By Amelia Thorpe published
Bathroom flooring ideas deserve special attention. The material of course must be durable, able to withstand frequent splashes of water, anti-slip underfoot and preferably easy to clean.
But practicality doesn’t mean boring, since there are so many solutions that combine style with functionality – whether you want a statement pattern to add personality and a burst of color or a more neutral and seamless look that serves as a simple backdrop to a showpiece bathtub or vanity unit.
It makes sense to consider all your bathroom ideas, and especially the flooring, as part of a plan at the outset of the project as the best way to create a cohesive scheme – and since bathroom flooring will likely be laid at a relatively early stage, after initial plumbing and any joinery.
Bathroom flooring ideas – 12 statement designs for underfoot
Some tiles are only suitable for walls not floors, some materials are not suitable bathroom flooring ideas since they may be damaged by repeated contact with water or be too slippery, and some are not suitable for underfloor heating. The golden rule? Always check with your supplier before purchase.
1. Boost the sense of space with large format tiles
If you're looking for shower tile ideas, large format bathroom floor tiles mean fewer grout lines and a cleaner, more seamless look, ideal as spa bathroom ideas with minimal visual clutter. In neutral shades, they pair well with the latest shower surfaces, like this Superplan Zero tray from Kaldewei, which is designed to be installed at floor level for almost invisible joints.
Porcelain floor tiles are available in a wide choice of sizes, such as 48in x 96in (about 120cm x 240cm) and 47in x 47in (about 120cm x 120cm), but in a smaller bathroom, you may be better to opt for a reduced size to avoid wastage and save on costs.
2. Make the most of mosaics
Bathroom floor tile ideas can be used to add individuality – as in this crisp monochrome scheme, where hexagonal matt white porcelain mosaic tiles create interest.
Says Ripples' senior designer Jo Sangster, ‘A popular tile of the Victorian era, the chosen penny tiles allowed the homeowner to give a subtle nod to the heritage of her 19th century coach house, but in a fun and contemporary way.’
A black version of the same mosaic tile has been used to create borders in the bathroom and shower areas to zone the two spaces, rather like area rugs.
Mosaic tiles are usually supplied on mesh backing sheets, designed so that they can be laid in a similar way to ‘standard’ floor tiles, and to make them versatile when it comes to creating patterns and borders.
3. Get the look of wood with porcelain
Wood can add a warm feel to a bathroom, its natural hues offsetting any sense of clinical. But real timber floor planks are not usually recommended for use in bathrooms that see plenty of use, since water splashes can seep into the timber causing warping or staining.
To recreate the look without the worry, manufacturers have been busy employing the latest technology to produce porcelain wood-effect tiles, which mimic the look and texture of the real thing, complete with natural looking grains and knots, in an ultra-practical, waterproof and consistent material.
4. Indulge in the marvel of marble
Marble bathroom ideas are a wonderful way to add a feeling of luxury. Long celebrated for its natural beauty, each slab of marble will feature different veining and individual coloration, making it especially prized as a high-end bathroom flooring idea.
A material of choice for the Romans and Ancient Greeks, it certainly stands the test of time, but it is more porous than porcelain tiles and other manmade materials and may stain and scratch. If, however, you are willing to adopt a regular maintenance routine and are prepared to re-seal it occasionally, you will be able to enjoy its classic beauty for years to come.
Ottalie Stride, creative director of interior design studio Albion Nord, chose Crema Evora marble for this elegant bathroom, applying it to both floor and walls for a sense of continuity. ‘The veining, while quite obvious and striking, is a soft accent to the stone-color painted walls,’ she explains.
5. Take up the terrazzo trend
Terrazzo bathrooms are right on trend for the year ahead – but this material actually dates back about five hundred years, when it was made in Italy using left-over chips of marble and granite, crushed and mixed into a cementitious base to make hardwearing flooring. Its retro style and speckled colors make it a contemporary favorite: it can be mixed, poured on site and sealed by specialist artisans to create a smooth, seamless floor.
Alternatively, to get the look of one of the biggest bathroom tile trends without the price tag, opt for a high performance material, such as non-porous porcelain tiles, like these from Mandarin Stone which feature fragments of grey, bone and warm taupe colors in an ivory base.
6. Use encaustic tiles to play with pattern
Encaustic concrete tiles celebrate the ‘perfectly imperfect’ beauty of a handmade product, as no two tiles will ever be exactly the same. They are available in a huge variety of patterns and colors, allowing almost unlimited design possibilities.
If you are looking for more subtle bathroom color ideas, encaustic tiles are a wonderful medium with which to introduce them. Typically you can expect some subtle color, line and dimension variation in each tile, which can add to their sense of texture and character. They are also porous in their natural state, so need to be treated with a sealant to protect against staining, and may require re-sealing on an occasional basis. Seek advice from your supplier before purchase.
7. Add detailing with porcelain encaustic-lookalikes
The popularity of encaustic tiles for bathroom flooring ideas has encouraged some manufacturers to develop high performance porcelain versions, designed to combine their beautiful chalky finish and depth of color with low maintenance qualities.
‘They are virtually non-porous, so they don’t require sealing, and they are exceptionally easy to clean, ensuring that they will look their best for years to come,’ explains Colin Roby-Welford, creative director of Fired Earth.
‘Using the same tile on the wall and floor creates a seamless effect that is ideal for contemporary bathrooms and wet rooms, producing the illusion of more space since both surfaces appear to merge, drawing the eye around the room and make it look larger,’ he adds.
8. Add color with painted bathroom flooring ideas
Bathroom paint ideas can be used to transform flooring fast, allowing you to choose the exact shade you want.
‘Painting your bathroom floor is not only an excellent way to seal and protect wooden floorboards, it is also a simple and effective way to add color and personality to a space,’ advises Ruth Mottershead, creative director of Little Greene.
An all-over shade to match a colored bath works well or try contrast colors in stripes or checkerboard effects for graphic interest.
Choose a durable and hard-wearing paint for this type of bathroom flooring idea; many manufacturers offer a tough, washable formulation specifically for floors. To begin, remove any existing paintwork, wash with a suitable detergent solution such as sugar soap, before rubbing down with a medium grade sandpaper to provide a key. Make good any repairs, sand and apply primer. Make sure the surface is dry before applying the floor paint and use a roller for an even finish.
9. Consider the variety of vinyl
Luxury vinyl flooring is a durable choice which creates a cushioned feel underfoot – perfect if you are looking for kids' bathroom ideas. It can work as the easiest of bathroom flooring ideas, since it is usually waterproof, slip resistant, fuss-free to clean and works well with underfloor heating. It is also cost effective and available in a great variety of colors and styles, from plains to stone and wood effects to bold patterns.
This Larkspur luxury vinyl tile is from the Pattern collection by artist Dee Hardwicke for Harvey Maria, designed to capture the beauty of classic hand-painted Moroccan tiles. The tiles are designed to butt up tightly to one another with recommended adhesive used to create a watertight bond.
10. Creating a natural backdrop with real stone
In this luxurious bathroom by Sophie Head Interiors, trees and plants, seen through a vast window, are combined with a bathroom floor of natural Aliseo marble from Artisans of Devizes. The subtle shades of the natural stone have been used to create a quiet and sophisticated backdrop to the showpiece freestanding bathtub by Drummonds – and a peaceful oasis of relaxation.
The honed finish of the marble creates a more matte result, making it less slippery than a polished surface. Like all marble, it needs sealing to reduce staining.
11. Pack a punch with monochromatic floor tiles
‘Using a bold bathroom floor tile ideas are a wonderfully effective way to elevate a bathroom – it grounds the room, emphasizes the sense of space and scale, and packs a chic punch without being too overwhelming,’ enthuses interior designer Samantha Todhunter. To appreciate the point, simply imagine this space with plain floor tiles.
12. Opt for bespoke patterns
Give plain tiles a new lease of life with a knock-out installation plan. ‘We loved the idea of being in the pattern, not just standing on it, so we decided to carry the graphic pattern up the walls and onto the ceiling,’ explains Audrey Carden, director of Carden Cunietti. Precise execution is critical so find a tiler who comes highly recommended.
What is the best type of flooring for a bathroom?
The best type of flooring for a bathroom is tile. Enduringly popular because they are ultra-practical and available in a great variety of colors, styles, sizes and price points, tiles are designed to suit every taste and budget. Latest generation porcelain floor tiles are not only hardwearing with almost zero porosity, they are also available in a myriad of different patterns and neutrals, plus ultra-realistic wood and stone effects.
What can I use on a bathroom floor instead of tile?
Vinyl and rubber flooring options are available in lots of styles, many slip resistant and waterproof so well-suited for bathroom and shower room use. Durable, soft to touch and warm underfoot, they are often a more affordable choice than many other materials.
Wood is the most controversial of bathroom flooring ideas: many suppliers do not recommend their timber flooring for bathroom use, since steam and contact with water may make it warp and stain. Some suppliers offer more stable engineered wood which may work in areas of a larger bathroom, away from the shower area, for example. Never allow water to pool on its surface or let damp towels linger on the floor.
Amelia Thorpe is a specialist interiors and design journalist, covering every topic to do with homes from fabrics, furniture and lighting to surfaces, kitchens and bathrooms.
As the daughter of an antique dealer and a lifelong collector of old cookery books and vintage graphics herself, she also has a particular expertise in antiques, mid-century and decorative arts of all kinds.
Drawn to homes because of their importance in the happiness of our lives and the enjoyment they can bring, Amelia has been writing about the topic for more than fifteen years. She has interviewed some of the most influential designers of our time, from Piero Lissoni, Antonio Citterio, Jaime Hayon and Arik Levy to Nina Campbell and Robert Kime.
Amelia lives in Peckham, South London, where she is constantly planning renovations to her Victorian Gothic home. She also enjoys cooking, making, sewing and printing, and spends far too much time trying to school her errant Jack Russell.
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