Creating kitchens and baths for finicky customers since 1993

backsplash features inset metal tiles for accent and texture

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Tile tub surrounds: Finding your niche

Tub surround tile niches are cool, and each is unique.

Niches are formed using an opening in the wall, a manufactured metal "pan," and a variety of tiling methods to blend with or accent the rest of the tub-area tile work.

Why choose a niche, versus other types of soap dishes and shelving? Design and aesthetics give niches the first-place vote. They do not intrude on the tub's space, and they don't interrupt the flow of the tile the way corner shelves do.

On the other hand, a niche adds substantial cost to the job -- mostly in added labor. One niche can easily add an entire day's work to a five-day job. There's extra time spent on careful layout, more time in cutting and re-framing the opening, hours more added for tile cutting (usually more than 20 added cuts!), and more time lost while grouting and caulking. It all adds up; but the pay-off is so high... well, just look at these pictures!

elegant tile niche

Simple and elegant: this one combines a partial picture-frame effect with interior bullnose finish, all using the same tile selection and carrying layout lines cleanly through the niche. For accent, this homeowner designed a band of two-by-two tiles just above the niche frame.

basic tile niche

Even simpler: this niche displays no picture-frame effect and blends beautifully with the surrounding tile. Notice how the grab bar aligns perfectly with the centered niche.

fancy tile niche

Jazzy and artistic: one of our most recent, this is also the most complicated. It uses a double-picture-frame design and adds smaller accent tiles in the back wall for an eye-popping finished product. The accent band above the niche uses a third ribbon-tile of the same finish.

modified niche design

Blending styles: our final example uses a modified picture-frame with a 'window sill' effect, and also includes accent tiles applied to the back wall. Notice the matching band of these same accent tiles at eye level. The accessory you see below the niche is a preformed corner seat.

Tiling a tub surround and adding an integral niche is typically beyond the skills of do-it-yourselfers.

When you're contracting professionals to do a job like this, however, it's nice to know you have plenty of choices. In addition, once you have an idea of the extra work involved, you might not be quite as easily shocked at the prices quoted. Keep in mind that a tile niche can be expected to last 30 to 50 years, same as the rest of the tiling in your remodeled bathroom.

All photos copyright 2010 by dzyne -- reprint with attribution please. _______________________________________________
Which niche looks best to you?  Do you prefer the simplistic approach, or like it better when the niche becomes a design focal point?

If you've had your bathroom remodeled using ceramic or porcelain tile and would like to share a picture of it here, please contact me via comments or my email link. If you'd like to learn more about tile topics, see our companion DIY Tile Zone hosted by


  1. Jim, these are beautiful!! You do such lovely work. I like the detailed niche and can picture it nicely in my bathroom. It's a way to add that extra pizazz that is singularly your own. The jewelry to go with the dress!

  2. If I had those tiles in my home--- I would totally design around them-- they are wonderful!

    Kitchen Benchtops

  3. Top quality, beautiful work, JIM ! Absolutely the design of choice! ~R