the idea for each of these South Mountain’s, or did you just make the client’s visions come to life?
Matt: The shower was built several months after the home was completed. The aesthetic for the shower developed from a series of details that were used for outdoor portions of the house, and a guiding suggestion from the owners to maintain an overall cohesion. Within this design parameter, SMC shaped the geometry of the shower and detailing to create a playful folly in the landscape.
What about the site affected the design of the showers?
Ryan: The site has a beautiful south-facing view of the ocean but the house and South Road are nearby, so it was a challenge to create a space that was open to the view but also felt private and “away.” The house design features a serpentine interior wall that starts at the hub of the house — a circular kitchen — and weaves its way along the length of the building, ending in the master bedroom. The shower design is an extension of that same curve. It also follows the proportions of the golden mean, a ratio found throughout the natural world, spiraling like a nautilus shell into a central tree post for the showerhead. The wall of the shower enclosure starts about a foot off the ground and gets taller as you wind into the shower, creating a gentle transition from exposed to enclosed. The wall is low enough on the water side to enjoy the view, but tall enough on the house and road side to create a private space. The unfinished granite, reclaimed wood, and raw copper are left to weather naturally.
Matt: The shower is kept narrow at the approach side to minimize the profile as seen from the driveway and the walls splay open toward the Northern views. The neighbors to the East and West were strategically blocked as well as views from the second floor sunset room.
Were you constrained by the light/site/exposure, as far as design and materials?
Matt: The shower is composed of reclaimed fir timbers and clear white cedar slats. These materials will weather beautifully and stand up to the exposed coastal hillside location.
Does South Mountain staff all have outdoor showers at their homes? Any quirky ones? How late in the season do you/anyone else there use them?
Yes, from Matt Coffey: I have an outdoor shower at my house that is built from reclaimed redwood timbers and sheets of salvaged galvanized roofing. It is surrounded by 8-foot-tall zebra grass and completely open to the south side woods. Custom concrete piers were made by forming with small plastic trash cans flipped upside down. The plumbing is all exposed copper piping and simple ball valves with a low flow head. I have made a trash and recycling enclosure from a similar composition of parts.
South Mountain Company: 508-693-4850; email@example.com; southmountain.com.