- Bathroom tile is a major investment, so choose a pattern you can love for years.
- Designers say that tile should be the foundation on which the rest of the bathroom is built.
- Top trends to watch out for in 2021 include oversized patterns, wood tiles, and textured tiles.
- Visit Insider’s Home & Kitchen Reference library for more stories.
Now, more than ever, people are looking to create a sense of tranquility in their homes. And while you may not think about your bathroom decor – or bathroom tiles – as being crucial to your wellbeing, having a personalized bathroom space can give your home an indulgent feel.
“Overall, people want to feel calm at home and in their bathrooms,” says Jan Rutgers, co-owner and designer of JANGEORGe Interiors & Furniture, adding that “tile – being one of the first noticed elements of your bathroom – can help people achieve exactly that.”
Looking to create a bathroom that you love? It starts with tile, which designers say is the foundation of any great bathroom renovation.
“Think of tile as your canvas on which to paint,” Rutgers says. Here are 21 bathroom tile ideas, sourced from four interior designers from classic to trendy.
1. Go big
One of the biggest trends in bathroom design right now is oversized tiles. With fewer (or no) grout lines, oversized tiles give a bathroom a sleek, modern look. As an added bonus, they’re also easier to clean. “Large format tiles can help the room flow and require less grout which allows for easier maintenance,” Rutgers says.
2. Warm it up with wood
From floors to showers, tiles that look like they have a wood finish are having a moment. “Using natural elements in bathroom design is a great way to make your space feel luxurious, so it makes sense that using wood-inspired tiles in the bathroom should help create that same feeling,” Rutgers says. Plus, innovations in tile design mean that you can now get a tile that looks like wood but has all the durability of stone.
3. Choose tiles with texture
Bathrooms are a major source of slips, so when you’re renovating think about safety first and choose a tile that has some sort of texture. That extra grip, particularly in the shower, will help you avoid dangerous falls, while also giving your bathroom a more dynamic look. “You don’t want a slick tile,” says Rutgers.
4. Turn to neutral tones
Subtle, earth-tone tiles will warm up a space, particularly if your bathroom already has plenty of natural light. “Plain, earthy, and muted colors can help create a relaxing feeling in a bathroom,” says Rutgers. You can incorporate colors like creams, oranges, and clays, but keep the tiles lighter so the color doesn’t become overwhelming.
5. Go white on white
If the idea of colored tiles makes you blush, you might stick to a classic look: white bathroom tile. The thing that’s great about a white bathroom is you can’t go wrong, and they’ll never date, Rutgers says. “Classic white tiles will always stay relevant.”
6. Think small
If you’re working with a small space, Rutgers recommends using smaller tiles, less than 5cm in diameter. This is particularly good for showers, since it can make your shower a focal point without being overwhelming.
7. Think about the big picture
A bathroom isn’t just a bathroom, it’s part of an entire home, says Cindy Stumpo, owner of Boston-based C. Stumpo Developments. “I’m looking at the whole house,” when designing a bathroom, Stumpo says. When deciding what tile design is right for you, think about the vibe of your entire home, and match that with the bathroom, whether it’s classic or bold, Stumpo says.
8. Use a slab
If you want to bring the trend of big tiles to the next level, Stumpo recommends using a slab. This is a one-size piece of stone that covers the whole surface, or most of it. Multiple slabs also come together very closely so the grout lines are nearly invisible, giving a sleek look. “The bigger the tile, the better: it’s cleaner and crisper,” says Stumpo.
9. Pick porcelain
A few years ago, Stumpo never would have used porcelain tile, but the material has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. “The porcelains have become so beautiful,” Stumpo says. They’re also a low-maintenance choice since they don’t have to be polished like other types of tile do. “It’s a great product,” Stumpo says.
10. Take a two-tone approach
Are you looking for classic, but not necessarily white on white? If so, Stumpo recommends a black-on-white scheme. This gives the bathroom a bit of pizzazz, without being overwhelming. “Simplicity is what designing is all about,” Stumpo says.
11. Use tile to create your focal point
When Stumpo designs a bathroom, she chooses one focal point. “You can’t have your eyes going to ten different things,” she says. Right now, the focal point is often a large, oversized shower, which can stand out even more if you tile it with a color that’s different from the rest of the room.
12. Go gray
Gray hair is making a comeback and so too are gray bathrooms. Gray tones can give a clean, spa-like feel, without the stark look of white tile, Stumpo says. When you’re choosing a gray tile, she recommends one that’s subtle. “As long as you keep the gray muted, [it] will stay in style,” she says.
13. Lean into natural marble patterns
Most tile will have some variation in color, but in recent years Stumpo has seen more people choosing tile that has bold veins in it. Tile with veins is a good choice for people who want a louder, bolder bathroom tile, she says.
14. Be bold
There’s a lot to be said for understated tile that can change with the times. However, if you have something a bit out there you know you’ll love, go for it, Stumpo says. She recently completed a bathroom with a leather-inspired tile look that a client was set on. Stumpo had to search high and low for the right tile, and she ultimately imported it in from Spain. Whether you’re looking for leather or something a bit tamer, if you know you’ll love it you can find a tile that works for you. “If your brain can think of it, you will find it,” Stumpo says.
15. Opt for pretty pink
Marisa Molinaro, a Los Angeles-based designer and contestant on HGTV’s “Design Star: Next Gen,” likes to create a clean, calm bathroom using pink tile instead of stark white. “It best exemplifies tranquility and mindfulness,” she says. Use pink marble around the sink or countertop for a fun touch of color.
16. Remix the classic subway tile
If you want to try something unique without being outlandish, try classic white subway tiles laid in a vertical rather than horizontal pattern, Molinaro says. This spin is perfect for “the risk-takers who still like a hint of traditionalism,” she says.
17. Toe the line
To incorporate a hint of color without overwhelming, run a stripe of colored tiles through your white tiling on the walls. You can even carry the pattern onto the floor, for a more integrated look. For this, Molinaro loves to use subway tiles in a bold hue like yellow or blue.
18. Incorporate color
Although most people shy away from loud colors in a bathroom, Chicago-based designer Jerry Kleiner isn’t afraid to go bold. “I love color,” he says. “Don’t be scared of color.” Sure, other people might not have the same taste, but if your bathroom tile makes you and your housemates happy, that’s all that matters.
19. Shake up the patterns
In his designs, Kleiner strives for classic, with a twist. One way to create a familiar yet unexpected look is to stagger your tile design. Rather than following the same pattern through the whole area, incorporate two or three different layouts for a dynamic look.
20. Try a multi-toned mosaic
Mosaic tiles can make a space feel light and playful. Kleiner loves using hexagonal tiles in complementary tones to create a look that is “stylish and modernized,” he says. This is also a great way to make one area of the bathroom – like the shower – a focal point.
21. Soften your space
With so many hard materials and sleek surfaces, bathrooms can always benefit from softening. Kleiner does that by incorporating hues like pinks and oranges. Quartzite tiles often have a touch of color that is perfect for this effect.
Renovating a bathroom and laying down new bathroom tile is an expensive project. Most people want a tile that will last for decades to come, and that often means a classic choice like white tile, or a black and white scheme. These have been proven to stand the test of time, says Rutgers.
“Something like choosing your bathroom tile should be based more on long-term style and less on trends, as these are big investments within your home,” he says.
However, if the rest of your home is filled with bold design choices, there’s no reason to hold back on your bathroom. “Don’t be scared of mixing things up,” says Kleiner.
Ultimately, the best choice for bathroom tile is the one you know you’ll love each and every day.