From patterned tiles to waterproof wallpaper, when it comes to bathroom wall ideas, the range of options available are much wider than you may think. Bathroom walls, don’t forget, give ample opportunity to inject some interest and personality in what could potentially be a bland space so it is important to ensure you maximize their potential. And there are a number of ways this can be achieved, according to Colin Roby-Welford, creative director of Fired Earth.
‘Showers, baths, basins tend to have very simple lines, so decorative tiles are a fantastic way of introducing eye-catching visual contrasts and inviting detail to a bathroom or wet room,’ he says. Apart from tiles, there are loads other interesting ways to adorn wall surfaces for a unique look. Here are 10 fresh bathroom ideas you can incorporate into any modern design…
10 fresh bathroom wall ideas
1. Introduce a border around a solid color
It is not unusual to opt for glossy bathroom tiles in a single color but you can give it a different twist by adding a decorative border.
‘Our Hanley Tube Lined tiles are patterned and embellished with a raised piping detail,’ says Sarah Watson, founder of luxury bathroom brand Balineum (opens in new tab).
The key to achieving a distinctive design is to go against the grain and be experimental with color and shape.
‘Shapes are square, half-square, liner, scallop, and half scallop. Play with scale, interpret a wallpaper or fabric motif, an architectural detail, or just about any pattern element you wish to translate onto a tile,’ says Sarah. ‘Designed to correspond with Hanley solid color tile shapes and glazes, they can be used in a variety of manners, from a simple inlaid border to a decorative ‘tapestry’ set within a tiled wall-like an art installation.’
2. Use mosaic tiles to create an immersive pattern
Mosaic tiles can be so much more than just mini square designs. A mix of colors and shapes can produce striking results like with this twist on Chinoiserie by New Ravenna, which is handmade mosaics in a range of colors. When it comes to mosaic designs, the options are endless.
'A colorful feature wall at the end of a small bathroom in particular will draw the eye through, ensuring every inch gets noticed,' says Louise Ashdown, head of design at West One Bathrooms (opens in new tab).
'Bathroom colors such as dark green, pale pink and pastel blue are particularly popular. Combine with brass and black accents for a contemporary and sophisticated palette.'
3. Extend a bold pattern to the floor for maximum impact
Once you have hit the jackpot by finding a tile you love, don’t let the walls have all the fun. Extend it to the floor to create a fluid and cohesive look. This bathroom flooring idea is a particularly clever for small bathrooms because using the same tile for the walls and floors blurs any dividing lines and makes the space look bigger. These Pradena Pink encaustic tiles from the Bert & May at Fired Earth collection make a bold statement that enlivens the bathroom.
‘These dusky pink tiles, with their fresh and energetic geometric motifs, form a beautiful backdrop to pared-back vintage bronze showers,’ explains Colin Roby-Welford, creative director of Fired Earth (opens in new tab). A subtle but really effective element here is the way in which the dark grout brings the scheme together.’
4. Use vertical tiles to add height to a space
For a unique look when it comes to bathroom wall tiles, go vertical. It adds depth to the design and offers a more modern spin to a horizontal pattern. Not just that, it dupes the eye into thinking the ceilings are higher than they actually are. Add to the statement by choosing a glossy tile, which adds an element of glamour but also bounces light around, a great idea if you are struggling for natural light.
But remember not to use the wall tile in isolation. ‘With so many gorgeous tiles out there, choosing just one is sacrilege and don’t be afraid to mix up surface texture and formats as well,’ advises Louisa Morgan, creative director of Mandarin Stone (opens in new tab).‘ Here, the lime terrazzo pieces in this contemporary floor tile links to green tones in the classic zellige-inspired wall tiles, creating a harmonious connection between the modern matt and traditional glossy surfaces.’
5. Go for a waterproof plaster effect
For a beautiful alternative to tiles or stone, tadelakt, also known as Moroccan plaster, is growing in popularity, particularly for modern and minimalist designs.
It is waterproof and decorative lime-based plaster walls with a distinctive uneven appearance, unlike paint, and is used for a seamless look with zero grout lines and is also resistant to mold.
One of the other advantages is it can be tinted to almost any color, meaning that it can be used to create colorful surfaces without the need for painting, like in this pink bathroom project by Blakes London. With its natural sheen, tadelakt has a luxurious finish that is reminiscent on natural stone.
'These textures surfaces create fabulous movement, interest and depth to a surface,' says Hugh Leader-Williams, head of technical design, Blakes London .
'As well as their aesthetic qualities, these surfaces can also be used in wet spaces as a waterproof alternative to tiles. Do be mindful of cracking though, as this will inevitably lead to water damage. We therefore advise against using this surface on wet room floors in buildings that have recently undergone major structural changes as buildings typically continue to move and settle for a few years after the build is complete.'
'Its application is a true art form so we would always recommend doing due diligence on whoever you hire to apply the product. Done badly and you’ll know it immediately! Unlike paint it becomes a more costly and tricky surface to fix.'
6. Create a two-tone tiled wall for a fresh feel
Why choose one colour tile when you can have two? A two-tone effect can have a dynamic feel in a space and is perfect for breaking up an otherwise monotonous design.
‘A combination of inky blues and clean, bright whites has a fresh and invigorating feel that's perfect for bathrooms,’ says Colin Roby-Welford, creative director of Fired Earth. ‘Bold blocks of color create a crisp and contemporary finish that's really striking in its simplicity.’
Using the blue tiles – rather than the white ones – at the bottom of the walls helps to anchor the scheme, preventing it from looking top-heavy.
‘It's also a really effective way of continuing the blue/white contrast from the walls towards the marble floor, drawing the eye around the bathroom,’ he adds.
7. Use a hexagonal tile for a double impact of shape and pattern
A hexagonal tile is an interesting switch-up from conventional square or rectangular tiles and irregular tile formations allow great scope for getting a unique look. Plus, they are a huge interior design trend right now. The unusual shape alone adds interest to a bathroom wall design but you can up the impact by introducing an eye-catching pattern and make it a strong focal point.
A clever use of hexagonal tiles is to have what is called a 'transitional effect' where the tiles run into a different surface like in this design by West One Bathrooms. It means that you will have less of a harsh divide between the wall and the ceiling.
8. Use wooden panelling to warm up the space
A bathroom design consisting largely of stone or tiles can end up feeling cold and sterile. However, introducing wood bathroom wall panels not only warms up the space but gives a bathroom much needed character.
Another bonus is that it is perfect for hiding any wall imperfections. While you may think that paneling is only suitable for period homes, it is a great feature for modern ones and can give featureless rooms some decorative detail. In this bathroom, Fiona Barratt Interiors (opens in new tab) used wooden paneling to introduce warmth and deaden the echo of hard surfaces.
‘I also like to do marble half-walls with specialist plaster or other textured finishes above,’ adds founder Fiona Barratt Campbell. ‘The mix of materials really helps to break up the monotony of the stone.’
9. Incorporate waterproof wallpaper for a mural-like effect
Waterproof bathroom wallpaper is a very welcome innovation when it comes to turning a bathroom wall into a focal point and you are spoilt for choice for patterns. But our advice is to go bold.
Outsized murals trump repeat pattern for impact and drama. ‘Upscaling really makes an image pop. Wall & Deco’s incredible designs are 100% waterproof so be used anywhere in the bathroom, including inside the shower,’ says Kirsten Wain, designer, West One Bathrooms. ‘Each print is rendered to fit the wall dimensions and can be adjusted to ensure focal parts of the design take prime position.’
10. Go for a dynamic pattern clash
A pattern can bring vibrancy to a bathroom wall but to have double impact, choose a design that clashes with the bathroom floor design. Clashing patterns may sound intimidating but the most important thing is to try to unifying the patterns if one element, like color like in this shower design by Caz Myers Design.
‘Boldly colored and patterned tiles can add such personality, dynamism, and impact to bathrooms, really lifting the space,’ says director Caz Myers. ‘While the tiles may be dramatic, the overall scheme can be timeless if you choose a color that truly resonates.
'Pattern-wise, go for tiles in two-tone repeats, like these modern geometrics, which, even when mixed, work effectively to create a unique and surprisingly restful space.’
What can I put on my bathroom walls instead of tiles?
There are a number of options to decorate your bathroom walls apart from using tiles. An easy choice is paint – technology has advanced so much that there are many suitable paints that will withstand heat and moisture in the bathroom.
As well as paint, you can use wallpaper for pattern and color, just make sure you choose a waterproof one. Wooden paneling is another alternative to tiles and brings in character and a lived-in feel into a space.
Is it ok to use wallpaper in the bathroom?
Yes, it is ok to use wallpaper in the bathroom. Technology has moved on considerably so that you can get waterproof wallpaper that can even work in showers. But standard wallpaper can also work well as it is not in the direct line of water and there is good ventilation in the bathroom.
As the Deputy Editor of Livingetc, Busola Evans works across both print and digital and specialises in kitchens, bathrooms and projects. She is an expert at explaining how to improve, extend and convert your home. Prior to her current role, she was Associate Editor on both Livingetc and Homes & Gardens. A journalist for more than 20 years, she has written for a number of newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Sunday Times Magazine and Grazia, and was an interiors columnist for the London Evening Standard's ES Magazine.
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