When space is at a premium, every design decision counts. That's why our bathroom tile ideas for a small bathroom are so important. A vital tool in the battle to keep bathroom splashes contained, tiles are also perfectly poised to inject personality into your smallest room. The tile industry is very trend led, so you’ll need to select carefully to achieve individuality. And, more crucially, choose a design you won’t quickly grow tired of.
Some of our favourite tile manufacturers and stockists are masters at locking down the latest designs with staying power. Try Domus, Ca Pietra, Reed Harris, Ann Sacks and Waterworks and West One Bathrooms.
Often decorated by famous designers, the bathrooms in glamorous hotels and restaurants are also rich hunting grounds for clever and unusual tiling ideas. There are no tiles designed specifically for small bathrooms. But there are plenty of ways that tiles can be utilised to get more from a small space.
Read on for our inspirational bathroom tile ideas for a small bathroom
SMALL BATHROOM TILE IDEAS
1. COLOUR UP
A wet room can be the best solution in a small space; losing the shower screen leaves the whole room visible. However, wet rooms require serious tanking, which can easily lead to tile overload. In this Morocco inspired wet room, water-resistant polished plaster was colour-matched to the emerald green encaustic tiles to create a cosy, cocooning effect.
‘We used the tiles only where needed to protect the walls and floors where they come into direct contact with water,’ explains Malcolm Abela Sciberras, interior designer, Rebirth at Cuschieri Architects.
2. CREATE OPTICAL ILLUSIONS
Taking floor tiles up the walls, or in this case the bath panel, blurs the boundaries between floor and walls to create the illusion of a bigger space. Here, Day True has deliberately miss-matched the tile’s pattern direction to effectively conceal the juncture where horizontal meets vertical and make the bathroom appear longer.
Do check the tiles you like are suitable for both floor and wall use. Some floor tiles can be too heavy to adhere safely to vertical surfaces, while wall tiles may crack underfoot.
3. SHAPE SHIFTERS
Shape can prove just as effective as pattern when it comes to making a statement with tiles. Hexagons and fish-scale shaped tiles are still popular but circular mosaics are a classic that somehow manages to look timeless and on-trend.
‘Penny tiles are small and sweet, and offer a modern twist on classic square mosaics, while retaining that luxe look mosaics will always offer,’ says Hamish Smith, Creative Director at Ca’ Pietra. ‘They look great popped in a recess near the bath or shower but for maximum impact in a small bathroom, go floor-to-ceiling with a fabulous feature wall.’
4. CHANGE DIRECTION
On marble or marble-look tiles, the direction of the vein pattern can have a big impact in a small room. In this sophisticated en-suite, David Collins Studio went for a classical book-matched pattern.
‘Like a trompe l’oeil, it makes the space appear larger and is a technique synonymous with luxury that elevates the marble to a unique piece of art,’ says associate director, Siobhan Kelly.
Mother of pearl mosaics were added around the vanity area to provide variation and further enhance the delicate features of the natural stone. Running the marble vein pattern horizontally can make a narrow room feel wider, while vertical veining improves the sense of height.
Always do a dry run if possible; lay the tiles out to find the most natural vein connections across tiles, then number each one before installing.
5. CLEAR VISION
It’s no secret that the more flooring left on show, the more spacious your bathroom will appear. Here, Spanish interior designer Miriam Barrio has drawn all attention to the floor by using bold geometric tiles in an otherwise neutral scheme.
‘Wall hung toilets and vanity units are hugely effective in opening up floor space to pave the way for eye-catching tiles,’ says Emma Joyce, brand manager at Victoria & Albert Baths. ‘Opting for a freestanding bath can also be an intelligent design solution. Unlike built-in baths, the flooring, and daylight, flows underneath.’
6. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
Embrace your creative side and give plain tiles a new lease of life, as CardenCunietti brilliantly demonstrates in this fun family bathroom. ‘We loved the idea of being in the pattern not just standing upon it and that’s why the graphic pattern continues up the walls and on to the ceiling,’ explains director Audrey Carden.
Other creative ideas for plain tiles include creating an ‘ombre’ effect by diffusing the colour from dark to light as you tile up the wall and using monochrome mosaics to add words or rug-effect patterns underfoot.
7. GO BIG ON PATTERN
Outsized pattern may sound like a bad idea in a small bathroom but actually the unexpected polarity of scale can pack a powerful punch. Targeted behind a key feature, like a roll top bath, it only takes a few square metres to make a small bathroom memorable. ‘Patterned tiles are brilliant for creating eye-catching feature walls,’ says Jane Addis, New Products & Design Manager at Original Style.
Taking the tiles from floor-to-ceiling will effectively mimic the look of wallpaper, serving to soften the hard edges of sanitaryware. ‘Go for large format tiles if possible; fewer grout lines will provide a more seamless finish,’ adds Jane.
8. GET IN LINE
Using grout lines to add pattern without overpowering can prove very effective in a small space. Here, Waterworks has switched tile direction to shake up a classic brickwork installation, without going overboard. The results are interesting but still beautifully timeless. The decorative impact of the grout itself shouldn’t be overlooked – go for a dramatic black or slice of colour to really make tiles stand out.
9. COLOURING IN
A colourful tiled feature wall at the end of a small bathroom will draw the eye through, ensuring every inch gets noticed. ‘Colour is being embraced in small bathrooms in a big way right now,’ enthuses designer Katie Agombar, West One Bathrooms.
‘Patterned tiles are a really effective way to introduce colour, which can then be picked up on accessories, towels and even sanitaryware. Colours such as dark green, pale pink and pastel blue are particularly popular. Combine with brass and black accents for a contemporary and sophisticated palette.’
10. DIRECT ATTENTION
Tiles can be used as a tool to draw attention away from awkward architecture, as Cherie Lee Interiors demonstrates in this modern loft bathroom. ‘If the ceiling is sloping or the walls have awkward alcoves, using patterned or intricate tiles on vertical surfaces will often exacerbate the issue,’ she explains.
‘Whereas on the floor, boldly patterned tiles, or plain tiles laid in an interesting geometric pattern like these, creates a horizontal focal point, allowing problematic walls to fade into the background.’
WHAT SIZE TILES LOOK BEST IN A SMALL BATHROOM?
In any small space, paring back visual distractions can help achieve a calmer atmosphere. This is where large format tiles excel. Fewer grout lines provide a cleaner aesthetic. They are literally cleaner, too, as there are fewer opportunities for bacteria to hide.
Large format tiles work particularly well where large areas need tiling, such as in the shower or on floors. For smaller areas like the space between basin and mirror, daintier tiles can provide decorative focus.
WHAT COLOUR TILES MAKE A SMALL BATHROOM LOOK BIGGER?
‘The trick is to look for light-reflecting surfaces such as polished marble, glass and metallics. They will instantly make the bathroom appear larger. They’ll also look so glamorous and eye-catching that they’ll draw attention away from the size of the room,’ says Fired Earth’s creative director, Colin Roby-Welford.
‘While gleaming white tiles are a failsafe choice, creating a spacious and airy feel, bolder colour can work really well, too. Iridescent, jewel-toned glass or shimmering metallic mosaics will enhance the impression of light in a compact bathroom, opening up the space.’
SHOULD I USE PATTERNED TILES IN A SMALL BATHROOM?
Patterned tiles can look fantastic in a small bathroom, but unless you’re trying to make a strong impact, it is smart to think about scale and balance. A little bit of pattern can go a long way in a compact space.
‘A subtle way of using wall-to-wall pattern in a compact space is to opt for patterned mosaics such as hexagons or scallops in pared-back palettes,’ suggests Roby-Welford. Restricting the use of strong patterned tiles to below dado height will also reduce their dominance, especially if you paint or tile the wall above in plain, pale colours.