While apartment hunting earlier this year, I developed a concise system for evaluating potential units. Any apartment I moved into needed only to possess the following attributes: hardwood floors, a natural light source, and a bathtub. The first was merely an aesthetic preference, but the latter were essential to the life of my plants and myself. This may be why, when the broker first showed me what would become my new home, I didn’t notice that the showerhead was placed, rather awkwardly, beneath a window or that it fell slightly below eye level when I was standing in the tub. This meant that anyone exceeding the height of five feet four inches (which is perfectly average, I might add) would have to engage in some serious contortionism to rinse and repeat. But I ended up living with this weak-willed, temperamental Halfling of a shower, because for me, a dedicated soaker, a shower is not the sine qua non of everyday hygiene, but rather a stopgap measure.
For most people, however, the daily drench is what gets them out of bed and off to work in a timely manner. And while many are willing to tolerate quirky plumbing and flaccid streams in order to get clean, it is undeniable that a good showerhead can be life-altering—what was once conceived as a utilitarian, more efficient alternative to the hedonistic bath has now become a luxury item in its own right, embellished by modern manufacturers with assorted permutations on the massage, the downpour, and the pulse. All these bells and whistles can be confusing, so Dwell asked Leonard Koren, “anti-hardware” author of Undesigning the Bath and founder of Wet: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing, to help us get back to the basics of getting well and truly soaked: “I might not know that much about towel racks,” says Koren, “but I’ve actually taken many showers in my life. When it comes to showerheads, I’m somewhat of an authority—as are millions of other people, I suppose.”