Does this Tile Make My Bath Look Big?

“I have a small laundry room and bathroom that I want to re-tile. Should I use an 18×18 or smaller tile? Which will make the room look bigger?” – SuzyT, TX

Dear Suzy,
You’re on to something here. There are several ways to make a room look larger when you’re remodeling, and playing around with the tile size is a really simple solution.

Larger tiles tend to make a floor appear less busy. In addition to the size of the tile, you can increase the feeling of spaciousness by installing your tiles with a smaller separation between them – making a smaller grout line. This creates a less graphic look by having a less visible ‘grid’ on your bathroom floor.

There are two more elements to making your room seem more spacious with tile – and they both have to do with color. When you use a darker tile, it tends to enclose a space more. When you want to make a room feel more airy and spacious, use a lighter-colored tile. For a heavy duty space like a bathroom or a laundry room, I’d suggest a light gray or a light tan – something that isn’t too dark, but can hide a bit of dust and wear.

A final trick to making your room look bigger is matching your grout color to your tile  color. The less you can see the grout color stand out from the tile color, the more your floor will appear uniform, allowing your eye to travel over it without noticing the grout lines. Try to match your tile color as closely as possible with your grout color. The less contrast between your grout color and your tile, the better!

A 12″ x 12″ or an 18″ x 18” tile will work nicely for this – or even a 12” x 18”. If you are hiring a tile installer, ask them if it will change the price of your installation if you use a larger tile. While it may seem like less work to install a larger tile, sometimes they require more preparation and cutting to work around the shape of your room.
Tell us how it goes!

Comments (18)

  1. Bruce says:

    I have to disagree, somewhat. Stop and think what your eye sees, and how our brain interprets the image. If you see lots of tiles, your brain says, "big room". Light colors will make the room look larger, but use a contrasting grout to show "many tiles". I'd suggest something about 4 x 4 with a matching tile cove base. :) Just my 2 cents…

  2. jenS* says:

    I have a tiny powder room that we are updating — it is just under 6' x 4'. There is an abundance of tile on the market that is 12" x 24" and I wondered if there is any way I can use this size in my space. Horizontally? Vertically? Avoid? My other option is mosaics, I think, because I do not want 12 x 12 (and besides, choices in this size seem very limited locally). Any way I can make large tiles work and if so, what would the best layout be?

    • Laurie_March says:

      Jen –

      Yes, you can use 12 x 24 tile in this situation. Usually the long side of the tile runs from the door inward – so you're looking down the tile long ways. With a coordinating grout color, this really streamlines a space.

      Ask your tile guy to confirm he can work with this tile!

  3. Mary Kay says:

    You forgot one of THE best ways to give illusion of bigger space!! LAY YOUR TILE DIAGONALLY instead of straight rows. Will require a few more cuts, but WELL worth the results! mk

  4. Ginger Pollock says:

    We have a small bathroom and want to just have a shower

  5. Barbara says:

    I live in a condo. Very seldom are these small bathroms mentioned by designers. I heve been watching HGTV for years and have learned a lot. I have remodeled my small bathroom myself and with the help of my husband it looks great. We have curves and straight lines in this tiny bathroom. We took out the old large tub, installed a large jacuzzi tub with everything you can think of, took out a storage unit and installed a glass shower. I used 18×18 tiles on the walls and in the same tile 8×8 for the floor. To compensate the angles of the round shower I smashed some of the tile to give me mosaic pieses which I used in between the tiles and matched the wall with the mosaic not to have to cut any tiles. It looks great and I would recomment large tiles for a large look.

  6. debbie g says:

    i need help! I have a room that is about 8×6… there are doors that go from the family room into the garage… there is plumbing for shower and toilet and a sink but there is also the washer and dryer…. I desperately need to make this room function since my mom needs to be able to use it downstairs… please help anyone

  7. Marie Vallejo says:

    My husband and I are remodeling a small living quarters, about 1,000 SF but only 1 bedroom so the rooms are not too tiny. The biggest room is the kitchen/frontroom combination. We are using the same color tile throughout the kitchen/frontroom. We'd like to use 18" tile in the kitchen/frntroom but the bathroom is a little smaller, and wonder about keeping the same color but use 12" in the bathroom and shower. Help! Need some advice here.
    Thank you.

    • Laurie_March says:

      Marie –

      That sounds good – keeping the same color tile will help the transition go smoothly. I hope you'll post and share how it went!

  8. SKM says:

    What size title should be used in a 15 by 21 to make it look larger?

    • Laurie_March says:

      There are lots of ways you can go, but I'm a fan of the 12 x 12 or 12 x 18" tiles – even a 24 x 24" tile could work. One of the main ways you can make a space feel bigger is having a tile that has very little pattern, or variation in it. Neutral colors help too- and a grout color that's close to your tile color will help remove the perception of little tiny lines everywhere.

      What are you remodeling?

  9. awest6444 says:

    My bathroom is 4 x 9. The walkway is 3inches. We are redoing the tile in the shower and on the floor. I thought that more of a subway tile size or 4×4 would be great in the tub-shower area, and a 12×12 floor tile would work. I thought that the smaller tile on the wall was a better option, but was just told that a larger tile would make the room look larger, I thought it would be just the opposite. I am going with lighter tile, but the size has me very much confused. I was told 8×10 or 9×12 in the shower area would be a better choice. As they r now showing larger tile and it makes the space look larger. I am so confused and I have to make my decision this week. Help someone.

    • Laurie_March says:

      Hey there!

      While there is no wrong answer in the scenario you described, it' s true that a larger tile can make a space feel bigger. The other thing I help clients consider – grout. If you can match your grout to your tile color, and make your grout lines (the space your tile guy leaves in between each tile) as small as possible, you can create a more seamless look for your bathroom.

      Looking for tile in a 12 x 12 for the floor works great, and often the shower walls can coordinate in style, color, etc. For variety you could go with a 6 x 12" or a 9 x 12" tile – whatever is affordable and available since it sound like you're on your way with a remodel.

      That said – there is nothing wrong with subway tile in a shower! Here's a link to a post of mine with lots of pictures of subway tile

      The second image in that post has subway tile walls and larger tile on the floor ( looks like a 12 x 24") and they work great together.

      Hope it helps!

  10. Jenn says:

    We are building a bathroom and we are at the tile stage. We were thinking of 18 by 18 tiles on the floor and 12 by 12 tiles on 2 of the walls behind the large corner tub (young children who will splash!) Think this will work? The floor would be a little darker then the wall but in the tiles are in the colour family.

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