Choosing the right size tiles for a small bathroom

These pointers will help you choose the right bathroom tiles for a smaller room, including tips on layout and colour

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As with anything when it comes to interior design, choosing the right bathroom tiles is going to be subject to your tastes. There are thousands of different styles, colours and designs on the market, so it is easy to find a tile that suits and enhances your space.

However, some people find tiling a small bathroom troublesome. Certain tiles can make a small room feel bigger, others could make a room feel cramped and dark. We’ve put together some tips to help you find ones that suit your bathroom and enhance the sense of space.


Related articles: 8 small but beautiful bathrooms | How to create a stylish bathroom on a budget | Create a traditional bathroom in your home


What size of tile should I use?

It can be hard to tell whether what looks good on the shelf will work in your bathroom. The first tip is to request samples (a few to lay on a sample board if you can) to see them in situ.

The general advice from interior designers is that you shouldn’t use a large bathroom tile (anything 60x30cm or bigger) in a small bathroom as it will make the room look smaller. Sometimes using smaller ones can give you just as many problems, though. If you plump for lots of smaller tiles for a small bathroom then you’ll end up with a lot of grout lines, which can give the bathroom walls a grid-like appearance that can promote the feeling of being boxed in.

This doesn’t mean you have to rule small tiles out, however. You can mix it up a bit by adding a different size in different zones of your bathroom, such as the showering area. A large format tile could be used in the majority of the room, with mosaic tiles in alcoves or recesses (spaces you don’t expect to feel generously sized).

Another trick is to use glossy, light-coloured tiles, which will enhance the space by reflecting light, giving a sense of grander proportions.

Victorian bathroom with tiles

Click here to discover the rest of this Victorian home, adapted for family life

Can bathroom tiles make a small bathroom look bigger?

It’s a well-known rule that using lighter colours will help a room look bigger, so carry that advice over to your bathroom too. Choosing lighter colours for your bathroom tiles, such as white or cream, will help reflect more light than darker colours would. However, don’t shy away from dark colours — a darker tile can be used effectively to add a sense of depth to a space.

Another trick to use in small bathrooms is to lay your tiles in diagonal patterns, which trick our primitive brains into thinking that a space is bigger than it really is. When you take a look at normal squared options they are fairly easy to count, but arrange them diagonally and your eyes are drawn to the longest dimensions of the room.

If a diagonal tile pattern doesn’t sound appealing, consider laying your tiles in brick bond. This is a popular choice for metro tiles, but helps limit the grid pattern effect mentioned earlier, which can emphasise the limited width and height of a room.

small bathroom with traditional tiles

What about tile placement?

The placement of fixtures and fittings in your bathroom can have an effect on what size of tiles you use. If there’s little wall space between shower and the toilet, for example, then small ones will create a better flow than larger options. Think about how many cuts you will need to make to larger tiles and how this could add to wastage and also interrupt any design.

square tiles in a small bathroom

Neutral colours and white glossy tiles enhance the sense of space in this small bathroom. See more of this elegant Victorian home

How many tiles do you need?

Measure up and calculate the number of tiles you need before you head out to buy them. To make life easier for you there are many tile calculators available online. You can also go to your local retailer armed with the measurements and they should be happy to help you out. Make sure to add on an extra 10% to allow for breakages, cuttings, waste and pattern matching. You don’t want to be halfway through tiling your bathroom before you realise that you don’t have enough to finish the job.

tiles original style

Handmade tiles versus machine made

Handmade tiles offer the opportunity to create a characterful finish to your bathroom, with bespoke options also available. Here Richard Miller of Froyle Tiles explains the benefits of handmade tiles for your bathroom renovation project.

How to tile wonky walls

Many old houses have wonky walls so there are a number of tricks you can use to overcome this when tiling bathroom walls so that you are not left with a bumpy-looking finish, with tiles jutting out at odd angles.

Creating a level wall is particularly important if you plan to use large format tiles as they have no way of flexing over the humps or bends on an uneven surface.

The best option is to invest in re-skimming the offending walls with plaster, or installing new plasterboard – a water-resistant one if used behind a shower or sink. Place the tiles on to this to create a flush, even finish. Remember that new plaster needs to be left four weeks before tiling.

Advice from John Forden of Topps Tiles

Choose the right material

Travertine, marble, limestone, slate and granite are all options for bathroom tiles, each with its own natural properties. Slate in particular is great for bathrooms, as it has low porosity and its riven texture is non-slip, while stones such as marble, travertine and limestone can be polished to a high shine for a stunning finish, but need to be sealed.

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are usually a more affordable option, and there is huge scope in the range of finishes available. From those that mimic stone and even wood, to bright colours, decorative patterns, high glosses and raised prints.

Mosaics, in stone, glass or ceramic, look beautiful over smaller areas, such as behind the basin, and give a sense of having been meticulously laid. They are also available in sheets for easy installation.

tiles fired earth

An aquatic palette of glass tiles in a range of striking formats, these Indian Ocean mosaics in Madagascar Seaspray from Fired Earth give a subtle mix of colour and texture