In his post on micro-apartments, Matt Hickman noted that good design is really important if you're going to live in small spaces. High ceilings make the unit feel bigger; big windows make it feel less confined; kitchens should be decent and "while standard in many petite European dwellings, shower/bathroom combos should be avoided." I wonder if he would pack up and move to this apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan that has a whole new take on the bathroom, one that avoids the dreaded shower/bathroom combination: the shower is in the kitchen. 

closeup of the shower in the kitchen. Really, it makes sense

You can also use it as a vegetable sprayer. (Photo: Lorence at Streeteasy)

The listing agent makes it sound so attractive:

This old world style apt is better than your average studio! Although the shower is in the kitchen, YES it's in the kitchen, it has a separate room for your bed — so the kitchen/living area can easily accommodate a sofa and small table & chairs & more!
social bathing in the Middle Ages

From Gothamist to Buzzfeed, this shower-in-the-kitchen concept is attracting scorn and derision. But in fact, there is some logic to the arrangement. Centuries ago, bathing was quite social and wasn't hidden away. People even had banquets in the tub. Bernard Rudofsky wrote:

In the Middle Ages, an epoch generally dismissed as dark and dirty, men and women bathed together and took their time about it. They often remained in the water for a meal, served on floating tables, and in time the bath became the favorite place for banquets, accompanied by song and music, with the musicians seated in the water.
Now I suppose a shower isn't quite as social as a bathtub, but perhaps in an era of fast food, it is probably more appropriate. Besides, there's another aspect to consider: hygiene. Showers and sinks shouldn't be in the same room as toilets. They serve very different functions. Toilets are dirty:
There have been found over 3.2 million microbes per square inch in the average toilet bowl. According to germ expert Chuck Gerba, PhD, a professor of environmental microbiology at University of Arizona the aerosolized toilet water is propelled as far as 6 feet, settling on your dental toothbrush inclusively.
wash hands before handling food signFrom a health and cleanliness point of view, it probably makes more sense to have the shower in the kitchen than in the toilet room. After all, every restaurant kitchen has a hand sink and a sign that says "wash your hands before cooking." Perhaps a shower is an even a better idea. 

Finally, we have to look at the reason the shower was put in the bathroom with the toilet in the first place, which, as I wrote in my series for TreeHugger on the History of the Bathroom, was for the convenience of plumbers and building developers.

The engineers gave us a water supply and a waste disposal system, so logic dictated that you should put all this new stuff together in one place. Nobody seriously paused to think about the different functions and their needs.
But it also was a reflection of American culture. Ellen Lupton and J. Albert Miller write in "The Bathroom, The Kitchen and the Aesthetics of Waste":
The small size of the standard bathroom reflects the ambivalence which has attended bodily functions and maintenance in American culture. The bathroom is at once the most and least important room in the house; it accounts for a large percentage of building costs and is used by all of a home's occupants, yet it is granted one of the smallest spaces. It is a private room yet is made very public by its shared status. It is physically clean yet culturally dirty.
shower that's big enough for a bike

That's the shower on the right, big enough to wash a bike. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

When I worked on the design for Graham Hill's LifeEdited apartment, I proposed putting the shower out in the open, beside the kitchen. I wrote:

Bathing is not evil and smelly, in our culture, only going to the toilet is. So open it all up, let it all hang out and just put the toilet in its little room.
No, I have to suggest that this apartment is a bargain at $1,750 per month. It represents a new paradigm of small apartment design, where bathing breaks out of the water closet and is celebrated, where clean functions are separated from dirty. This is where the shower wants to be. I'll take it.

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Lloyd Alter ( @lloydalter ) writes about smart (and dumb) tech with a side of design and a dash of boomer angst.