7 tile tips for a sensational shower

by clé tile | published: Jun 23, 2022

a wetroom-style shower with zio and son’s zellige in weathered white and sea salt on the floors and walls. design + photo: logan killen interiorson

a walk-in shower with carrara 4×12 subway tiles in a herringbone pattern on the wall. design + photo: indigo interiors

whether you’re designing a spa-like shower, creating that ultimate wet room, or just looking to bring a little luxe into your bathroom (and your life), start with what matters the most: the tile.

designing that perfect shower is all about striking that perfect balance between design and functionality. choosing the right tile takes doing some homework, but fortunately, it’s very doable.

7 key shower tile tips

  • start with the right tile. use the handy area filters on our website to zero-in on what works for showers.
  • dial in your vision. create that statement shower, or go or a unified, cohesive look that’s subtle but still sensational.
  • don’t slip up! make sure your tile is water, slip, and pooling resistant (read the technical specifications for the tile you’re interested in).
  • consider tile texture. water can make a great texture come to life (and can feel good on the feet, too).
  • buck convention. get that sophisticated, bold vibe with a dark shower.
  • get nichey. shower niches, alcoves, and benches become powerful design opportunities when paired with tile–and present you with an opportunity to get creative while staying organized.
  • obey our cardinal rule. find an experienced tile installer who has experience with the specific tile you’re using.

for more details, specifics, and ideas, read on.

narrow your options: find a tile that works in the shower

no point falling in love with a tile, then realizing it’s not going to stand up to lots of moisture and steam. before settling on tile for your shower, make sure it’s up to the task. use the filters on our website under “area” to search for tile based on area and usage, and then read each tile’s material guidelines before moving forward with your professional tile installer.

not sure where to start? ceramic tile in the shower is a popular choice.

get bold with patterned tile on the shower wall

hex clip in mocha and barn. design: katie asleton / photo: virtually here studios

we love a bold pattern in shower areas: they’re a great way to bring in some graphic interest even (or especially) if the rest of your house is a little more on the tame side. (but always keep in mind how the tile will be seen: your choices may differ depending on what kind of shower you have—one that’s visible through a glass door, self-contained and separate, or a totally open wet room format.)

for the ultimate in pattern options, try our cement tile in the shower. opt for some of our more traditional patterns, or choose our from our collection of geometric, zig-zag, and striped cement tile. want to get artful with your shower? then explore cement tile from our artist collaborations with artists and designers.

but you can also create patterns using our bundles (our zio and sons zellige is a favorite) or go your own way: our subway and plank shapes are extraordinarily versatile and expressive. and remember, if you’re working with a more neutral color, explore how to use grout as a design element in tile installation to dial up visual interest.

a rain shower filled with houseplants becomes the perfect oasis with cement squares in compass on the wall. design: botanica cayman / photo: chad munro photo

a tub shower is framed by a zellige zio and sons backsplash. design + photo: zio & sons

don’t be afraid to use pattern in a small space: a boldly-patterned tile on a shower wall can actually make a small shower seem larger. find more tips on how tile can maximize design in our previous post on choosing the right size tile for your (small) space.

don’t forget floor tile

belgian reproduction flemish black in circle losange. design / photo: properstudio

on the right, is dartanian cement square. design + photo: crutchfield collective

while walls may get all the attention, think about that other great surface: the shower floor. again, the question is, is it a continuation of what you have on the walls…or do you want some contrast—a little yin with that yang? while we do love a full-on maximalist look in the shower with pattern or color on walls and floors (and yes, ceiling), you could turn down the volume a notch with a quieter tile. or, if you’ve gone classic and neutral on the walls, it’s a great place to experiment (aka indulge your wild side) with pattern, color, and texture for the floor. the key is to pay attention to a few key material concerns.

tiles for shower floors should be water-resistant, withstand pooling, and suitable for light residential floor traffic.

slip resistance is also important: smaller tiles paired with larger grout joints add texture and increase slip resistance.

penny rounds are a great design solution for floors: we’re fans of our carrara, thassos, and dolomite penny rounds, which are great for slip resistance and perfect for curved surfaces. find more tips on shower floor tile and installation in our post on shower floor tiles: elevating your design from functional to luxe.

elegant ways with cement cigar shop. design + photo: en masse designs

texture in tile makes a difference

zellige 2×2 tiles in vintage rose. design: prairie interiors / photo: chad mellon

eastern earthenware 2×2 in rice paper. design: emily farnham interior / photo: yoshihiro makino

 of all the elements, water is perhaps the most enchanting. from the most powerful waterfall to the smallest stream, water captivates us with its constant, flowing energy. and tile can enhance that feel.

for example, handmade glazed terracotta tiles with their inherent variation in texture and shape are in their full glory in the shower, where running water accentuates each tile’s unique surface.

bonus: our handmade zellige tile is hardworking and durable, with the perfect amount of texture to make floors slip-resistant without feeling sharp-edged.

beyond white tile: dark doesn’t have to mean gloomy

cement 2×8 rectangle in black. design/photo: indigo interiors

new california bracken. design: marie flanigan interiors / photo: julie soeffer

zellige in 4×4 charred cedar. design + photo: crystal sinclair designs

the shower should be a place of solitude and relaxation, a place where you can (literally and figuratively) shed your layers and be yourself. so your shower should be a reflection of who you are.

so why be conventional?

expand your color palette to include the unexpected: with the right tile, a dark shower can be dramatic, sophisticated, and bold. the secret is in the finish.

glossy tile (even if dark) reflects light and provides a subtle glamour. if you’re looking for something with a little more texture or gloss, modern farmhouse brick in black gloss or zellige glazed terracotta in scribe’s ink or battled armor (a dark blue-grey) should fit the bill.

when it comes to more matte options, variation and variegation ensure that the walls won’t look too “heavy”. for that, we recommend a silkier, variegated take on black, such as our matte black cement tiles which offer a versatile and durable option available in squares, hexes, rectangles, and scallops.

shower niches, benches, and shelving (oh my!)

weathered white 2×2. design: annie leslau / photo: nicole franzen

cement akimbo by eskayel. design: isabelle patrick / photo: kirsten francis

new west pattern one, modern farmhouse brick in cream gloss. design: natalie myers / photo: charlotte lea

if you’re looking for your shower as a respite, you’ll likely feel a little more at peace when everything is in its right place and you’re not tripping over shower gels and shampoos. that’s why we recommend designing shower spaces and places to wrangle all those accoutrements. the solution? shower shelving, including niches and benches, which have the added bonus of giving you another design element in your space.

use the space to have some fun (as an opportunity to showcase that colorful tile you’ve fallen in love with) or to create a perfectly integrated niche. explore our niche do’s and don’ts in our post in praise of the niche: what’s yours?

successful tile installation means professional installation

it’s the quality of the installation that makes or breaks the success of your tile in both the long term and the short. that means hiring an installer who has experience with the specific tile you’re using. have your installer review our technical specifications and guidelines for both installation and maintenance: they’re available under product specifications on each product page. with good installation and some continuing tlc, your tile will keep its good looks and integrity for years–even decades–to come.

whatever your shower style, there’s a clé tile for you.