Bathroom Renovations

Tile talk: 5 things to look for when choosing bathroom tiles

The right combination can make or break a modern bathroom.
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Choosing bathroom tiles can be an overwhelming task and it’s difficult to know where to start. Options are many and varied in terms of size, style, colour and the different materials tiles are made from. 

Our advice? Ask the experts. Consult your interior designer but also make time to visit a tile showroom where you’ve seen something you like and talk to the sales team to ensure you’re across all of the options. Elements to consider start with style but also extend to how tradespeople will view your choices.

How to choose bathroom tiles
Large format tiles work beautifully in contemporary bathrooms, as seen in this relaxed family home on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. (Credit: Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

How do I choose the best bathroom tile?

The first place to start is at the end, says interior designer and The Block judge Shaynna Blaze. “I always start with emotions you want to feel when you are in there. What colours and patterns will create this for you? Once you have that, you can build on the look and style.”

Functionality is also key, however. Many people fall into the trap of choosing tiles based purely on aesthetics, without considering how they will be installed and how tiles will perform in the bathroom for years to come. It’s important to choose tiles that are easy to clean, non-slip where necessary and can stand up to the constant moisture and humidity of a wet room.

Shaynna Blaze Country Home Rescue bathroom
Interior designer Shaynna Blaze was after a sense of a sense of calm and escape when creating the bathroom when renovating her heritage home in Kyneton, Victoria. (Credit: Image: Reece Bathrooms)

“It is intimidating when there are so many choices out there but my biggest tip is look at the texture of tiles that work together,” says Shannya. “If one has a high pattern or texture, make sure the adjoining tile doesn’t compete with that texture. Always look at the hero tile and let the other one or two tiles complement and support that look.”

1. Tile size

A contemporary home may call for large format tiles, while in a heritage home, the scale of smaller tiles generally makes more sense. There are no hard and fast rules but it’s important to keep the scale of the space in mind and mock it all up in the showroom to get a sense of how your choices will look together. 

2. Tile material

Porcelain tiles are harder and denser than ceramic tiles so absorb less water but are more brittle too, so are a good choice for a simpler design. Ceramic tiles are more affordable so designs are more varied and tend to reflect changing trends. Ceramic tiles are also easier to install than porcelain. Encaustic tiles are more porous – made from compressed cement and often by hand, upping the price tag. 

3. Tile colour

This is where the fun starts – the endless combinations of coloured bathroom tiles can be a playground for colour and pattern play. Grab your moodboard and remember to factor in the colour options for grout too!

Hamptons bathroom with patterned floor tiles
A combination of patterned floor tiles, simple white subway tiles and VJ panelling add interest without overdoing the colour in this Hamptons-style bathroom. (Credit: Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Heliconia)

4. Tile patterns

Don‘t be afraid to experiment with the laying of your tiles – the brick pattern is the most popular, but straight (or stack bond) tile patterns can also make a strong statement, particularly in a modern setting.

5. Tile style

Modern spaces need smooth, seamless finishes and neutral colours, or bold banks of mosaic tiles. A heritage bathroom lends itself to handmade or textured tiles or patterned floor tiles inspired by Moroccan and Portuguese aesthetics. Encaustic tiles are growing in popularity too, bringing a soft, matte finish from yesteryear into modern bathrooms.

There is no question that marble is making a welcome return to bathrooms – often en masse. With many homeowners wanting a monochromatic colour scheme, marble tiles work really well. Modern homes don’t stop at monochrome and are moving beyond Carrara, with its grey-white base and veins of dark charcoal to bolder options such as green marble and the dramatic viola marble.

contemporary bathroom with a combination of timber and tiled walls
Large floor tiles give way to slatted timber flooring in the wet zone in this Byron Bay home. (Credit: Photography: Louise Roche / Styling: Kylie Jackes)

Should the floor and shower tile be the same?

For a sleek, contemporary look or in a small bathroom, using the same tile on the walls and floor can be an effective design tool to create the illusion of space, but can sometimes be too much, says Shaynna. “We are under the illusion to make a bathroom feel high end we need to tile all walls to the ceiling, but in fact this can make a space feel overwhelming and physically cold. Tiling to only the wet areas can give the space another area for texture in paint rather than just tiles.”

Otherwise, there’s nothing to say floor and shower wall tiles should be the same. “A mix of surface finishes from matte, gloss and textured so there is variation,” suggests Shaynna. In fact, mixing and matching can also define areas in the space – whether or not colour is a factor. 

contemporary coastal bathroom shower with grey tiles
A change in size and texture of tiles, not colour, add interest to this casual coastal-style bathroom. (Credit: Photography: Jacqui Turk / Styling: Alanna Smit)

7. Tiled feature walls

Even if you want a simple colour scheme in your bathroom, there is no reason not to break out with a stunning tiled feature wall. The standout heritage green gloss tile in Shaynna’s master ensuite adds glamour and indulgence in a simple step. “The pattern on the flooring is a very old and traditional pattern that you will see all over the world,” says Shaynna of the winning combination. “Having [the floor] tiles in a very neutral and low contrast colour palette set the ‘calm’ tone for the rest of the colours on the walls and vanity. This base then allowed me to add a strong colour for impact.” It’s also a great way to rein in the budget as feature tiles can be expensive!

Shaynna Blaze vcountry home rescue bathroom tiles
A neutral base allowed Shaynna to add a strong wall tile colour for impact. The green reflects the trees surrounding Shaynna’s country home. (Credit: Image: Nine)

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