How to choose a tile style for your bathroom
Functional as well as beautiful, tiles can make an incredible statement in your bathroom.
Built to last, tiles need to be chosen with care, as you’ll be living with them for the long haul. Determining the best size, colour, pattern and combination can seem overwhelming, but if you’re guided by your space, you can create a designer look in the humblest of bathrooms.
Where to start
The first step is considering the look you want to achieve, says interior designer Tricia Mancini, “For an interesting designer look, it’s best to use two to three different tile selections. Any more than three and the space starts to look cluttered,” says Tricia. “Bathroom fixtures and other materials will also impact the overall look, so decide whether you want to create contrast with bold tapware or prefer more subtle accessories, so the tiles are the star.”
Regarding size, be guided by the dimensions of your room. “A large-format tile will look fabulous in a larger space, but will lose impact in a small powder room,” says Tricia. “A better option in a compact zone is a 60cm square, a 60cm x 30cm rectangle tile or a softly patterned mosaic.” Neutral tiles offer myriad benefits. “They’re a timeless canvas against which you can layer pattern, colour and texture and be more creative with a striking vanity, mirror and fixtures.”
Earthy materials, colours and finishes like raw concrete, marble and timber are having a moment. “The advantage of wood-look tiles is they have the natural beauty of wood with the performance characteristics of tiles, making them ideal for wet areas,” explains Grant Haffenden, Decor8 Tiles national sales manager. Matt and lappato (semi-polished) finishes offer a softer, sophisticated look and are less likely to show water marks or smudges than gloss tiles.
Subways remain a favourite. White is the classic, but as with other parts of the home, colour is creeping in here too. “Subways in bright colours and pastels – particularly blues and greens – are a vibrant change to the traditional, still-popular white,” says Grant.
Style at a glance
Hamptons: Try subways in brick (stretcher bond) or basket-weave patterns; also hexagonal tiles, and grey and white marble.
Organic: Tiles with non-uniform edging or a textured surface; tiles that mimic stone or timber.
Contemporary: Larger format tiles; raw concrete-look tiles; geometric mosaics as a feature.
Minimalist: Neutral, muted-toned large-format tiles.
Tiles can be a brilliant tool for solving quirks or shortfalls in a room’s size or configuration. Tiling from floor to ceiling creates a luxe look and helps boost the sense of space. “Large-format tiles with a rectified edge, which minimises grout lines, are a great option,” says Grant. Try installing tiles on a 45-degree diagonal, as this will make the tiles and room appear larger.
To give a big bathroom warmth and personality, Nicole Budge, national account manager of Johnson Tiles, suggests using patterned tiles or mosaics such as penny rounds to create a feature wall. “Pairing colour with natural materials can also create an intimate feel,” she says. “A combination of blues with crisp white and a wood-look tile laid in a herringbone pattern offers a contemporary, stylish look.”
Boost light: Pale colours and glossy finishes have great reflective qualities. “Using gloss tiles to reflect light and the use of mirrors to create the illusion of a larger space should always be considered for any bathroom renovation,” says Nicole Budge.
Vertical vs horizontal: Use tiles to visually alter a narrow or compact space. Rectangular tiles across the floor will create the illusion of width, while if laid vertically on the walls make the ceiling seem higher.
Pull focus: “The visual ‘busy-ness’ of a patterned tile draws attention,” says Tricia Mancini. “If you have a low bulkhead or a toilet in your direct line of sight, create an alternate focal point with an eye-catching patterned wall.”
Up the contrast: For a bold look, Grant Haffenden suggests a contrasting grout: “This will highlight a diamond or herringbone pattern, and define tile shapes like fish scales, hexagonal or rhomboid patterns.”
When choosing tiles for bathroom floors, check their slip-resistance classification is suitable for wet areas.
Time to tile
Once you have decided which tile style is for you, head into your local Bunnings to pick up everything you’ll need to complete your look.
Photo credit: Brigid Arnott
Health & Safety
Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.
When following our advice in our DIY videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member