Our Fave Bathroom Tile Design Ideas

Tile is often the most used material in the bathroom, so choosing the right one is an easy way to kick up your bathroom's style. See how top designers create both timeless and trendy looks with marble, cement, ceramic, porcelain, faux wood and glass tile.

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June 18, 2020
By: H. Camille Smith and Amy Azzarito

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Tile: Form Meets Function

Tile has been used in wet spaces since the days of the Roman Baths. Durable, waterproof and resistant to mold, germs and bacteria, glazed tile, like ceramic and porcelain, encaustic tile, like cement, and natural stone tile are all beautiful choices for bathroom flooring, walls and shower surrounds.

See More Photos: Everything You Need to Know About Trendy Cement Tile

Focus on the Floor

While the trough-style sink is definitely an eye-catcher, it's hard not to let your eye settle on this bath's cement tile floor where a kaleidoscopic pattern in shades of blue adds a big dose of color to this otherwise black-and-white bath.

See More Photos: 8 Supersized Home Accessories That'll Give Any Space Big Style

Create Subtle Color Variations

This master bath has spa style cornered with the luxe Carrara marble herringbone floor and glossy, glass tile backsplash. The mosaic tiles feature a basketweave pattern with subtle color shifts, from watery blues and greens to grays and cream.

See More Photos: Tour a Cute California-Cool Cottage With Tons of Neutral Touches

Embrace Your Flair for the Dramatic

The emerald green walls in this sumptuous master bath certainly prove that it's easy being green. Deep, dark and dramatic, the gemstone shade creates a beautiful backdrop to a Calacatta marble vanity and basketweave marble tile floor. Brass accents throughout add the perfect amount of golden glam.

See More Photos: Dark + Dramatic Colors for Any Room

The Stars Have It

Petite cream and gray stars mix trendy cement tile into this otherwise traditional bathroom. Centuries-old cement tile (also called encaustic tile) is a great choice for any wet space, thanks to the material's non-glazed and, therefore, non-slippery surface.

See More Photos: Everything You Need to Know About Trendy Cement Tile

Customize for Kids

Kids' bathrooms are a great place to play with pattern and color. In this Jack-and-Jill bathroom, designer Amy Peltier dressed up budget-friendly white subway tile with thin strips of blue porcelain pencil tile. Says the homeowner, “It’s one small tweak that made a huge impact — guests have always asked about it!”

See More Photos: Tour a Cute California-Cool Cottage With Tons of Neutral Touches

And, Furkids

After all, pups need baths, too — a fact that designer Denise Davies celebrates in this spacious walk-in shower. It was customized for the furriest family member with a removable shower head and the word 'woof' spelled out in Kelly green penny-round tile.

Learn More: 9 Tips for a Chic, Pet-Friendly Home

Go to the Dark Side

Sure, all-white bathrooms are gorgeous but this master bath proves the power of dark colors to anchor a space. Designer Jasmin Reese turned the vanity area into a focal point with charcoal wood planks, a malachite-green vanity and 24x24 slate floor tiles.

See More Photos: 33 Ways to Cozy-Up Any Space

Add a Graphic Punch

HGTV host and designer Sarah Richardson is famous for mixing patterns in unexpected ways but she takes a less-is-more approach in this dreamy spa bath where the room's big punch is provided by alternating bands of watery blue and green glass tile on the shower's accent wall. Keeping the more modern touch small helps it blend seamlessly with the otherwise traditional bathroom.

See More Photos: Sarah's Suburban House: New Home, Classic Style

Vary Tile's Size

Designer Mark Williams makes the slipper tub the star of this luxurious bathroom by tucking it into a tile-covered arch beneath an oversized Palladian window. Larger 9x18 Carrara marble tiles surround the window while smaller marble subway tiles line the arch. To complete the traditional look, Mark chose Cararra marble and black granite basketweave tiles for the bathroom's floor.

Cue the Color

What better way to perk up an all-white bathroom than a playful patterned tile featuring sunny yellow? A handy shower niche is backed with the same graphic cement tile to tie the space together.

Or, Be Bold With Black + White

Always a classic, B+W is one of designers' favorite pairings. This spacious bathroom proves why — with bold cement tile flooring, an elegant bowed window and dramatically veined Calacatta marble in the frameless shower, this spa-style space is truly timeless.

See More Photos: 100+ Fresh Ways to Decorate With Black and White

From: Prairie

Stick With a Single Material

Cool, classic and eternally in style, Carrara marble has become a go-to material for bathrooms big and small. While it's certainly beautiful, marble has its drawbacks. More porous than vitreous ceramic and porcelain tile that has a stainproof, glazed surface, natural marble must be resealed yearly to prevent stains and etching that would permanently mar its creamy good looks.

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Or, Mix It Up

This petite guest bath is big on style with a playful mix of tile that defines different elements of the space. From the geometric black-and-white floor tile to the horizontal lines of the white-tiled shower to the bold pop of yellow penny-round on the backsplash, the combination is fun, graphic and modern.

Learn More: Elegant + Eclectic Modern Home

Make It an Escape

Says designer and homeowner Veronica Solomon, “This is meant to be a sanctuary, but it wouldn’t be one for me without a pattern mix.” To create her escape, Veronica mixed a mural wallpaper with graphic Kelly Wearstler for Ann Sacks floor tiles. “You can put florals and geometrics together if the tones are similar,” she says. See more of Veronica's maximalist style home, below.

See More Photos: This Colorful Home in Katy, Texas, Is a Maximalist's Dream

Say 'Hello!' to Hex

Short for hexagonal, this six-sided tile has long been used in bathrooms and kitchens alike. Available in a wide range of materials and sizes, from an inch to a foot, hex is a traditional tile that also looks right at home in contemporary spaces.

See More Photos: 20 Hexagon Tile Designs

Hex's History

Sometimes referred to as honeycomb tile, hex first became popular in Craftsman and bungalow-style homes of the late 1800s and remained one of the most beloved bathroom tile choices till the early 1940s. Originally available only as 1-inch tiles in shades of black or white, tile layers would often flex their creativity and combine the tiny tiles into simple daisies, seen here, or lay a central field of white hex tiles, surrounded by black bands or a Greek key border composed of 1-inch square black tiles.

Learn More: Arts and Crafts Architecture

Modernize With Matte

Choosing tile in a matte (or gloss-less) finish translates to a more modern look. Here, the designers at Hatch Works used matte black terra-cotta hex tiles as both the flooring and as a backsplash for the streamlined, freestanding tub.

See More Photos: Tour All Three Floors of a Chic, 1,475-Square-Foot Home in Austin, Texas

Gray Grout: an Eye-Catching Option

Filling the spaces between tiles to create a waterproof barrier, grout is a necessity — but it doesn't necessarily have to be white. With the addition of colorful pigments, grout can be most any shade you'd like. To really draw attention to tile's geometric shape and make it a focal point, gray or black grout creates a more modern look.

See More Photos: An Orange County Home That Proves the Power of Black Paint

Or, Go for the Gold

In this posh powder room, metallic gold grout gives the marble hex flooring an added bit of sparkle and visually ties it into the sink's brass fixture and the vanity's gold trim.

See More Photos: 32 Cool Design Tricks to Steal From an Arizona Home

Choose a Classic With Basketweave

Another historically accurate choice for older homes, basketweave tile gets its name thanks to the trompe l'oeil effect created by the tiles being cut to produce a woven appearance, like a basket. Available in both budget-friendly ceramic and pricier marble, this classic tile may look difficult to install but the pattern comes pre-arranged on a mesh backing so installation cost is approximately the same as other types of mosaic tile.

See More Photos: 15 Classic Bathroom Tile Designs That Will Never Go Out of Style

Add Style With Subway Tile

As the name implies, subway tile was first used in the New York City subway system in 1904 but the 3x6 brick's easy-to-clean surface and sleek design with minimal grout lines (compared to many of the 1-inch tiles popular at the time) soon ensured its use in kitchens and bathrooms all over the country, starting in the 1920s and cycling back into vogue today. But keep in mind that subway tile is best used for wall application. The glazed surface could be slippery when wet so choose different tile for flooring.

Learn More: Subway Tiles: A Love Story

Wow With Wood

While real wood can be a tricky choice for a wet space, porcelain tiles that resemble wood, like these rustic planks, are a can't-miss pick.

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Or, Create Walls With Wow Factor

Patterned tile isn't just for the floor as this spa-style space proves. Here, beautifully veined stone floor planks create a sense of movement, but the real star is the patterned porcelain wall tile that ties into the stone's gray-and-white color palette.

Powder Room: Make the Wall Pop

Small baths can still be big on style. Here, designer John McClain created an accent wall with gorgeous glazed green tile installed in a herringbone pattern on just one wall, for maximum impact. Limiting tile to just a focal wall is also a great way to save money, especially when working with a pricey material.

Powder Room: Focus on the Floor

To really give your powder room punch, consider handmade tile, like these cement beauties. With a matte finish and graphic patterns that are part of the tile itself (not just on the surface like glazed tile), it's easy to understand why they're so trendy and a top pick of designers today.

See More Photos: Bathroom Tile Designs That Are Anything But Boring

Pattern: More Is More

Filling this small bath with floor-to-ceiling pattern was certainly a bold choice, but it paid off in helping to disguise the century-old rowhouse's angled shower wall in this third floor dormer.

See More Photos: Tour a Bold, 1900s-Era Row Home in Washington D.C.

Or, Limit It for Effect

Rather than all-over pattern, consider pairing more muted styles, like the natural stone and neutral diamonds seen here, with a more limited amount of patterned tile, for a serene and spa-like effect.

And, Add Interest to Insets

Patterned tile is also a great choice for livening up shower niches. Here, black-and-white marble tiles laid in a playful plaid pattern add a lot of personality to the inset shelves.

See More Photos: 40 Clever Bathroom Storage Ideas

Rock the Rainbow

Can't decide on a color? Don't worry, tile's got you covered! Available in every shade imaginable, glazed ceramic tile is also a budget-friendly option. You could even take a cue from this homeowner who collected a wide variety of colorful scrap tile for a truly one-of-a-kind look.

See More Photos: Pops of Color Come to Life in This Cheery House

Or, Go Graphic With Stripes

Bold and daring, B+W is a combo that's always in fashion. To create this broken-stripe effect, tile layers just needed to stagger the strips of tile when installing.

Maximize the Material

Although you might mistake the herringbone floors in this posh bathroom for wood or even a painted detail, it's actually marble that designer Joni Spear had painstakingly cut into 4-inch-wide planks, then laid in a specific order to maximize the color contrast and veining between different areas of the stone.

Go Big

For an eye-catching take on traditionally small hex tile, designer Curtis Popp decked out this Folsom, California, bathroom with a blown-up version (Bee Hive tiles by Daltile) in a random pattern. “It has the effect of wallpaper,” he says. An oak vanity, a gray Caesarstone counter and concrete floors keep the space simple and sleek.

See More Photos: 8 Supersized Home Accessories That'll Give Any Space Big Style

Get Creative

This modern and uber-hip small bathroom, designed by Brian Patrick Flynn, is full of outside-the-box ideas, including a graphic pattern on the door, created by attaching cut wood planks, and a mini mosaic accent wall that Brian added to both brighten up the vanity area and make the walls feel taller.

Use Various Tile Shapes in Different Colors

San Francisco Bay-area designer Kriste Michelini uses tile to create a divide between the wet and dry areas of the bathroom. She frequently experiments with unique combinations of tile and uses various tile shapes in the same marble material to create a sense of infinite space.

Add Glitz With Glass

Portland, Oregon-based designer Jessica Helgerson believes the little tiling details can make or break a space. For example, she finds it's important to carefully consider where the tile starts and stops. If there isn't a clean way to end the tiling, she'll often take the tile all the way up the wall. This bathroom features one of Jessica's favorite mosaic tiles, made by Oceanside GlassTile.

Modernize by Making It Monochromatic

For this small bathroom, designer Kriste Michelini creates a streamlined, minimal look by using the same tile on the floor and walls. The entire space is wrapped in a square, charcoal tile that's offset with a floating chrome vanity.

Customize With Decorative Trim

In this bathroom, designer Jessica Helgerson keeps it classic with 3x6 white tile from Pratt and Larson's Simple Solutions line, which offers a wide variety of trim options. For example, the tile wainscot has a decorative base and top cap, and a different cap is used for the edge of the tub. She then uses traditional black-and-white hex on the floor, creating a decorative border with the white tile.

Go Vertical

When designer Cortney Bishop was presented with the challenge of this large bathroom, she decided to create a light and airy waterfall-like atmosphere. To accomplish this, she had the glass tiles installed vertically and chose neutral grout. "As a general rule, less is more. Using one tile throughout a space gives a cleaner, more consistent look," Bishop says.

Pay Attention to the Tile Glazes

Together with her husband, Brian, artist Edith Heath founded Heath Ceramics in Sausalito, California, in 1948. They focused on bringing out the natural beauty of the clay. The company still makes tiles using the same production techniques and matte glazes developed by Edith in 1948.

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