The Surprising Way Interior Designers Are Making Bathtubs Stylish as Hell Without Spending a Ton of Money

published Dec 4, 2019
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Designers are constantly looking for fresh ways to make a statement in small bathrooms, and if Instagram is any indication, there’s a new place they’re adding to their list of things to tile: The tub front. To upgrade this spot, all you have to do is build a short wall in front of your tub and tile its top and front. Not only does this small design move fake the look of a fancy built-in bathtub, but it also creates drama and visual flow, especially if you match the tile to your floor and/or walls so the pattern is uninterrupted.

Depending on your level of skill, this project could be a weekend DIY. But if you have to hire a contractor, the good news is that this one tweak will cost a lot less than a full renovation and take up way less space than a freestanding tub. Or you can just keep these gorgeous tiled tub fronts in mind for your future dream budget bathroom. I know I’ll be saving a few of them. 

Create a Waterfall Effect

You can create a waterfall effect in your bathroom by tiling the floor, shower surround, and the wall in front of the tub in one pattern. Leave the two walls on the sides of the tub white, so the pattern looks like it flows dramatically down from the ceiling. This is a great way to save on expensive tile, too, since you’re only using it on the floor and on one wall as opposed to the whole room.

Bring the Drama With a Geometric Print

In theory, this geometric tile work could feel dizzying, but in practice, it packs just the right punch. The busy print is balanced by the white wall where the shower fittings sit, which gives your eyes a visual rest. Plus, a black-and-white color scheme is always a good idea for a bathroom. It helps trendy triangle tiles retain somewhat of a classic look and feel.

Going Green

If you want to soften up the look a bit, try mixing two kinds of tiles. This bathroom utilizes white tiles on the walls, but the geometric green floor tiles extend up onto the front of the bathtub, solidifying its place as the room’s focal point.

Tap Into Your Maximalist Tendencies 

This bathroom is the equivalent of jazz hands—it’s so playful and energetic. If you’re not the type of person that likes to be surrounded by spa white tiles or other minimalist touches, chose something that packs a punch like this red-and-black harlequin tile job. Guaranteed your neighbors’ bathroom won’t look like this. You can see more of this exuberant Buenos Aires home here, but nothing tops the bathroom.

Details Count

Leave it to Justina Blakeney to be up on the tiled tub front trend. She definitely knows a thing or two about creating memorable spaces, and it’s all in the small details. Not only is the front of the tub tiled in this gorgeous teal tile from Fireclay, but part of the ledge is tiled as well. This makes the tub feel like it’s sitting in this cozy little corner of the jungle. Add wall niches, a custom wood vanity, and all the plant babies to the mix, and there’s a space I’d like to spend a long time in.

Use Negative Space to Your Advantage

If you want to cover your entire bathroom in one kind of tile—tub front and surround included—but are worried it might feel too busy, consider using a pattern that has a lot of negative space. These blue honeycomb tiles are surrounded by a border of white honeycombs, which helps calm the pattern down visually. Barely-there grout lines also play a part—the tile on the wall almost looks like wallpaper. But, of course, it’s tile, and therefore much easier to clean and better suited for a humid environment, which is a win-win.

Try Subway-Style Tile

If you’re a little leery of this trend, know that it totally works with white subway tile, too. In fact, if you install subways on the tub front and halfway up the surround, you create an opportunity to color block with a contrasting paint color, as the homeowner above did. You can go with a much darker shade of paint, since all the white offsets it. And you don’t have to worry about your tile going out of style, though using square tiles as opposed to rectangles modernizes this classic look a bit.

So what do you think? Doesn’t a tiled tub front bring the drama for a relatively small spot? If you need more tile inspiration, these 50 gorgeous ideas should get your design juices flowing.