It's Time to Retire These Bathroom Shower Tile Ideas (and What to Try Instead)

Updated 02/25/19
Jeff Mindell—Bathroom Shower Tile Ideas
JEFF MINDELL ; DESIGN: STUDIO DIY

If you want a bathroom to have a "wow" factor, then look to its tiles. Given the functional requirements of this space, much of its necessary square footage must go to equipment: toilets, sinks, showers, bathtubs, mirrors—anything that helps you relax at night and look good in the morning. So if you're searching for a way to distinguish this room's details, then tiling is usually the way to go.

That being said, this task isn't necessarily easy. That's why we asked two designersAshley Goldman, and Melissa Benham, to share their advice on how to choose the right tile—from size and shape to color and finish—so that you can use it to create a unique design centerpiece. And while their eight tips coincide with the trends to try this year, as well as the ones to leave behind, they also don't want you to get too caught up in a modern state of mind. After all, tiling a bathroom isn't exactly cutting edge.

"Even when folks are installing modern bathrooms, there is always some inspiration to be found in traditional design," Goldman says. "Using traditional rules of ratios and proportions can make a bathroom a showstopper." Using their knowledge, you'll begin to have the background you need to give this space the eye-catching draw it deserves.

Ashley Goldman, blogger behind The Gold Hive

Ashley Goldman 1—Bathroom Shower Tile Ideas
Sara Tramp for Emily Henderson DESIGN: The Gold Hive

"It's easy to get carried away looking at the details of individual tiles, but it's important to look at the whole picture," Goldman says. "For example, a beautifully patterned tile might be great up close but could make a small space feel teeny tiny. And similarly, not varying the scale of the floor and wall tiles can make things feel busy, such as using a small hexagonal tile on the floor and a tiny mosaic on the wall."

"When installing tile, make sure to plan and measure, then plan and measure again," she continues. "Ending up with tiny slivers of tile at the edges is always a disappointment after tiling the whole shower, so plan to lay the tile to avoid accidental eyesores."

Tile trends to look out for in 2019:

Long, skinny tiles.
"As a variation on the classic subway tile, elongated rectangular tiles are an edgier and more modern take on the traditional style," Goldman says. "I'm seeing them predominantly stacked vertically to give height, but they look great in a variety of layers."

Matte tiles.
"High-gloss tiles make for sparkly surfaces that give a clean, spa-like vibe, but matte finishes give a softer look," she continues. "Matte tiles look particularly great in earthy hues."

Handmade tiles with variegated texture. 
"A perfectly-cut tile makes a space feel modern and refined, but handmade tiles with variation in texture and color give an Old World look," Goldman adds.

A seamless floor tile transition into the shower.
"A shower dam divides the shower from the bathroom flooring to keep water contained and allows for two different flooring materials, but removing it and using the same tile by the vanity and in the shower gives a sleek look," she notes. 

Long, skinny tiles.
"As a variation on the classic subway tile, elongated rectangular tiles are an edgier and more modern take on the traditional style," Goldman says. "I'm seeing them predominantly stacked vertically to give height, but they look great in a variety of layers."

Ashley Goldman 2—Bathroom Shower Tile Ideas
Sara Tramp for Emily Henderson DESIGN: The Gold Hive

Which trend to retire this year:

"I have a hard time telling people that I wish their permanent tile features would disappear, especially if they installed a 2018 trend that I just don't happen to care for myself," Goldman says. "But, if I need to pick one, then I'll choose the teeny tiny mosaic glass tiles that wrap around in a stripe around a shower," she continues. "There are so many great ways to add an accent or pop of color in a bathroom, but the racing stripe just cuts the bathroom in half, making it look shorter. It takes the eye away from a more desirable accent in the bathroom space."

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Melissa Benham, Principal of Studio Gild

Studio Gild 1—Bathroom Shower Tile Ideas
Gia Bathrooms and Kitchens

"It's a good idea to understand the inherent attributes of a material, in order to have realistic expectations about how it will perform over time," Benham says. "For example, encaustic cement tiles are unique because of their use of inlaid pigmented clay, but this organic quality causes a lack of color uniformity. So, while the beautifully worn-in patina of this material is a draw for many, it can lead to disappointment for others seeking something pristine."

"Also keep in mind that while cement tiles are resoundingly durable, porcelain or ceramic would be a better choice for anyone looking for a maintenance-free material that doesn't require frequent resealing," she adds. 

Tile trends to look out for in 2019:

Vertically-stacked tiles.
"This is a fresh iteration of the horizontally-stacked bond," Benham notes. "What makes this trend especially fun to embrace is that it translates beautifully from higher-investment tiles to the most economical subway tiles. We especially love this trend applied with an exaggerated narrow tile, which allows the vertical nature to accentuate ceiling heights even more."

Natural blues and greens.
"Many are feeling the pull back to nature in these chaotic times," she says. "Hues conjuring rich forest greens and sea foam blues are a calming force in any bathroom palette."

Encaustic cement tiles. 
"These certainly aren't a new trend, since they've been widely used for centuries, however we are loving the bold colors and graphic patterns in contemporary renditions," Benham notes. "For the last few years, across many facets of the interior design industry, we've noticed a universal movement and growing appeal for artisanal craftsmanship. The resurgence of encaustic cement tile falls in line with this notion. An added benefit is that cement tile is made by hand with sustainable materials and requires very little energy to produce, which makes it a fantastic environmentally-friendly option."

Studio Gild 2—Bathroom Shower Tile Ideas
Decus Interiors

Which trend to retire this year:

"While classic white subway tiles will always be timeless, we're ready to give it a breather in 2019," Benham says. "If your heart is set on the white subway, instead of the more expected staggered brick layout, try going vertical. And instead of a traditional glossy finish, go for matte to achieve a fresher, more natural look."

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