As an interior designer born and raised in New York City, I’ve seen my fair share of tiny bathrooms. And let me tell you, small shower spaces come with their challenges. Choosing the right tile is crucial in making a compact shower feel open and airy rather than claustrophobic.
Over years of working with clients, I’ve curated my favorite tile recommendations for petite showers. Whether you prefer a bright and beachy vibe or a moody and dramatic look, there are many ways to make a tiny shower shine. Read on for my top 10 tile ideas to boost your bathroom.
The Power of Color and Pattern
Color and pattern are powerful tools when working with a modest shower. Choose wisely, and you can create an illusion of space. Choose poorly, and even palatial bathrooms can feel pokey. Here are some of my tried-and-tested tile ideas for visually expanding your shower cube.
- 0.1 Light and Bright: Expanding Your Space Visually
- 0.2 Dark and Dramatic: Embracing Coziness
- 0.3 Patterns that Pack a Punch
- 1 Material Matters
- 2 Grout Lines: The Unsung Hero
- 3 Size and Scale
- 4 Installing Tiles for Maximum Impact
- 5 Functional and Stylish: Tile Niches and Shelves
- 6 Accent Tiles: Small Space Showstoppers
- 7 Conclusion
Light and Bright: Expanding Your Space Visually
There’s a reason white and pale palettes feel open and airy – light colors reflect more light, creating a sense of brightness and space. I love using glossy or matte ceramic tiles in whites, creams, and pale grays for a small shower. The high light reflection makes the rain feel roomy and bright.
Natural stones like marble, granite, or travertine can achieve this sunlit look, adding gorgeous swirls and variation. For serious texture and depth, glass tiles give a gleaming effect that bounces light beautifully in a small shower. I often recommend a primarily white or neutral glass mosaic tile with occasional pale blue, green, or silver pieces mixed in. The color variation adds interest while maintaining a light and open vibe.
Dark and Dramatic: Embracing Coziness
While dark hues can overwhelm a petite powder room, they can also create an intimate, spa-like retreat when thoughtfully balanced. Deep blue or green glass tiles, dark porcelain with a subtle pattern, or inky mosaic tiles can make a small shower feel snug and cocooning.
The key is counterbalancing the dark tiles with lighter grout or accent tiles to keep the space from feeling too cavelike. I often suggest dark gray or black tiles paired with crisp white grout. This contrast creates depth without closing in the area. You can also mix in tiles or accents in lighter tones. For example, a charcoal stack bond tile pattern with intermittent white tiles or a row of glass mosaic tiles can break up all that dramatic darkness.
Patterns that Pack a Punch
Sometimes, a small shower needs a little something extra. That’s where an eye-catching tile pattern comes in! Geometric shapes interlocking in pleasing configurations can mesmerize the eye, creating visual interest without clutter.
Herringbone and chevron patterns are classics that work beautifully in small bathrooms. The diagonal lines draw the eyes up and give the perception of height. Try a trendy hexagonal mosaic tile or skinny bricks set perpendicularly for a funky, modern look.
Be sure to choose a scale that fits your shower snugly. Oversized patterns can overwhelm and make a petite space feel busier. On the other hand, too small scales can create visual static and fail to make an impact. Generally, opt for smaller tiles like mosaics for little showers. Their petite size allows for detail without dominating the surrounding area.
Beyond color and pattern, the materials you choose can significantly influence the vibe of your micro-shower. Here are some of my favorite tile types for small, mighty shower spaces.
Classic Ceramic: Timeless and Tidy
It’s easy to see why ceramic is a perennial favorite for shower tiles. Affordable, easy to clean, and in limitless colors and patterns, ceramic tiles offer a classic look that suits family bathrooms.
For small showers, narrow 3×6 or 4×12-inch subway tiles are a wise choice. Their elongated shape draws the eye up, giving the illusion of height. Vintage penny round tiles in yesteryear colors add retro charm to a tiny tub, while modern white hexagons or glossy black squares keep the look contemporary.
Luxe Look with Porcelain
Are you looking to add a touch of luxury to your modest shower? Porcelain tiles offer a refined, elegant aesthetic perfect for spa-inspired spaces. They are often used in high-end designs, and their ultra-smooth polish looks and feels rich.
Fortunately, you don’t need a considerable shower to enjoy the benefits of porcelain. Compact patterns like herringbone brickwork, floral mosaics, or Moroccan-inspired shapes fit beautifully into bijou bathrooms. And unlike some luxe finishes, porcelain’s non-porous surface stands up admirably to water and humidity. Just be sure to seal the grout lines for the most straightforward maintenance.
The Natural Appeal of Stone
Stone tiles lend an organic, earthy feel reminiscent of a jungle waterfall or forest glen to a naturally inspired oasis. Options like marble, granite, and travertine add a raw, tactile texture perfect for a zen-like retreat.
Large stone slabs can feel clunky and overwhelming in small showers. Mosaics are ideal, creating rivers of pebbles or intricate patterns that are visually intriguing without dominating the space. For a contemporary look, try combining sleek porcelain or glass tiles with inlaid bands of stone mosaic.
Grout Lines: The Unsung Hero
Look at the humble grout line and the space between tiles. Changing the grout’s color and width can impact your petite shower stall.
Contrasting Grout for Bold Statements
Want your tiles to pop? Using a grout color that contrasts your tile color creates definition and visual drama. White tiles become crisper next to inky black grout, and earthy browns and beiges shine when framed by bright white.
When choosing a contrasting grout, consider the shade of your tile. Adjacent colors on the wheel (like blue and orange) sing, while coordinating hues in lighter or darker values add subtle interest. Your grout lines will be doing the design heavy lifting, so choose a shade you love!
Seamless Appearance with Matching Grout
To ensure small shower tiles blend seamlessly, match your grout color to your tile as closely as possible. Tiny grout lines disappear between like-colored tiles, creating a continuous, expansive look, which helps a petite shower feel more spacious.
Maintenance is also easier with matching grout. The same grime that would stand out against white grout blends into matching gray grout. Be sure to use a grout release when installing to allow easy cleaning. Re-sealing your grout every six months will keep your matchy-matchy grout lines looking freshly installed.
Size and Scale
Big and small tiles each have their advantages in tiny showers. Here are some clever ways to get the most out of bath tiles, regardless of size.
Larger Tiles: The Trick to Fewer Grout Lines
Who doesn’t love a good magic trick? When a small shower is tiled with large, continuous tiles, the lack of grout lines creates the illusion of more space. This streamlined look works well in modern or minimalist bathrooms.
The downside is that cutting and installing oversized tiles takes more skill. Be sure your tile setter has experience with large formats to fit your shower nooks just right. Don’t be afraid to get creative. The installer carefully pieced together a custom large-scale fish mosaic using porcelain tiles in my friend’s cottage bath. It’s a showstopper!
Mosaic Magic: Small Tiles, Big Impact
Itsy-bitsy tiles don’t have to mean itsy-bitsy style. Clever mosaic work elevates a simple shower into a work of art. From Moroccan fish-scale mosaics to retro peach and avocado penny rounds, intricate mosaic designs make a significant visual impact despite their Lilliputian size.
To keep your mosaic tiles from overwhelming your petite shower, create a mosaic focal point, like a decorative niched shelf or stunning floor inset. Or, break up the space with rows of mosaics only on one or two walls. You can also use mosaic tiles sparingly in borders and accents. This energizing tile technique guarantees your small shower will make a mammoth impression.
Installing Tiles for Maximum Impact
Creative tile layouts efficiently use space in a small shower and create visual energy that draws the eye. Here are two of my favorite techniques for installing shower tiles in modest bathrooms.
Diagonal Delight: Tiles Laid on the Bias
“Are you tired of basic vertical and horizontal tile orientations? Laying tiles on the diagonal instantly livens up a ho-hum shower. Installing tiles at a 45-degree angle, called setting tiles”“on the bias, ” adds movement and creates the illusion that your petite shower is more expansive than it is.”Are you tired of basic vertical and horizontal tile orientations? Laying tiles on the diagonal instantly livens up a ho-hum shower. Installing tiles at a 45-degree angle, called setting tiles “on the bias, ” adds movement and creates the illusion that your petite shower is more expansive than it is.
“Herringbone and chevron patterns laid diagonally are classics, but don’t be afraid to get creative. Mix differently shaped tiles or apply them in zig-zag”“brick” lines. Use smaller tile sizes, or the angles may get wonky. To ensure a seamless layout, your tile installer can cut a cardboard template first.”Herringbone and chevron patterns laid diagonally are classics, but don’t be afraid to get creative. Mix differently shaped tiles or apply them in zig-zag “brick” lines. Use smaller tile sizes, or the angles may get wonky. To ensure a seamless layout, your tile installer can cut a cardboard template first.
Vertical Elevation with Subway Tiles
Running narrow rectangular subway tiles from floor to ceiling draws the eyes up, making a low-ceilinged shower appear taller. To make the most of this vertical effect, avoid interrupted runs and stack subway tiles neatly in unbroken rows.
For severe visual impact, create an entire accent wall of subway tiles in a contrasting color. Bold black or deep green tiles transform one wall into a dramatic focal feature. For a subtler but striking vibe, choose subway tiles in graduated shades of one color, like pale to navy blue.
Functional and Stylish: Tile Niches and Shelves
Even the tidiest tiny showers need a place to attractively stash shower products and other bath essentials. Here are my top tips for incorporating storage without bulking up your shower space.
Creating Storage without Bulking the Space
Built-in shelving is a space-savvy way to add storage to your small shower. Recessed niches keep bottles and accessories organized while still allowing the smooth lines of your favorite tiles to shine.
When planning your niche locations, take careful measurements beforehand. Niches around 12 inches deep and 18 inches wide allow you to store multiple items while blending seamlessly into the surrounding tilework.
For a coordinated look, frame niches with the same tile used in your shower or tile the niche interiors. Small mosaic tiles, often less expensive than larger ones, are a budget-friendly way to add decorative detail to your niche.
Designing Tile Patterns around Storage Spaces
Accent tiles can transform mundane storage spaces into decorative features that enhance your shower design. For example, framing your niche with eye-catching contrasting tiles or a mosaic border immediately draws attention to this built-in convenience.
Geometric and three-dimensional patterns also create visual interest around storage spaces. Vertical rectangles, like mini subway tiles, bring height and perspective to niches and shelves. Multifaceted mosaic tiles add facets of light and color. Just be sure accent tiles don’t compete with your main shower tiles for attention. Storage accents should support your overall aesthetic vision.
Accent Tiles: Small Space Showstoppers
Strategically placed accent tiles, thoughtfully contrasting with your main tiles, add a show-stopping style to small showers. Accent tiles are versatile design anchors like a brightly patterned scarf that pulls together a wardrobe. They create focal points, provide texture, and define specific spaces within your petite shower.
Popping with a Feature Wall
Make a bold statement by dedicating one shower wall to a stunning accent tile. You can also turn any wall into a work of art with luxurious materials like stained glass, colorful handmade Italian ceramic or porcelain, or custom mosaic murals.
When planning your feature wall, consider shower size and shape. Long vertical showers suit long stacked rectangular tile arrangements. Square batteries provide the perfect canvas for creative focal points like circular mosaics. Place your feature wall away from shower heads to avoid excessive water contact.
Don’t be afraid to own your feature wall’s wow factor! One client incorporated family photos into a mosaic portrait, while another chose reproductions of famous artwork. Your accent wall offers a chance to infuse your passions into your home.
Borders and Strips: Guiding the Eye
Borders and strips accentuate specific shower areas subtly, creating visual continuity. Contrasting tiles the same width as your primary shower tile brings cohesion through repetition. Wider boundaries in a different texture or material define separate shower zones naturally without requiring obscuring shower doors.
A glossy tile border near the ceiling reflects more light for small showers, brightening the space. Or, place a wall along the floor line to create a sense of vertical lift. Skinny mosaic strips, about 2 inches wide, weave color and texture through your design.
Use borders thoughtfully as decor focal points, like framing the shower entrance or niche. Vintage-colored glass border tiles command attention, guiding sightlines within a petite space. Their reflective and refractive qualities play with light entrancingly.
Whether your taste is modern or traditional, a small shower presents the chance to create a personalized oasis through the creative use of tile. Remember scale and balance as you play with color, texture, pattern, and tile orientation. Take risks with bold accents and focal features. Most importantly, choose tiles and colors that spark joy and reflect your unique aesthetic vision.
What tiny tile techniques have you used to decorate your modest bathrooms? Share your inspiring photos below so we can all keep dreaming up elevated designs for our beloved bijou baths!