Just Say No to Subway Bathroom Tile, And Yes to These Ideas
Plus, what to know before you put in your order.
Updated Oct 26, 2018 3:21 PM
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The average person will spend 416 days of their life in the bathroom. That’s about a year and a half of staring at a tile pattern. Do yourself a favor and make those walls worth looking at for so long. We’ve pulled together all the best bathroom tile ideas—and everything you need to make a well-rounded decision for your home’s needs. It’s more than just hitting that “add to cart” button, though.
We’re all for DIY, but it can be easier (and sometimes cheaper) to hire a pro to get the job done—so you’re not spending even more money having to do everything over again after making a mistake. Finding a bathroom tile installer is as simple as running a search on Yelp or Home Advisor with your zip code and searching for the good reviews. Better yet, get a word of mouth recommendation from a neighbor who had similar work done recently.
According to Home Depot, the average installation cost for floor tiles is $6.50 per square foot( for wall tiles, it’s $8). But before the new pieces go in, the old stuff has to come out. An angle grinder or hammer and chisel can help you take out a few loose squares and make sure the flooring underneath doesn’t need deeper repair first. After that, the professional will need to level the floor for the new tile with mesh wiring and a concrete layer. Now, you’re ready for the new look.
Pick Tiles You’ll Walk All Over (Literally)
Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to floor tiles. Particularly in cities, where rumbling subways underground can rattle whole buildings, larger tiles can be more prone to cracking than their shrunken counterparts. (Smaller tiles have a higher proportion of grout around each to keep them stable.) Alternatively, you could always use oversized stick-on tiles, like Jordan Ferney did in her rental.
If black-and-white checkerboard isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of other materials that can look great and stand up to lots of foot traffic. Terracotta tiles are classic and add an organic texture. Graphic ceramics can be a jolt of modernism in a space with cookie-cutter cabinetry, and terrazzo squares can either blend in or be the focal point, depending on the size of the stone fragments.
Get the Walls Squared Away
While the tiles underfoot need to seal out water after stepping out of the shower, the ones lining the walls are really for aesthetics. A tile with a large-scale pattern, like fish scale or fan ones, will act like artwork, while a lighter, solid color will make a confined area feel that much more spacious. If you’re leaning away from contrast, a $10 grout pen on Amazon can turn white lines into a dark charcoal or even black. Match the shade to the tile for a seamless, monochromatic look.
Find Your Style
Now for the fun part—narrowing down the bathroom tile ideas for your room’s perfect match. We’ve got a few suggestions:
By bouncing light around, mirrors instantly make a room more expansive than it really is. Multiply that by 100 tiny subway tiles and you’ve got a unique accent that also opens things up.
For a bathroom already lacking in natural light, leaning into a deep shade of navy helped this bathroom by Reath Design feel intentionally moody. The corner’s fire engine–red fixtures break up the symmetrically-stacked subway tiles with a jolt of color.
Be honest with yourself—if you’re not the kind of person who wants to scrub tile to pristine white every day, don’t bother wrapping the whole room in it. In this home, an alcove of ceramic squares is plenty to avoid splashes on the original brick wall. Instead of a classic shower niche, a simple green ledge spans the length of the tub for storing shampoo and soap.
If you’re looking to go micro-sized and floor-to-ceiling with your tiles, like in this bathroom, mix up the shades. An evenly-spread gradient of white and grey stops the room from giving sterile hospital vibes.
To create a spa-worthy setup where Alex Boudreau’s nieces could pamper themselves at the family’s Todos Santos getaway, the designer took extra care to make the tiles watertight—the submerged soaking tub sits just above the living room on the floor below.
Changing up the shape of tile from a hexagon on the floors to herringbone on the walls (and even the ceiling!) breaks up one bold color. “When a room is monochromatic, you have to bring in texture from other places,” the designer Laurel Gallucci says of her space. “Pattern is an easy way to do that.”
Between the faucet, tub, and shower, it just makes sense to build a room where water can safely hit any surface without any risk of damage. That was the theory for this all-in-one space designer Natalie Myers created for The Citizenry founder Carly Nance’s Texas home. Walling off the whole area in glass also simplified the tile installation—no nooks and crannies here.
Who says tile doesn’t need molding too? This bathroom by Nadine and Matt Abramcyk caps off subway tile (some trends never stop) with a bullnose trim to cap things off. If you’ve already got a covered ceiling—or if you’re just indecisive—the trick allows for the best of both worlds with some added color on the top too.
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