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Originally published August 17, 2012 at 8:00 PM | Page modified August 18, 2012 at 12:22 PM

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Outdoor shower offers affordable luxury

The joys of showering outdoors.

The New York Times

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Urbanites: Consider the real-estate luxuries that have consumed your thoughts, occupied your daydreams, perhaps even encroached upon your bank accounts, from the relatively modest (your own washer and dryer) to the truly extravagant (your own pool on the roof).

There is one that may not have occurred to you. The outdoor shower, that staple of summers by the lake, offers a mix of the rustic (a simple wooden stall) and the pristine (the glorious outdoors), even in the context of the city. Tim Flint's shower, in the walled yard of his home in the Hollywood Hills, offers "the pleasure of being naked outside and being in the sunshine," he said.

A software consultant, Flint, 50, moved to Los Angeles from Chicago about six years ago. Initially he assumed he would use the outdoor shower only to rinse off after a dip in the swimming pool. But he is now among the converted.

"Being in the shower is pretty pleasurable as it is," he said. "But being able to do it outside with the breeze, and the plantings around — you're not in a dark, damp space."

Unlike most urban amenities, the outdoor shower doesn't have to be expensive. The materials may be as humble as you please. And the structure itself is not difficult to build, depending on local building codes.

What is essential, though, is a certain level of comfort with public nudity. Robby Browne is able to enter the outdoor shower at his Central Park West apartment without much risk of detection, since it's right off the master bedroom, although he pointed out that there are hundreds of windows in the neighboring towers that peer down on his 21st-floor terrace.

But that's just on one side. The other side faces the park. And, as Browne, a broker with the Corcoran Group, said, "Who wouldn't want to shower looking at Central Park?"

Enclosed on all sides and draped with fragrant honeysuckle, the wooden stall all but obscures him from view. He is able to see the sky through the lattice roof, and a small cutout in the wood serves as a window onto the park.

"I would feel self-conscious getting into a hot tub on my terrace," he said. "But there is something very liberating about being in the shower."

Susan Winton, an artist and teacher, adores the outdoor shower at the home she shares with her husband in Atlanta. "I used to look around and see who might have a view," she said. "A traffic copter flies over you, and you wonder."

Winton, 71, has also had a few close calls with gardeners at the neighbors' homes: "I'll have just come out of the shower and they'll come barreling out with their leaf blowers."

Flora Grubb and her husband, Kevin Smith, added an outdoor bathtub to the walled patio of a small cottage behind their house in San Francisco. "I'm obsessed with outdoor bathing," Grubb said. "Being in hot water outside is one way to be outside at night without being cold." Made of poured concrete, the tub was in the vein of a Japanese soaking tub.

Before she and Smith sold the cottage, they used the tub whenever they could, she said, which was just about every evening.

The main thing that struck her, she said, was "the incredible pleasure of being able to look up and see the sky and nothing else," she said, "despite the fact that you are hemmed in on all sides."

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