Curtains, Hooks and Rods: How to Outfit Your Clawfoot Tub With a Shower


Clawfoot tubs are an elegant and timeless addition to any bathroom, but let’s face it: Sometimes you need to shower. When you don’t have a shower in another bathroom (or you’d simply like to expand the versatility of your clawfoot tub), what should you do?

Converting the bathtub to a tub and shower combination is the perfect solution. From finding the right size shower curtain to choosing the proper hardware, here’s how to add a shower to your clawfoot tub.

Clawfoot Tub Shower Hardware

Outfitting your clawfoot bathtub with shower capabilities can make your bathroom more user-friendly with minimal work.

“Rather than install a brand new shower, a capable DIYer can add a shower to a freestanding or claw-foot tub,” says Improvenet writer Jacob Hurwith. Whether you’re ready to DIY your own tub or you’re having someone revamp your tub for you, there are a few things to keep in mind for your new bathtub setup.

The first accessory on your agenda? Hardware. Choosing the right shower rod, for example, can make all the difference in your bathroom remodel. Where the shower rod is placed affects where the shower curtain liner falls in and around the tub. The shower curtain can impact the bathing experience (too-short liners cause leakage, for example), so it’s important to get the height right.

Freestanding tubs also require a different style of shower rod. While oval rings are the most common option, they aren’t the only choice. Square and rectangular rods also can be used to hang a curtain around the tub, says Rhonda Bonecutter, occupational therapist and founder of Zero Barriers Consulting and Homeability. If you’re not seeking full 360-degree curtain coverage, alternate solutions for freestanding tubs include U-shaped, D-shaped and bendable shower rods.

Shower Curtains

Next up? Shower curtains. There are a few things to keep in mind when acquiring a shower curtain for your freestanding tub. First of all, it’s essential to get a curtain that’s the proper width and length. Benna Crawford at Hunker says that while the industry standard for shower curtains is 72 inches by 72 inches, it may be that you require a custom shape for your antique clawfoot.

Custom curtains for freestanding tubs should be about 180 inches wide so they can encircle the entire tub — if that’s what you’re going for. They should also be around 68 inches tall so they can hang from a rod on the ceiling.

This is a solid baseline to follow, but measuring your clawfoot tub is still a good idea. This is the next most important step to remember in choosing a shower curtain. After all, different tubs from different eras and manufacturers can vary in size.

“You should measure their length to allow for a bit of overlap of the curtains and of the liners to trap water within while allowing easy entry and exit—so not too long or too short of an overlap,” suggests interior designer Jeff Schwartz.

An example of a shower curtain that’s the proper length can be seen in this colorful beach style design, photographed by Ken Gutmaker of Architectural Photography. The gauzy fabric is long enough to rest inside the tub when it’s not in use, which means it’s long enough to keep the water within the bathtub when someone is using the shower.

Another thing to keep in mind is that it might be more difficult to find a wide selection of extra long and extra wide curtains in the right sizes. And if you can’t find the color and style that suits your needs in the proper length and width, interior design writer Kimberly Bartosch says that a seamstress or custom drapes maker might be your best bet. This will ensure that you achieve exactly the look and size that you want, without having make any design or usability sacrifices.

Faucets and Shower Caddies

There are two main types of faucets that outfit clawfoot tubs: telephone and gooseneck. A telephone faucet takes the shape of a vintage phone, while the gooseneck faucet has a large spout with a more classical design, Scott Sidler explains at The Craftsman Blog. Regardless of which faucet type you have, a showerhead is possible.

“Both can be adapted to replace the handheld shower receiver with a shower pipe and shower head if you wish to have a more traditional shower experience,” Sidler writes.

You might also consider buying a clawfoot tub shower kit, like these from antique and modern supplier, The Period Bath Supply Company. The kits come with everything you need for your clawfoot tub, including a wall mount tub filler faucet, a shower ring and a riser — which is used to adjust the rod’s height. Another kit option can be found at Danco, which offers quality, stylish hardware for converting your clawfoot tub to a shower.

Once you’ve found the right faucet and showerhead for your tub, you’ll need a shower caddy to keep all of your toiletries organized. Shower caddies for freestanding tubs need to be more minimalist and streamlined than your average caddy, as you’re typically working with less space than a normal shower.

Blake Lockwood at Decor Snob points out two main different styles. One caddy can be hung on the shower head, if a permanent spout is installed. Another is a corner shower caddy, which is shaped like a triangle and can be installed in the wall corner near the bathroom. This might not be convenient if you have a wraparound shower curtain, however, so it depends on which style curtain you’ve chosen.

Once you’ve installed the proper shower curtain hardware, you’ll want to ensure you’re making the most out of your tub/shower combination. A few user-friendly tips for getting accustomed to the new combination come from Allie Ellenbogen at The White Apartment.

For one, Ellenbogen says it’s important to shower with the liner inside the tub to prevent water from splashing out during the shower. Getting one large liner and curtain, rather than hanging multiple curtains, can also help prevent leaks.

Another common issue that occurs with freestanding tub showers is curtain billowing. When the curtain blows into the tub while you’re showering, it can be a major inconvenience. “The reason the billowing happens is because the temperature outside your tub is significantly cooler than the temperature inside,” she explains.

Ellenbogen suggests keeping the temperature in the rest of the bathroom similar to that of the shower. This can be achieved through a space heater, a built-in heater near the shower or heated floors.

Get Inspired

Looking for ways to make your glorious clawfoot tub into something a bit more practical for the day to day? Take a look at these 15 beautiful and functional clawfoot tub shower combos. 

1. A 107 Year Old Home Remodel with Original Tub

Associate art director Jenny Fischer and her husband Andrew had a large project ahead of them when they bought a 107-year-old home that was in need of some TLC. The only bathroom in the home was especially in need of a reboot. “The bathroom had no personality,” Fischer explains. “It was dated and everything was brown and beige. Although it was clean and usable, it didn’t spark joy. The only thing that made me smile and was worth saving was the vintage clawfoot tub.”

To make it beautiful and functional, they had to remove the nearly 400 pound cast iron tub from its original position, strip the old layers of paint, repaint it white and spay the feet gold. Then they moved it back into its new turned-around position. With all the hardware, including shower pies, oil rubbed bronze, the bathroom was transformed into a modern, monochromatic space with an authentic connection to its past.

2. Dark Fixtures Add a Modern Touch

The team at OUTinDesign has developed a number of beautiful bathrooms. One of their modern cottage bathrooms is home to a classic white clawfoot tub. Dark brass hardware pairs well with the floor in black and white tile. An oval curtain rod allows for a white curtain to surround the bath, adding light. The bath is placed under a window, that both offers natural light and sill on which to place small toiletries. Soft green walls and pale wood make the bathroom feel perfectly inviting for soaking or showering.

3. Charming Oval Curtain Rod

The elegant bathroom in the Victorian Redux remodel by designer Kelly Scanlon Sullivan is filled with neutral colors and soft touches of blue and gray. The central focal point of the bathroom is the lovely clawfoot bathtub with an oval curtain rod. The curtain features a classic pattern that matches the neutral color scheme. Curtains don’t have to be cheap plastic that cling to your legs; they can add to the elegant nature of your bathroom. 

4. Modern Farmhouse Inspired Bath

A vintage tub always looks good in farmhouse bathrooms. It fits a design that is both vintage and modern. Even small, outdated bathrooms can be transformed into the beautiful bath of your dreams. Designer Jenna Sue shows how an old alcove tub can be replaced with a stunning clawfoot tub that still serves as a shower. Unlike previous clawfoot tub shower combos, this tub has wall mounted shower faucets. The concrete colored tub downplays the lacy curtains to create a fun and not overly femnine farmhouse bathroom. 

5. Brass Fixtures with Rustic Tub

Painter and owner of home decor shop General Store, Serena Mitnik Miller and her family live in Topanga Canyon, California. Her home is full of natural light, wood and California beach vibes. Unlike other classic clawfoot tubs, her tub has an unfinished, rustic appearance where age appears beautiful, not outdated. It is paired with modern brass shower head and oval curtain rod. The aged bohemian tile behind the bath completes the look.

6. Mixed Medals in an Industrial Bathroom

This gorgeous industrial inspired bathroom has it all — a black vintage tub, exposed shower piping, black hexagonal floor tile and black matte sink fixtures. Designer Sandi Mazzi used a variety of materials to bring the space together. The exposed shower piping and matching curtain rod show that the practicality of adding a shower to your clawfoot tub doesn’t have to be boring. It can be a beautiful way to add to the feel of your bathroom. 

7. Wet Rooms Fit the Whole Family

Your master bath is usually just for the parents, but it can be a place for your kids to splash with no restraint. A clawfoot tub placed inside the shower is a great solution. Ashley Harrison and her family remodeled an 1858 Italianate home in Missouri, salvaging an old rusted-out tub from the dilapidated basement. They completely transformed their master bathroom into a modern wet room for the family, full of beautiful tile and enclosed by a glass door.

8. Tub Salvaged from an Empty Lot 

Sometimes bathrooms can be transformed with a statement piece found just down the street. When referring to her old bathroom, ceramicist Sarah Van Raden says “it was a mess of primary colors, with a plastic shower, reclaimed sink and cabinet, and terrible lighting.” Now it’s home to white hexagonal floor tiling, subway tiles on the walls and a beautiful clawfoot tub. “We found the old clawfoot tub down the street from our house, in a vacant lot where they had recently demoed a little cottage. My husband offered the contractor some cash for the tub and surprised me with it for Valentine’s Day. It’s still my favorite thing in our whole house.” Though the tub doesn’t have a standing shower faucet, it remains true to the period with a telephone faucet that can be used for showering.

9. Put the Shower in the Center of the Tub

When clawfoot tubs are converted into a tub-shower combo, the shower head is often placed at one side. This can lead to a feeling of lopsidedness. “It means you're crammed in the front when you're showering," says CEO and creative director of Zio and Sons Anthony D’Argenzio. “So, we had the piping moved so there's a range shower effect over this beautiful old-world tub. I wanted it to be functional and beautiful but still be enjoyable to use." Though this tub has a pedestal base, the same can be applied to a clawfoot tub. The exposed piping paired with the wood paneled walls adds a mix of industrial and warm touches. 

10. Consider linen draperies around your tub

Want added and deluxe privacy for your bathing and showering space?  Designer Julia Starr Sanford placed a soaking tub behind cream colored linen draperies. The draperies are hung from high ceilings, making the space even more elegant. The tub itself has a pedestal base, but the same approach could be used with a clawfoot tub and shower.

11. Stick with the Gold Hand Shower 

Founder of the lifestyle company A Beautiful Mess, Elsie Larson transformed a dated home into one full of color and glam. The bathroom features a classic white clawfoot tub paired with a gold gooseneck faucet and handshower. The space is filled with natural light, white tiles and muted pink curtains that add a pop of color. The drapes and spectacular light fixture draw attention to the height of the room.

12. Clawfoot Tub in a Walk-In Shower

Are you feeling unsure about whether to choose a walk-in shower or vintage tub? Designer Elizabeth Roberts created a bathroom with both. This clawfoot tub is placed inside the walk-in shower, with a glass half-wall to keep the space separate from the rest of the bathroom. This is an elegant way to mix modern and vintage. The subway tile on the walls and hexagonal tiles on the floor pair well with the classic tub and modern shower.

13. Santa Monica Rustic Charm

Want a no-fuss clawfoot tub? Take a look Canyon Coffee founder Ally Walsh’s casual Southern Californian abode. Her entire home is filled with earthy tones and natural wood. The same is true for her bathroom. Her white clawfoot tub sits on hardwood floors, next to a window that allows natural light and ventilation. A white shower curtain hangs from the oval ceiling-mounted rod and a simple wooden stool and bath tray are within easy reach. 

14. Install a Petite Tub in a Small Space

Tubs aren’t just for large spaces. Clawfoot tubs come in smaller sizes and with hardware can be a tub-shower combo. Look at this modern bathroom designed by the team at Aaron Gordon Construction.The custom wallpaper on the accent wall highlights the black tub with its silver feet, bringing big attitude to this small space. 

15. Go Big or Go Home

Here’s another example of putting your clawfoot tub inside your shower. To create this spa-like bathroom, you’ll need plenty of space as in this bathroom remodel designed by the Cabinets of the Desert. It features a clawfoot tub in a spacious modern shower with two rain showers, in addition to the handshower in the tub. The gorgeous mixture of vintage and modern will make you never want to leave. 

Images by: Sylvain Robin/©, Alexey Koldunov/©, Erika Wittlieb, siraphol/©, sylv1rob1/©, Paolo De Santis/©