Lately I’ve been up to my ears in choosing bathroom tile. Between renovating the kids bathroom and doing the design for my Aunt's master bathroom remodel and two hall bathroom remodels, in the last few months I’ve chosen new bathroom tile for four bathrooms!
There are few things less permanent or impactful than tile so picking the right combination of tile for bathrooms is essential to both the function and the design of your bathroom and these 5 tips are going to help you make confident decisions.
How To Choose Tile For Bathrooms
1. Pick your must have tile first
Typically when we start a bathroom renovation we have one tile that we dream of including in our design.
Sometimes it's a really unique accent tile and sometimes it's as simple as knowing that you want white subway tile.
Either way, take that must have tile and use it as the starting point for the other bathroom tile options you'll consider. (If your must have tile is really unique in some way, you'll want to check out the bonus tip at the end of this post to make sure it really stands out!)
In the case of my Aunt's 1980's bathroom remodel, she fell in love with the mosaic accent tile you see on the front of her tub so after deciding where to use it, we selected floor tile and shower wall tile in neutral colors that we pulled from this gorgeous accent tile.
You could have just as easily pulled lighter whites and creams from this tile for a completely different look.
2. Limit yourself to no more than three different tiles
A really common question when designing a bathroom is... how many different tiles should I use in a bathroom?
A good rule of thumb is to use no more than 3 different tiles for bathrooms.
At the least, you'll have bathroom floor tile, and bathroom shower tiles or bathtub wall tile. Then you might have wall tile, and/or accent tile for your bathroom.
You can see how you could quickly have multiple different tile options and tile can definitely add a ton of character, pattern, and color to a space however, having more than more than 3 tiles for a bathroom will result in a haphazard look.
You can see in white bathroom example above that one tile is used as floor tile, one is used on the wall around the shower/tub combo, and an accent tile is added there as well.
In the brown and beige bathroom, the bathroom tile design includes a floor tile that extends into the shower just in a different size which we'll get to in tip #4, a wall tile that starts in the main part of the bathroom and extends into the shower on the lower half of the wall, and a shower wall tile on the top half of the wall.
Remember, you don't have to have 3 different tiles. You could have just 2 different tiles. For example, here the bathroom floor tile is a bold geometric pattern with some color variation, and the tile selected for the tub walls is neutral and extends out onto the bathroom walls.
The next 3 tips will help you when mixing tiles in a bathroom to ensure you have a cohesive look.
Selecting The Right Bathroom Tiles Combination
3. Stick to a color palette
Sticking to a color palette in any space is a surefire way to make a room feel cohesive and well thought out. In a bathroom sticking to 2-3 colors is a good rule of thumb.
How much contrast the colors have or the color combination is totally up to you and will have a huge impact on how your space feels, so you'll want to choose your color palette wisely.
In this bathroom design by Emily Henderson, the patterned tile floor has variations of blue which is repeated on the blue vanity.
(And don't be afraid to mix metal finishes too!)
And in this bathroom, the star of the show is that large scale wave wallpaper. The shower wall tile pulls colors directly from the wallpaper to almost make it appear to be part of the wallpaper.
Meanwhile the small scale tile on the floor adds texture and has just enough color variation to make it interesting while sticking to this fresh white and blue-green color scheme.
Tip: If you’re using a patterned tile or a tile with a lot of color variation, select a color you want to highlight and use that color in other tiles you select.
4. Consider size and pattern layout
To add variation and interest to your tile bathroom designs you can change up the size of the tiles you use. This can also allow you to make your bathroom feel like it has more than 3 tiles.
Let me give you some examples of what I mean...
- If your bathroom tile flooring is made up of large scale tiles, you can use the same exact tile cut in smaller pieces as the shower floor tile.
- Or if you use 4 x 8 bathroom shower tile, you can use the same tile on the shower floor cut smaller to create a slip free shower floor.
- Or if you have a neutral tile on the floor of the bathroom and a shower tile selected, you could put a band of accent tile with smaller splices of those tiles as accent shower tiles and then have the shower floor be a smooth pebble tile in the same colors.
- Even if your tile doesn't have a pattern or a lot of color to it, laying it in an interesting pattern like herringbone, plaid, or even stacked vertically can add texture and interest to a bathroom design.
Tip: Grout color and thickness is another way to add pattern to your tile design. White subway tile with white grout will appear more solid white than white subway tile with grey or black grout. The more contrast between the color of your tile and the grout color the more the shape of each tile will stand out.
5. Take maintenance into consideration
I don’t like to clean. I especially don’t like to clean the tub and shower so when choosing the best tile for bathrooms you'll want to take maintenance into consideration.
The best tile for bathroom floors
Bathroom floor tile should not be too slippery so you'll want to select something with at least some texture and avoid shiny polished finishes.
Tiles made from natural stone are more porous and will need to be sealed really well if you don't want them to look dingy.
And less grout lines on a bathroom floor is probably a good idea since grout can also be hard to clean.
The best tile for shower walls
You'll want the walls of your shower or tub surround to be easy to keep clean. Going with porcelain or ceramic will be your best bet here. (You will want to double check to see if they need to be sealed.)
The walls of your shower or tub is a great opportunity to add an accent tile in your bathroom. Because the accent tile is often up higher you have more options when it comes to the material of the tile you use here.
Tiles made from natural stone require more maintenance and do have to be sealed. They are definitely more pores so they tend to hold on to dirt and grim more. If you are wanting to add texture with stone, it may be a good idea to use it in as an accent tile that doesn’t get foot traffic or too wet.
Bonus Tip: Stick to one show stopper
There are so many beautiful bathroom tiles out there and a bathroom is a perfect place to show off some of your personality and take a risk with a fun color or pattern on your tiles.
However, if you're going to go for it, keep it to one show stopper. This will make for a timeless bathroom design and really create the wow factor that you're going for since it won’t be competing with the other elements in the room.
Your show stopper area can be big or small, it’s up to you.
The good majority of the first bathroom below is done in pretty basic white tile, but they added a wow factor with this beautiful tile at the top.
Again the colors in the second bathroom are pretty neutral, but the focal point is definitely the back wall of this shower.
Tip: Many of these super special tiles can be pricey, but if you’re working in a small area like a bathroom, they might just be the splurge you need since you won’t need very many square feet. And when used as an accent tile, you really don’t need very much!
Ready to create a home that feels like you without the overwhelm?
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