Bathroom backsplash ideas can be so much more than just a practical solution to prevent splashes. Chosen well, it can not only look after the wall behind it, but bring a real sense of dramatic flair to the room. Or increase the space's spa-like serenity, if that happens to be your thing.
There's no shortage of spectacular bathroom tile ideas to choose from. Yet there are other beautiful options too, from attractive yet inexpensive wall panels and waterproof wallpaper to blow-the-budget stone slabs or 5-star luxe-style mirrors.
'Before choosing your backsplash, the important things to consider are who will be using the bathroom - and therefore how robust it needs to be,' says Hayley Robson, creative director of Day True. 'In a master en-suite, there may be less splashing around a basin, whereas in a family bathroom, there could be toothpaste and suds flying all over the place,' she continues. 'The backsplash does need to be waterproof, but the key is to ensure it blends as part of the design with the rest of the materials and finishes in the space.'
BATHROOM BACKSPLASH IDEAS
1. Branch out with a mural effect
We generally associate tiled backsplashes or walls with a repeat pattern or plain colour but murals can be used to great effect too. Whether you choose to have your backsplash across an entire wall or just a section of it, this effect will make a style statement. Murals also work well when considering small bathroom tile ideas - a big repeat in a little space is dramatic.
'The endless configuration options allow for a completely unique look,' says Lee Thornley, Founder of Bert & May. 'For those confident in their design skills, murals like this offer the opportunity to play with pattern and create a personal finish, with the open ended, flowing lines next to closed shapes that these tiles can create. For the less confident, the regularity of the pattern will provide reassurance that there is absolutely no wrong way to lay Mazes. The important thing is to take your time laying out the pattern and not rush hastily into the final fixing.'
2. Panel entire walls for statement style
Bathroom panels have become a popular choice for in bathroom tile trends, as the ranges of styles available has expanded to include some eye-catching designs.
'Bathroom panels are a completely waterproof system, where large watertight panels are securely fixed to your walls,' says Helen Dennett, product expert at Mermaid. 'As well as being more cost effective than tiles, bathroom panels are quicker and easier to install with no need for grouting. The panels come in a range of sizes and thicknesses, and can be easily cut to size to fit your specific requirements. They're great for wet rooms, shower enclosures, or simply as backsplashes for the basin or bath.'
3. Bring texture into the bathroom
Not all bathroom wall tile ideas are created equal. And tiles don't always have to be placed in a grid-like formation. The fluted surface of these giant tiles creates the effect of a picture rail, some period-detail in an otherwise modern space..
'Echoing the luxury of the Art Deco era, fluted tiles create movement, and in turn add depth and interest to your walls, offering a visual and tactile aesthetic,' says Harriet Goodacre, Tile Consultant at Topps Tiles. 'Try mixing fluted tiles with a simpler tile to disperse the pattern or use them to create a textured backsplash.'
4. Evoke the spa-like feeling of natural stone
Dark bathroom ideas may sound counter to how you'd expect to decorate, but black actually feels super-luxe. This bathroom may look like it belongs in a high-end hotel but the 'slate' backsplash is actually a wall panel. Not only are the waterproof panels available in eight different textures, they come in over 2,000 colors too, with countertops and basins that can be easily coordinated.
'There's no need to tile or remove any old tiles,' says Juan Luna, Design Manager Acquabella 'Wall panels can offer a quick and easy way to redesign your space, without requiring major renovation. They can be cut to size lengthwise, and made to fit into any nook and cranny, like shower trays, or shaped to fit pillars, steps and unusual angles.
You can play with the textures and colors of panels, basins and countertops to achieve an effect of continuity or use more creative and colourful combinations in the bathroom. The panels allow multiple design possibilities.'
4. Turn to true terrazzo
All sorts of cool and clever effects can now be achieved with porcelain tiles and they can be a great option. From Carrara marble and slate to wood, travertine and terrazzo, these printed surfaces can mimic the most expensive materials. But when your budget allows, there's no substitute for the real thing, particularly if you're covering a small area like a backsplash.
'A cheaper terrazzo-effect, zellige-effect or encaustic-effect ceramic tile may seem cost-effective, but they will never look like the real versions and will create an unnatural effect under natural and artificial light,' says Damla Turgut, founder of Otto Tiles & Design.
It's the same principe as terrazzo flooring. 'Whilst the real thing is more expensive than these printed versions, they’re a longer-lasting and durable investment,' Damla says. 'Handmade tiles will naturally have a slight colour gradient. Made with natural dyes, they are rich in colour and depth.'
6. Stagger the edges
With so many tile shapes and laying styles on offer, it has become one of the key bathroom trends to leave backsplash edges staggered rather than straight. This works particularly well when the upper section of the wall is painted in a complementary tone.
'A lot of our clients ask for a herringbone effect, with brick tiles with a staggered edge before it meets the mirror,' says Dena Kirby, senior designer at Ripples. 'This adds interest to the tiling and makes the backsplash more of a feature. You can be really flexible with how they are used throughout the bathroom and what area you use them in as brick tiles are small format and come in so many colours and patterns.'
7. Let mirrors reflect the room's glory
Why not wake up to five-star style luxe every day in your own home? Of course, a backsplash needs to be functional, but when it comes to modern bathroom ideas, there's no reason that it can't be glamorous too.
'Mirrored glass gives a seamless and bespoke solution,' says Hayley Robson, creative director, Day True. 'Its waterproof and easy to clean, while at the same time, creates reflections and can make a small space like a bathroom look bigger. Mounting the taps on the mirror can really boost the luxury hotel look.'
8. Soften the space with wallpaper
Bathroom wallpaper ideas may not be the first route that springs to mind for a backsplash - or even one that you'd think of at all. Yet at Day True it's something they like to use.
'We tend not to tile all walls in a bathroom, otherwise it can look too hard and clinical,' says creative director, Hayley Robson. 'We often only tile the areas that are going to be most impacted by water, such as a shower.
An alternative solution for a backsplash or upstand is a waterproof textured wallpaper. This is a great way to add character and colour to the bathroom. It's seamless, as there are no grout lines and it’s extremely functional from a cleaning perspective. Anything we can do to soften surfaces in a bathroom is a good approach, especially for en-suites.'
9. Splash out on a marble upstand
'As an alternative to tiles, marble sheets or marble-effect upstands are something we use frequently,' says Dena Kirby, senior designer, Ripples. 'This works well with a vanity basin worktop, as they both tie in together. Having a single sheet of material as your backsplash can be a lot easier to clean as there are no grout lines to contend with and it is normally a flat finish.
Depending on what material you choose, it may cost more than tiling and you would need to ensure that the material is suitable for splashes, but the effect is definitely worth the extra investment.' And a much more affordable way to add marble veining than the real thing.
10. Be decadent with real stone
Real stone is expensive but with so many beautiful natural colors and veining patterns, it can add elegance – or a touch of decadence to your scheme. A bathroom backsplash is an opportunity to use it as sparingly or as lavishly as your budget allows.
'A splashback is where you can be a little more creative with your surface choice,' says Oliver Webb, director, Cullifords. 'Whether it's book matched, shaped or different to the main surface, you can have a bit of fun with stone. As a splashback, you don’t need to worry too much about sealing the stone constantly, you just need to make sure the material you choose is resistant to splashes, which most will be.'
How high should a backsplash be in the bathroom?
'A bath backsplash should be around 4.5 - 5 inches high. When proposing wall-mounted fixtures, we would design a backsplash at the higher end of the scale,' says Katie Glaister, co-founder, K&H Design.
For basins, Hayley Robson, creative director, Day True, suggests, 'The height of an upstand or backsplash behind a basin in a bathroom can really vary depending on other surfaces and tiles. A simple approach is to use the height of the tap as a guide; generally a minimum of 4 inches from the basin, but if you have a taller tap, it would be advisable to increase the height accordingly.'
Is it ok to have no backsplash in the bathroom?
It's fine not to have a backsplash in the bathroom, but you will have to be a lot more careful. 'It's personal preference and depends who uses the bathroom on a daily basis,' says Dena Kirby, senior designer at Ripples. 'If children use the basin, it would be advisable to have one, as they can make a mess and splashes of water on painted walls do not bode well over time.'
Jacky Parker is a London-based freelance journalist and content creator, specialising in interiors, travel and food. From buying guides and real home case studies to shopping and news pages, she produces a wide range of features for national magazines and SEO content for websites
A long-time contributor to Livingetc, as a member of the team, she regularly reports on the latest trends, speaking to experts and discovering the latest tips. Jacky has also written for other publications such as Homes and Gardens, Ideal Home, Red, Grand Designs, Sunday Times Style and AD, Country Homes and Interiors and ELLE Decoration.
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