One of the reasons we love using floor tiles is that there are just so many options available to create a truly personalized space. And outside of the sheer volume of colors and styles of tile, there is also huge variation in tile sizes and shapes.
Spacing between tiles is also an important factor towards the final look, as well as the grout color. By giving careful consideration to all these aspects you will end up with a flooring base that is the perfect complement for your room décor. So, in this article let’s consider how the size and shape of a tile will affect the overall feel and aesthetic of your space.
For an in-depth look at tile patterns click here.
Basic Tile Size Rules of Thumb!
So, even after a brief scan of tile manufacturer’s products it’s clear to see that whilst there is a degree of “standard” tile sizes and shapes; there are also a LOT of manufacturers that make tiles in sizes specific to their in-house designs and sometimes in very unique shapes that you might not find anywhere else. So it’s tricky to generalize.
However, there are a handful of guidelines regarding tile size that most interior designers agree upon:
- You can make a small room look larger by using larger sized floor tiles. In part this is because there will be fewer grout lines breaking up the flow of the flooring, and you can enhance this further by choosing a grout that is very similar in color to the tile. But be aware that if the room is very, very small then tiles that are larger than 18” will overpower the space.
- Small mosaic tiles on a floor will add texture and, despite the much more frequent grout lines, can also make a space flow well as the mosaics are more easily fitted around fixed fittings (such as toilet, sink, bath or integrated shelving). Mosaic tiles on the floor act rather like a carpet would in this regard, and can be especially effective for creating a harmonized look on bathroom floors that incorporate tiled shower trays.
- If you have a long, rectangular room – like a galley kitchen for example – laying rectangular or plank style tiles across ways on the floor will make the space look wider and more spacious than it actually is.
- Conversely, if you want to define a space more clearly, using smaller tiles to create a border or edge with larger tiles in the middle will give the allusion of a cozier space.
- For added texture but without impairing the sense of space, use the same color and finish of tile in different square and rectangular sizes set in a random pattern; non-random patterns, and integrally patterned tiles (like encaustic cement tiles) will draw your eye and make a space seem smaller.
Now that you have the tile size basics, lets look at the different tile shapes and what effects they create.
Square Tile Sizes
Square tiles are easily the most common choice, and come in lots of different sizes from fairly small to very large. Though some manufacturers have their own, non-standard sizes square tiles, the majority of tile manufacturers use the following size grades: 2”, 3”, 4”, 6”, 8”, 12”, 16”, 18” and 24”; and most tiles that are specifically made for flooring are found in the larger sizes, from 6” upwards.
Square tiles of course have the advantage of being really easy to work with, as you can easily calculate how many you need to cover your surface area. But whilst they may be easy, they needn’t be boring!
Opting for large scale plain square tiles, like these gray ones above, and using them on the floor and one wall creates a streamlined, unfussy bathroom look that you can change-up by swapping in different accent colors via the towels and accessories.
Mid-sized square terracotta tiles are used here as a perfect counterbalance to the over sized wall units and to lend some rustic charm to the eclectic decor scheme.
Square tiles are essential for the classic black and white checkerboard floor; setting them on the diagonal makes this airy kitchen look even more spacious than it is.
Encaustic cement tiles are most often square shaped, but because of the integral pattern they can actually almost look like mosaic tiles. Using a dark grout to match the tile (here they’ve used black) enhances the mosaic look further and helps the space seem bigger!
Rectangular and Subway Tile Sizes
Rectangular shaped tiles comes a in a range of different sizes, though the most standard options are as follows:
- 1”x2”, 3” and 4”
- 2”x3”, 4”, 5”, 6” and 8”
- 3”x4”, 5”, 6” and 8”
- 4”x4.5”, 5”, 6” and 8”
- 5”x2”, 3”, 4,”6” and 8”
Subway tiles are a sub-set of rectangular tiles that came into vogue in the early 20th Century when they were used to decorate subway stations such as the New York City Hall subway. There are no hard-and-fast rules for classifying sizes, but here are the subway tile sizes that you’ll most typically find.
- 1”x3”, 4” and 6”
- 2”x4”, 6”, 8” and 12”
- 3”x6”, 8” and 12”
- 4”x8”, 12” and 16”
At the moment the trend is for subway tiles to be used mostly for wall applications, like kitchen backsplashes or for bathroom walls, but we are beginning to see some designers using them on the floor too.
As with square tiles, large rectangular floor tiles are great for enhancing a large room or making a smaller space seem larger, whilst smaller rectangular and subway tiles add great texture to a floor which makes a space feel more cozy.
These large rectangular porcelain tiles are the perfect choice for this dramatically spacious and linear living space; note how each row is offset to the next one to provide a subtle pattern that is reflected back in the extra-large brick wall feature.
Large rectangular slabs of ceramic tile are laid out across ways in this galley kitchen, making it seem wider than it is.
Crisp white subway tiles defined with a dark gray grout have been used on the wall and the floor in this slick bathroom; and by setting the floor tiles on a diagonal, the small space seems larger.
Very thin rectangular tile strips in alternating black and white marble work like a mosaic tile adding interest and focus to this otherwise very cool, almost clinical, white space. Note also the horizontal lines created by the layout of the tiles, which thus also widens the room.
Plank Tile Sizes
New tile printing technology has allowed for huge improvements and expansion in wood-look and stone-look ceramic tiles, and whilst stone-look tiles tend to be square or rectangular, the wood-look ones come in plank sizes that aim to replicate actual hardwood planks. However on the whole you are more likely to find shorter lengths than the real thing, and some manufacturers are producing faux parquet tiles that are actually square. The most common plank tile sizes are
- 4”x12” and 48”
- 6”x24”, 36” and 48”
- 8”x32”, 36”, and 48”
- 12”x24” and 48”
The longer the plank, the more realistic it will look and even more so if you choose a grout color that is very close to the darkest tone in the tile. On the other hand shorter plank tiles can be arranged in parquet style patterns like herringbone to create added texture and visual interest, which is particularly successful in large or medium sized rooms.
These incredibly realistic distressed style wood-look planks are extra wide and fairly long, giving them added authenticity. Set across ways helps make this loft space seem extra large and airy.
Shorter plank tile lengths make the overall look less authentic, but allow for greater color variations which adds visual interest and reflects the colors in the mosaic tiles border on the walls.
These black stone-look tiles are unusual for being cut into short plank sizes and then laid out in herringbone formation; the pattern is enhanced by using a light gray grout and gives a focus to this minimalist urban interior.
On first look these tiles seem like large rectangular porcelain slabs, but in fact it’s several short planks in different shades of gray laid out on the diagonal creating a bold parquet style pattern! A great choice for this medium sized bathroom.
Hexagon and Octagon Tile Shapes
Hexagon, and to a lesser extent octagon, shaped tiles are having a massive influence in interior trends at the moment, both for walls and floors. Generally speaking they come in 4”, 6” and 8” tile sizes (though the hexagon craze means we are now seeing even smaller mosaic sized hexagon tiles); and as octagon tiles do not fit together into a snug pattern there is always a complementary small square tile that fits in the space between.
For the most part the inherent nature of the shape of hexagon and octagon tiles create its own very specific aesthetic, and this can be further enhanced depending on the size, color and material. However, some contemporary encaustic tile makers are adding integrated pattern on the hexagon tile as they would a square tile, so that you see the hexagon less and the tile’s pattern more and that creates a different feel altogether!
These large plain hexagon terracotta tiles help keep this rather “busy” bathroom from feeling cramped, and add a rustic charm that pulls the eclectic styles together.
Smaller white hexagon tiles with gray grout give a much more contemporary feel to this bathroom, and an extra layer of texture to the somewhat stark aesthetic.
These encaustic hexagon tiles have a sublime integral lined pattern and give the floor the staring role in this bathroom.
Large octagon terracotta tiles interspaced with square accent tiles give this open kitchen design a cozier feel.
Mosaic Tile Sizes
Mosaic tiles are usually very small square tiles up to about 2” square, though again, there is no uniform tile size classifications. Tile sizes start at about .5”x.5” for mosaic tiles whilst 1” square and 1.5” square are very popular; but contemporary tile makers are now also branching out and producing tiny hexagon and penny round mosaic tiles too.
As their name implies mosaic tiles can be used to create bespoke wall murals or elaborate tile designs for floors, but are most often laid in a field like those of standard tile sizes, usually in bathrooms. The advantage of doing this is that you can create texture and interest, whilst also preserving a sense of flow to the space – especially if the tile is also used to cover shower trays and walls.
Mosaic tile sizes are often employed as borders and accents too; and can help define a space when used this way around larger contrasting tiles.
Here’s a great example of how mosaic tiles can make a space flow, by using the same tile to cover the floor, the shower tray and wall rather like a blanket; the tile also fits snugly around the base of the toilet making it all look perfectly seamless and fluid.
Here pretty pastel penny round mosaic tiles are the perfect match for the old world charm of the claw foot bath and Victoriana-inspired faucets and shower unit.
Contemporary and chic, black octagon mosaic tile adds further texture to this bathroom, and looks very smart with the white grout.
Here the floor area of this very white bathroom, with high gloss square tiles, is given definition with a border made of silvery glass mosaic tiles.
Non-Standard Tile Shapes
Outside of the standard geometric shaped tiles, there are many specialist tile makers producing wonderful non-standard, less common shapes such as stars and crosses, basketweaves, arabesques, scallops, ovals, triangles, diamonds, ogees and so on. In these instances, the sizes available will depend entirely on the manufacturer and you may need to draw up templates to be sure that the tile size will work in your space.
Stick to the common rules of thumb that large tiles are good for large spaces, and smaller mosaic ones to create a flowing floor pattern and you’re unlikely to go wrong!
This smart combination of medium-sized star and cross floor tiles are perfectly suited for this well-proportioned bathroom; note the star and cross tiles are edged with white subway tiles which make it look rather like a pretty Moroccan-style area rug.
Small marble mosaic tiles set in a basketweave pattern create a pretty tiled carpet for this feminine bathroom.
Large-scale arabesque tiles are the ideal size for this grandiose dining room.
What size space to have between tiles is worth considering too: here these dark scallops tiles have been set with rather large spaces between creating a choppy wave like, chunky, textured pattern which plays interestingly against the finer details of the fixtures and fittings.
More helpful resources for floor tile shapes and sizes: