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Which is better, a shower curtain or a glass door?

  • New York Times News Service
  • Published Saturday, March 22, 2014, at 8:40 a.m.
  • Updated Saturday, March 22, 2014, at 11:23 a.m.

Q: I want my shower to look as high-end as possible, but I’m on a budget: Which is better, shower curtain or glass door?

A: The choice between a shower curtain and a glass enclosure depends largely on the layout of your bathroom and the style of your home. For a stand-alone, walk-in shower, the answer is simple, said Jessica Helgerson, an interior designer in Portland, Ore.

“Glass doors are almost always preferable,” she said, noting that companies such as Century Bathworks and American Shower Door make some appealing options.

For a combination tub and shower, the answer isn’t as clear cut. Glass panels provide a clean, modern appearance, but shower curtains also have advantages.

A shower curtain made from a textural material such as linen in a solid color, Helgerson said, offers a simple, appealing look. And if it gets dirty, it’s easy to take down and wash. In a tight space, a shower curtain also “provides better accessibility,” she said, because it can be pulled all the way to one side. “With small kids, it’s easier to lean into the tub.”

For a custom look, Helgerson recommended installing a shower curtain rod in a finish that matches the bathroom fixtures, whether they are brass, chrome, nickel or oil-rubbed bronze.

Charles Homet, an associate real estate broker in Manhattan, agreed that one type of shower enclosure doesn’t necessarily look more high-end than the other. Either can be luxurious, he said, depending on the products you choose.

“A shower curtain doesn’t have to have that standard blah look,” he said, such as vinyl or polyester panels suspended from cheap tension rods. “I’ve seen a shower where the curtain was mounted floor-to-ceiling on a track, and it was really elegant.”

For a more traditional look, he suggested a shower curtain with tiebacks.

Glass panels can look beautiful and modern, he said, but they’re not ideal for every bathroom.

“With glass enclosures, you have to be very careful with the clearance next to the vanity, because you may end up with issues related to cleaning,” he said, particularly if it’s difficult to reach into the gap between the glass panel and the vanity. “You have to make sure you have access, because you do get mildew and things building up along the bottom.”

If you decide to use a shower curtain, but you don’t plan to put your home on the market right away, Helgerson offered one final piece of advice. Before you show your home, she said, “you absolutely want to throw away whatever shower curtain you have and get a brand-new pristine one.” That way, at least, you can be sure “there’s no hint of grossness about it.”

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