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Flatlay of different tiles and bathroom fixings.
The right tile can transform a bathroom in an instant – follow our guide to choosing the right tiles for a good-looking and stylish result.

Tile style

Tiles are built to last, and are usually laid down for the long haul. Choosing the best size, colour, pattern and combination can seem overwhelming, but you can create a designer look in any bathroom.

Let the look and size be your guide

The first step to consider is what you want the overall look to be: light and airy? Warm and enveloping? Contemporary or sophisticated? This will help with choosing colour combinations.

“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 interior designer Tricia Mancini. “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.”

For size, be guided by the dimensions of the 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 a variety of 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,” says Tricia.

Earthy vanity space featuring a stone countertop, round basin and white subway wall tiles.

Trending now

Earthy materials, colours and finishes such as 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 than gloss tiles to show water marks or smudges.

Subways remain a favourite. White is the classic, but colour is becoming more popular. “Subways in bright colours and pastels, particularly blues and greens, are a vibrant change to the traditional, still-popular white,” says Grant.

Flatlay of stone and earthy style tiles.

Master of illusion

Tiles can be a brilliant tool for solving quirks or shortfalls in a room’s size or configuration. For example, tiling from floor to ceiling creates a luxe look and helps boost a sense of space.

“Large-format tiles with a rectified edge, which minimises grout lines, are a great option,” says Grant.

You could also consider installing tiles on a 45-degree diagonal, which will make the tiles and room appear larger.

To give a big bathroom warmth and personality, Nicole Budge of Johnson Tiles suggests using patterned tiles or mosaics such as penny rounds to create a feature wall.

Timber-look bathroom flooring.

Matching styles

For the classic Hamptons vibe, try subways in brick (stretcher bond) or basket-weave patterns. Hexagonal tiles and grey and white marble also work well.

For a more organic style, choose tiles with non-uniform edging or a textured surface or ones that mimic stone or timber.

Larger format tiles, raw concrete-looking ones and geometric mosaics as a feature are good choices for a more contemporary aesthetic.

For a minimalist look, select neutral, muted-toned large-format tiles.

Flatlay of modern, neutral tiles and a metallic mixer.

Bring in the light and pull focus

Pale colours and glossy finishes on tiles have great reflective qualities. “Using gloss tiles to reflect light and using mirrors to create the illusion of a larger space should always be considered for any bathroom renovation,” says Nicole. Tiles can also be used to take the focus off less desirable features in the bathroom.

“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.”

Textured bathroom tiles used on walls, floor, vanity benchtop, and in bath.

Other tricks of the trade

Use tiles to visually alter a narrow or compact space: rectangular tiles across the floor create the illusion of width; if laid vertically on the walls, they make the ceiling seem higher.

Tip: When choosing tiles for bathroom floors, always check if their slip-resistance classification is suitable for wet areas.

For a bold look, Grant suggests a contrasting grout. “This will highlight a diamond or herringbone pattern, and define tile shapes like fish scales, hexagonal or rhomboid patterns.”

Modern bathroom featuring black vertical wall tiles and grey floor tiles.

Working with a cosy bathroom?

Check out our guide to space-making solutions for tiny bathrooms


Photo Credit: Brigid Arnott, James Moffatt and Anna Robinson.

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