Design tips & trends

How to choose tiles for your bathroom

When it comes to designing a bathroom, choosing the right tiles could be one of the most important decisions you will make.

More than just a functional surface treatment for wet areas, the style, placement and laying pattern of tiles can transform your bathroom into a bold design statement or a calming sanctuary for the whole family to enjoy. 

But unlike repainting a wall or updating the bed linen, you will be living with your tiles for the long haul so it’s important to get it right from the outset.

Large or small, patterned or plain, subway, penny round, porcelain or natural stone, there are plenty of styles to choose from and a lot of factors to consider, such as bathroom size, budget and the look and feel of the rest of the house.


Rawson Homes interior design manager Julia Johnston says many people get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choice in a tile showroom, but it’s important not to get too taken by the trends on display.

“Try to choose tiles that won’t date over time because a bathroom is an expensive room to redo,” she says.

“Certain tiles might look awesome in the showroom, but you want to make sure you will still like the look of them in 10 years – save the trends for your towels.”

Which tile combinations work best?

Aim for two or three different types of tiles for your bathroom – any more and the space can feel busy – and make sure they complement each other either through colour, pattern or texture.

Budget will be a big factor in material selection as natural stone tiles are usually more expensive than porcelain or ceramic. If you are after a natural look, there are some great ceramic options that offer an authentic marble or stone aesthetic at a much more affordable price tag. The size of the tile will also affect the cost of installation as larger tiles may require two tradespeople to lay, and small mosaics will likely take longer if you’re planning to cover a large area.


“Often people will keep things neutral in their main bathroom and then get a bit more creative with tile combinations in the powder room because it’s a smaller space and an opportunity to make a statement to their guests,” Julia says.

“Just make sure it’s the right statement and ties in well with the rest of the house.”

The best tiles for small bathrooms

Conventional wisdom dictates that a small bathroom requires a smaller tile, but while floor-to-ceiling mosaics and penny rounds pack a punch, large format floor tiles can make small bathrooms and powder rooms feel more spacious than they are.

White and neutral-coloured tiles will also create the illusion of space by bouncing light around the room, but if you prefer a darker, more dramatic shade, just make sure you choose a matching grout to minimise lines and visual clutter.

“You can also create the feeling of more space by continuing a floor tile up one wall to draw the eye upwards,” Julia says.

Five tiling tips to transform your bathroom

  1. Pull focus with a feature tile


    Remember that feature tiles are designed to draw the eye, so pick a wall or surface area that you’d like to highlight – avoid walls with windows and the area directly behind the toilet. A feature tile in the shower or behind the vanity often works well, as seen here in the powder room of our Kymira display home.

  2. Get creative with shape and pattern


    Want to make a statement while maintaining a neutral colour scheme? Embrace unique shapes and textured finishes. Try a hexagonal tile in a soft marbled grey s seen here in our Portland display home or consider a terrazzo tile in earthy tones. You can also experiment with laying rectangular tiles in a herringbone and chevron patterns.

  3. Don’t send large tiles down the drain


    The large format floor tiles in our Metford display home make the bathroom feel super spacious, but make sure you factor in the water run-off. Julia advises opting for a linear drain in wet areas to keep things sleek and stylish as a regular round drain will require cuts, which can spoil the overall effect of a large tile.

  4. Choose grout colour carefully


    As a rule, Julia advises choosing a shade of grout colour that is as close to the tile colour as possible. The exception is if you want to highlight the tile shape or laying pattern, in which case go for a contrasting colour as seen here in the Evoke display home. “Everybody forgets about grout, but you can make a cheap tile look expensive with the right shade,” she says.

  5. Be guided by your home interiors
  6. Rawson_Mayfield_bathroom

    No bathroom is an island, so make sure that your tile choices tie in with the overall aesthetic of your home. Subway tiles work well for Hamptons-style interiors, while a natural stone look is perfect for contemporary and minimalist homes. If you have tiled floors throughout the rest of your home, consider continuing the same tile on the bathroom floors and opt for a feature tile on the walls.

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