Flooring Design: What Can You Do with Tiny Bathroom Floors?

by Jim Bessey

image of powder room tile floor

Partial-pattern design highlights tiny bath floor

You might think there’s little room for creativity when you’re designing a floor for a very small bathroom. As tile professionals, we encourage our customers to keep it simple in tight spaces. Good flooring design advice says “avoid overly busy or cluttered patterns” for tiny floors. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun.

But first, let’s consider some design aspects worth avoiding for tiny floors:

  • Beware the checkerboard floor! So retro, so busy, and possibly painful to the eye.
  • Large-format tiles can make small rooms look even smaller.
  • Be careful using edge-ribbons or inset picture-frame designs. These also shrink the apparent room size.
  • Dark-colored tiles are better for big rooms. Consider whites, tans, and pastels.
  • Mixing mosaics with other tile types isn’t recommended. “Too busy

We’re talking about bad tile choices, but you might find that a super-small bathroom is a great place to choose some other flooring type. Especially in powder rooms, where moisture isn’t much of an issue, you can look at laminates , self-adhesive squares, vinyl sheet goods, and commercial vinyl tiles (CVT)–even hardwoods! The basic rules remain the same: keep it simple, not too busy.

“You can certainly consider a groovy mosaic”

Now let’s get back to ceramic and porcelain tile. Installing a small-area tile floor is fun because you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get great results. Since you won’t need much of it, you can buy more expensive tile. You can certainly consider a groovy mosaic, as long as it’s not too crazy. You could use 4×4’s and add random splashes of color–something almost no one would do these days on a larger-size floor.

You can also take advantage of clearance tile, leftovers being re-sold by builders, and even browse sites like Craig’s List. Sources like these can supply tile at less than $1 per square foot. Imagine paying less than $20 for floor tile! You’ll still have to purchase good-quality tile underlayment and perhaps some baseboard trim; but we’re still way under $100 for this size floor.

You could also do a “part of a pattern

This was the choice we made on a project last year, for a floor that measures just six square feet. It was a powder room adjacent to a tile foyer. The plan called for a smooth transition of the existing 12″-square tiles into the new room. Big squares in a small room, however, could have been very dull. Here’s what we did to mix things up, creatively: (see photo, top)

  • Continued the same tile, but offset the grout lines (no threshold)
  • Used dark grout with light-colored tiles (more visually interesting that way)
  • Used smaller, 2″x2″ tiles that matched the grout color to create a one-quarter inset-frame pattern. This had the effect of artistically stretching the room’s dimensions.
  • Changed the tile-offset, once again, inside the “frame” to avoid odd-sized tile cuts.
  • Installed wall tile wainscoting on one wall only (which carried the theme upward).
  • Added simple yet elegant tile baseboard on the other three walls, rather than wood molding.

All of these choices blended together to form a tiny floor that has some creative eye-appeal without making an already-small room seem even smaller. Like anything that isn’t boring, the resulting design won’t please everyone. For this project and this customer, it created a jazzy and distinctive look that worked out very well.

Bottom line is you don’t have to settle for plain old dull in shades of vanilla for a powder room or small-bath floor project. By making some smart design decisions, you can have your creativity and walk on it, too.

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