Shower Shelf: Is Corner or Inset Smartest?

Today we’re sharing alllllll our shower shelf knowledge! We’ll talk about

  1. Why built-in, inset shelves are better than corner shelves,
  2. How to determine the number of shelves you’ll need,
  3. How to determine the dimensions of your shelf or shelves, and
  4. Our tips to keep in mind when planning your perfect shower shelf setup!
porcelain shower shelf with hardware below
More about our GROUTLESS porcelain shower walls!

We knew we wanted a porcelain shower shelf in our new shower during our bathroom remodel. The biggest question was, “What kind of shower shelf did we want?”

Porcelain shower shelves are available premade for corners, but we weren’t convinced we even wanted a corner shower shelf. We decided that built in would be best. Why?


Why Built-in Is Best

There were four reasons we wanted a built-in porcelain shower shelf instead of a corner one.

1. Maximize shower space.

Our #1 reason was that we would gain more usable space! Niches and shelves inset to the shower wall itself will always give you more room. Corner shower shelves simply stick out further and can get in your way.

Having corner shelves cuts down on your useable space within the shower. If you have an extremely large shower, this may not be an issue for you. However, for us, we wanted to maximize every inch our our shower square footage! Being able to do an inset porcelain shower shelf would help us achieve that.

double shower with porcelain shower niches, rainshower head
shower head / shower drain

2. Sleek look.

Second, we simply didn’t like the look of rounded or straight corner shelves.

We believe almost everything that is built-in simply tends to look better all-around! It looks purposeful, planned, and intentional. (Think of built-in bookshelves, built-in benches, etc.)

Corner shelves can often look like an afterthought—as if someone created their beautiful shower only to realize later that they forgot about a shelf. Don’t get us wrong: corner shelves can be done well. It is possible. It just requires excellent, thoughtful design and a massive shower to even begin to make sense for the space.

For us, we liked the look of a built-in porcelain shower niche much more than we liked the look of corner shelves. Sometimes, it may just come down to the look you want.

porcelain shower shelf with hardware below, rain shower head above
shower head / shower drain / shower door / shower door hinges

3. Safety & maintenance.

However well corner shelves are attached to shower walls, there’s always the possibility of them becoming loosened or weaker over time. A porcelain shower shelf falling onto your feet during your morning shower isn’t exactly the wakeup call any of us want!

porcelain shower shelf with hardware below

We’ve also heard a rumor that corner shelves often get used as a handle for some people during shower time. Not only is that a dangerous choice in a slippery shower because there’s no proper place to grip on a shelf, but it’s also just not built to withstand that kind of pressure over time. Corner shelves are built to hold soap and shampoo bottles that weigh a few ounces. They are not built to support dozens or even hundreds of pounds of weight put on them.

glass doors to double porcelain shower, porcelain shower shelf with hardware below
We DIY’ed our own tile

Our porcelain shower shelf gives us zero temptations to use it as a handle or support grip. We use it to hold our shower essentials, and that’s it! No fear of it falling or having to fix a fallen corner shower shelf here!

4. Protecting your shower walls.

Corner porcelain shower shelves could potentially damage your shower walls. The way they are adhered means that—most likely—a mark in that spot will always show. You won’t get more flexibility with a corner shelf than with a built-in; you’ll most likely always need to leave it in the same spot.

If a corner porcelain shower shelf does fall (as discussed in #3 above), it could potentially damage your shower walls in more ways than one! Not only could it damage the walls where the shelf was attached, but it could damage both your shower walls and your shower floor tile as it falls!

porcelain shower niche with shelves and polished nickel showerhead hardware
shower head / shower drain / shower door / shower door hinges

Sure, it did take a bit more pre-planning to do our inset porcelain shower shelf, but we believed that—for the above four reasons—it would be worth it!


Two Shelves vs One

So now that we’d decided we wanted inset porcelain shower shelves instead of corner ones, we needed to determine quantity.

Some showers have one long, rectangular shower niche along the back wall. WE DID NOT WANT THAT. Why? It would distract visually from the beautiful veining on that back slab as the focal point!

Thus, we decided to do small “His & Hers” porcelain shower shelves on each side of the wall underneath our showerheads.

porcelain shower with marble veining, two porcelain shower shelves, double showerheads, hardware, and rainshower head


Choosing Our Dimensions

Once you’ve decided how many shower niches you want, how do you go about determining the size?

First, we looked at function. We took stock of what we each use in the shower, and it came down to two sizes:

  1. Tall things.
  2. Short things.
porcelain shower shelf with hardware below in porcelain shower

That was it. So we decided to do one shower niche with a shelf in the middle dividing them into

  1. one “tall” section and
  2. one “short” section.

To determine the tall section’s dimensions, we measured our tallest items (such as shampoo bottles). After adding a few inches vertically (because you want room for when you pick the bottle up, or want flexibility for if you get taller bottles in future), we settled on 11 inches.

For the short section’s dimensions, we made a list of what we used that was small (things like soap or a razor lying on its side) and did the same thing as we did for the tall section: added a few inches vertically and called it good!

So the final size of our porcelain shower niche is just over 16″ high by 13″ wide. The upper shelf is 11″ high and 3.5″ deep. The lower shelf is 4″ high and 3.5″ deep. The porcelain shelf between the two sections is just over 1″ in height.

Verdict? It’s been perfect! (That kinda rhymed!) Honestly, simply having a section for tall things and a section for short things has been just right for us. We haven’t needed more or wished we’d done less.

porcelain shower niche with polished nickel hardware below


The Difficulties

As much as we love how our shower niches turned out, we want to be honest about the difficulties as well.

First of all, the large porcelain slab material we chose for our shower walls is thin. Thin and delicate. This is not a thick slab of marble.

With this fragility comes a higher chance of the porcelain material breaking or cracking. It took good design and a good fabricator to do this. Even then, he did have some issues with pieces breaking in the ways he cut it, but it was a learning process for him as well.

marble double shower with glass doors and rain showerhead
More on our bathroom floor tile!

Second, because of the thin material, we did have to get creative in some of the ways these porcelain shower shelves were built. The fabricator was having issues with breaking until Matt suggested a way he could do it differently, then it was smooth sailing from that point.

For example, because of the fragility of the material, we couldn’t just use a single piece of porcelain for a shelf between the large and small sections. We had to support it by adding a piece of cement board that would support the weight. (Plus, a thicker porcelain shower shelf would just visually look better!) The fabricator then wrapped the cement board with the porcelain material and placed in the niche to create the shelf, with supports on each side.

porcelain shower shelf with polished nickel hardware


To read the story of how we created our entire porcelain slab shower, click here! You can also see more of our bathroom remodel by selecting one of the options below:

  1. Why we ripped out our small shower.
  2. How we got our high-end bathroom floor tile design for (almost) free.
  3. Cozying up our bathroom walls with wainscoting.
  4. How our gorgeous tub made our bathroom feel bigger!
  5. What we used for our non-slip shower floor tile.
  6. 7 double shower must-haves we can’t live without.
  7. How we designed our wood vanity.

Or, you can view our completed home projects page here.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Cat

    What are the dimensions of your new shower? Too big? Small? Would love to know your thoughts on how the size works

    1. Jess

      It’s about 5’x3.5′ and has been perfect for us!


  2. Robin

    Please tell us the cost of porcelain slab walls and where to find them?

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