Spaces & Places

7 Essential Tips For Choosing the Perfect Bathroom Tile

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If you’re nervous about diving into the dizzying world of tile, read this guide before tackling your bathroom project.

With thousands of different tiles on the market in nearly every color, finish, size, shape, and style imaginable, it’s no surprise that many people feel overwhelmed at the idea of selecting the perfect tile for a bathroom project, whether it’s the renovation of an existing space or the design of a new one. Fortunately, by keeping a few key tips in mind, you can narrow down your options and make your final selection much less of a headache. Read on to learn more.

1. Keep Size in Mind 

Interestingly, smart tech was lower on the priority list, with 48% considering it important, while quality construction was key for 86%, along with the home being low maintenance (76%).

Interestingly, smart tech was lower on the priority list, with 48% considering it important, while quality construction was key for 86%, along with the home being low maintenance (76%).

Pardee Homes

You’ll notice when you walk into any showroom that tile, whether it be ceramic or natural stone, comes in a huge range of sizes, from less than one inch-by-one inch to several feet-by-several feet. While it might sound counterintuitive to use large tiles in a small bathroom, they create fewer grout lines, which make the floor feel more like one continuous surface rather than broken up by multiple tiles. Smaller tiles, such as mosaic tiles, require more grout—and therefore more cleaning—when used in spaces that are constantly wet (read: the shower). Weigh your options and select a size that works for your bathroom’s size and your lifestyle. 

2. Balance Different Tile Types

The bathrooms are tiled in bright blue mosaic to offset the home’s limited materials and color palette. The sinks, toilets, and tubs are by Villeroy & Boch, while the faucets and towel rails are by Grohe and Avenir, respectively.

The bathrooms are tiled in bright blue mosaic to offset the home’s limited materials and color palette. The sinks, toilets, and tubs are by Villeroy & Boch, while the faucets and towel rails are by Grohe and Avenir, respectively.

Courtesy of Peter Bennetts

Most bathrooms you see probably have a few different tiles that are used together to create a cohesive look that still has visual interest. When selecting your own tiles, try and limit yourself to no more than three different tiles. Especially in smaller spaces, too many tile types, colors, and sizes will seem overwhelming—but often using one single tile begs for a little bit of variety through an accent tile with a different size, finish, or color. 

3. Opt For a Neutral Floor and Ceiling 

The master bath is clad in Area tiles from Mirage.

The master bath is clad in Area tiles from Mirage.

Courtesy of Tom Sibley

People often use relatively neutral tiles on the floors because an eye-catching color will draw the eye downwards rather than allowing it to see into the space. A neutral floor then works like a subtle base, allowing you to experiment more with accent colors on the walls. Generally, a white or neutral ceiling will have a similar effect, so you’ll mostly see light-colored ceilings as well. 

4. Next, Consider Your Whole Color Palette

For the bathroom inside a renovated Hollywood bungalow, architect Noah Walker used a simple palette of gray and white tile, black countertops, and stainless steel fixtures. "I love minimal bathrooms with natural light, so less is more, and pay attention to the details," he advises.

For the bathroom inside a renovated Hollywood bungalow, architect Noah Walker used a simple palette of gray and white tile, black countertops, and stainless steel fixtures. “I love minimal bathrooms with natural light, so less is more, and pay attention to the details,” he advises.

Courtesy of Walker Workshop

Developing a color palette is often the most challenging part of selecting a tile, so a good starting point is to begin with a neutral palette, and then find one tile you absolutely love and build around that. It might be a relatively simple tile that you can use nearly everywhere, or it might be an expensive, striking option that you’ll end up using more sparingly as an accent tile. Either way, once you have that piece picked out, it will be easier to decide on complementary tiles as necessary. 

5. Don’t Neglect Texture

Photo: Francis Dzikowski

The bathroom requires frequent cleaning, and while smooth, glazed tiles are easy to wipe down, they can also be a slipping hazard, especially in the shower. For that reason, it’s prudent to choose a slightly textured tile for the floor and a smoother tile for the walls. You may also find that a textured tile under your feet feels nicer, or is a little warmer on a cold night, than a glossy tile. 

6. Aim For Tiles With Shared Dimensions 

Consider this lively bathroom that sits within a recently completed waterfront home in Bridgehampton, New York. Situated on two-and-a-half acres of land with 360-degree views of the nearby bay and ocean, it's covered with brightly colored floor-to-ceiling tiles that reflect the shades of the neighboring water. One step through the sliding glass doors and you’ll find yourself on an open terrace.

Consider this lively bathroom that sits within a recently completed waterfront home in Bridgehampton, New York. Situated on two-and-a-half acres of land with 360-degree views of the nearby bay and ocean, it’s covered with brightly colored floor-to-ceiling tiles that reflect the shades of the neighboring water. One step through the sliding glass doors and you’ll find yourself on an open terrace.

Sotheby’s International Realty—Southampton Brokerage

Even if you’re not a perfectionist, little things like grout lines that don’t match up can drive you crazy, and might actually make it more difficult for someone to install your tile. If you’re selecting a few different tile sizes, try and make sure that they’re multiples of each other—perhaps a 12 inch-by-12 inch floor tile, with a four inch-by-four inch wall tile and a one inch-by-one inch border tile. That way, all of the tiles will line up neatly, and you can rest peacefully knowing that everything is aligned. 

7. Remember, Grout Is the Finishing Touch

The grid pattern ebbs and flows in popularity in art and fashion as well as in design. Artist Jean-Pierre Raynaud is famous for his home in Paris, La Maison in La Celle-Saint-Cloud, which sported an interior composed almost entirely of 15-centimeter-square white tiles, evenly spaced out with black grout.

The grid pattern ebbs and flows in popularity in art and fashion as well as in design. Artist Jean-Pierre Raynaud is famous for his home in Paris, La Maison in La Celle-Saint-Cloud, which sported an interior composed almost entirely of 15-centimeter-square white tiles, evenly spaced out with black grout.

Installation by Jean-Pierre Raynaud

Finally, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve thought about grout—that spreadable, mortar-like mixture that is pushed into the crevices between each tile to ensure a water-resistant surface. As we mentioned, you’ll want to think about maintenance with grout, because it is more difficult to clean than most tiles, but you’ll also want to consider color. If you are using a darker tile, white grout lines will contrast sharply, while a grout with a similar tone will be more subtle and, if desired, can almost blend in with the rest of the tile. One trend we’ve been seeing is people opting for very simple, neutral tiles, like a while subway tile, and then using a brightly colored, eye-catching grout in a fun color for an unexpected, playful touch.

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