For some, a bathroom is a sanctuary, somewhere to relax amongst the bubbles. For others, it's a functional space to shower in and go. In a family, it's where teenagers constantly bicker about who's been in there the longest. Whichever way you use your bathroom, the floor you choose will impact on its ambience; do you want to make a statement with colour and pattern, or opt for longevity with a neutral tile and simple design?

Some of us still languish under the misconception that a tile has to be square. According to Louisa Morgan from Mandarin Stone in Exeter, their 'go-to' tile for decades has been the traditional subway tile – think New York and Paris Metro. "But," says Louisa, "standard subways have turned longer and leaner – I like to call them brickettes." She suggests laying them in a herringbone pattern. "Or, for a more contemporary feel, you can lay brick tiles vertically and stack in straight lines."

You can also consider laying tiles in a basket weave or chevron pattern – an inspired way to create your own look. Other patterns include windmill, perfect for borders; pinwheel, ideal for contrasting tiles; and cobblestone for a more conventional style. Straight lines might make installing tiles simpler but there are more unusual shapes coming in, such as triangles and stars. "It's not all about geometric though," adds Louisa, "as softer shapes like scallops and circles create a more feminine feel."

Keep it natural with slate. It adds elegance to a bathroom and offers the twin benefits of being luxurious and durable, so you won't have to choose between fashion and practicality. Ardosia Slate, near Barnstaple, is the place to go for Brazilian slate tiles, which come in a variety of sizes with options of graphite for a darker finish and cinza for a lighter, more even flooring. The tiles are available in a riven or hand-polished surface. Slate tiles need to be sealed after they are laid, and after that, maintenance is minimal. "If you're fortunate enough to have underfloor heating in your bathroom," says MD Steve Pugsley, "slate is the ideal medium for storing and transferring the heat supplied by wet or electrical UFH." Ardosia also supplies shower trays machined from the same, but thicker, slate, to allow a fully integrated floor.

Going thin is not a command to diet, but a reference to Techlam, the latest innovation in large porcelain tiles. These are the thinnest tiles yet at just 3mm to 5mm, and with such a low profile, they are perfect to lay over existing tiles, making it easier to update your style. Exeter's La Fabrico has exclusivity with Techlam in the region, and Sales Director Paul Greenslade says it's proving immensely popular with clients moving from London to coastal havens like Dartmouth and Salcombe. Amongst the designs are the stunning 'Steel' collection, which promises the cold beauty of steel with the incredible realism of metallic nuances, and 'Deco', a selection of on-trend materials that embody elegance and sophistication.

Paul also asserts that decorative tiles are still popular among his customers. "In bathrooms, a floor with a panel of decorative tiles can make a real feature," he explains. By using decorative tiles that either complement or contrast the main floor tile, a hitherto dull floor can spring to life – almost literally, as some decorative tiles incorporate a raised feel for a 3D effect. Decorative tiles are often associated with traditional bathrooms and can add a sense of nostalgia but there are also plenty of edgier designs if you have a funkier vision.

Wood-effect tiles are made by using digital printing technology to recreate almost any wood you can think of. On a practical note, these tiles are more durable than most real wood floors, as they don't soak up moisture, which can cause wood to warp and crack. Choose from gorgeous natural looking hickory, or try an aged effect that appears to show the ravages of time. Director Mark Fowdon from Studio One in Plymouth says everyone loves this style. He works closely with Italian manufacturer Atlas Concorde to offer a wide range of wood-effect tiles, as well as quirky 'textile look' tiles (porcelain stoneware inspired by elegant fabrics).

Want the look of marble without the price tag? "Large tiles in polished porcelain can give the impression of marble, with the added benefit of being resistant to staining," says Ross Pollard from Exeter-based Vision Installs. Porcelain tiles have a lower water absorption rate than marble, are also hardwearing and don't chip easily. Aesthetically, marble may give the sensation of opulence and luxury, but it can be slippery when wet – not the best choice for a bathroom. Porcelain is another great choice to partner with underfloor heating.

The bathroom is definitely one place where you can feel free to express your individual taste. But remember, your choice of tile can make or break your bathroom, so choose wisely!

Mandarin Stone, Carrara Honed Marble in a basket weave pattern
Mandarin Stone, Carrara Honed Marble in a basket weave pattern
Vision Installs’ tiles have a polished porcelain marble-look
Vision Installs’ tiles have a polished porcelain marble-look
Sue Cade

Published 29 October 2018

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