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AS THE MOON PIERCES the night sky, Vickie York gazes at the stars above and washes away the cares of the day in her outdoor shower near Bethany Beach.

AS THE MOON PIERCES the night sky, Vickie York gazes at the stars above and washes away the cares of the day in her outdoor shower near Bethany Beach. “It's a magical experience, peaceful yet invigorating,” she says. “Once you take an outdoor shower, you don't want to shower indoors.”

For years, most outdoor showers offered only the bare necessities — a modest stall with a cold-water tap that allowed the shivering bather to rinse out a swimsuit and scrub off sand before tiptoeing into the house. But these days, alfresco showers are drenched in luxury, with such niceties as dressing areas, hooks for robes and heated towel racks. Expect to find shampoos, lotions and other pampering treats along with such high-end finishes as ceramic tile counters and scored concrete floors.

York's shower is situated in a freestanding outbuilding, sheathed in cedar shakes with louvered shutters at the windows. It is outfitted with skylights, a separate dressing room and a vanity table. “It's a really neat getaway,” she says. “There's no one around except for the cat.” York's retreat is secreted in a wooded compound. If privacy isn't as much of a concern, an outdoor shower enclosure could be as natural as a stand of bamboo.


KAREN TAYLOR KNEW her outdoor shower would host an endless parade of bathers, members of the three generations of her family who regularly visit her Bethany Beach home — including her eight grandchildren. “If they use the shower, they aren't tracking sand into the house,” says Taylor. Her interior designer for the project, Connie Britell, principal and owner of Dovetail Interior Architecture & Design in Bethany Beach, encouraged her to set an appropriately upbeat tone by painting the stall in lively pink, yellow and blue and adding applied daisy designs. “I was stuck in beach-house gray, but Connie persuaded me to try something fun,” says Taylor.

The shower is stocked with soaps, shampoos, conditioners and moisturizers, and has an adjoining dressing area that includes a long wooden bench, a mirror and a dozen pairs of flip-flops in all colors and sizes. “You can sit and get dressed, instead of running into the house wrapped in a towel,” says Taylor.


HOMEOWNERS HAVE TWO BASIC OPTIONS for outdoor showers: work with an architect to custom design their own, like Taylor, or use a premade freestanding model. Freestanding showers, great for a quick rinse after a swim and often portable as a bonus, can be fairly high-end. Restoration Hardware offers the Providence Shower, a model with a slatted base made from sustainably harvested teak for $495.

Or you can go for the crème de la crème, and talk to Chris Peeples. He is the owner of Vixen Hill Cedar Products in Elverson, a company that builds pre-engineered modular cedar gazebos, cupolas, porches and other outdoor structures. He began manufacturing cedar showers a year and a half ago at his Chester County mill, inspired by his own experience showering at a friend's cottage on Cape Cod three years ago. “There were roses climbing over the top and it was incredibly romantic, looking up and seeing nothing but blue sky and rose petals,” he says.

His showers come in three sizes, all crafted from western red cedar with open, pergola-style roofs. They can be attached directly to a home's water supply or simply hooked up to a garden hose. A water heater mounted on the exterior connects to a propane tank for remote models.

Luxury models, which start at $5,830, are awash with such amenities as changing areas with benches, heated towel racks, stainless-steel Bosch water heaters and Hudson Reed fixtures that are imported from England. A new model includes a sauna.

Peeples chooses finishes as much for practical reasons as for aesthetics. He offers fixtures crafted in polished chrome over brass for a more traditional, romantic look, and sleek stainless steel for a more modern, updated style.

Peeples recommends planting aromatic herbs — especially lemon balm, lavender and mint — outside around the base of the shower. When the shower is in use, the steam will create a chimney effect, pulling the scents of the plants under the 5-inch gap of the stall. “The hot water releases the fragrance,” he says, “and it smells fantastic.” It's just one more way to make the natural environment part of the experience — which is what the appeal of an outdoor shower is all about.

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