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Tile Layout and the Golden Ratio

tile layout golden ratioUsing the Golden Ratio for Tile Installations

The golden ratio is a mathematical equation found everywhere. From snail shells to hurricanes; from pyramids to stock market charts. We don’t need to know every detail to use it in tile applications, nor do we have to be a math wiz to know how it works. We just need to know the basics.


See my tutorial post on how to install a tile accent strip flat and even with the rest of the tile


This ratio is used to determine proportions that we unconsciously feel are pleasing to the eye. Architects have used this equation for centuries and Leonardo Da Vinci is considered to have used the golden ratio masterfully in his art.

It’s just math


golden ratio shower layou
The accent tile placement is based on golden ratio dimensions

Basically, the golden ratio is 1.618 to 1. For tile purposes, this doesn’t have to be exact so we can round it to 60/40. If a=60 and b=40 then c=100. The ratio of b to a is the same as a to c. Easy, right?


So let’s apply this to tile. Oftentimes, tile showers will have a decorative stripe that runs horizontally through them. Designers will always tell you to put this accent strip in around “shoulder height” or “eye level.” Why at this height? The answer can be found with the golden ratio.


It’s common for homes to have 8-foot tall ceiling heights. If we multiply 8 ft x 0.618 it comes out to almost exactly 5 ft.- which just happens to be shoulder height-ish.

So with the accent placed at shoulder height then the bottom portion of the shower wall is 5 ft leaving the top portion to be 3 ft. Well, 3 is to 5 as 5 is to 8. Perfect!

Other Examples

If you flip the photo above over, you then have the proper height for a wainscot. It’s also not unusual to have a horizontal accent at the 3 ft. level instead of at 5 ft. Alternatively, I’ve done showers where the customer has wanted a vertical accent strip. How did I determine where to put them? Well, I cheated. I have a golden ratio app on my phone.

Since the back wall of this shower was 5 feet wide the tile accent stripe was at the 3′ 1″/1′ 11″ split.

tile layout golden ratio
Using the golden ratio to layout vertically in this tile shower

How Exact Do I Need To Be?

Typically, you don’t want to cut the accent into a tile when installing an accent strip. Instead you would want it in between two full rows of tile. As a result, if you’re a couple of inches too high or too low- that’s ok. When it comes to tile installation the golden ratio should be used a general guideline and not a strict rule.

Centering Your Accent Tile

Centering isn’t wrong. In fact, sometimes it’s preferable. Consequently, you’ll have to examine your bathroom and choose the layout that you feel is best. If centering isn’t the best option then the golden ratio can be a guide for an off-centered placement.


Now that you’ve figured out where to put your tile accent strip check out my post on how to avoid a common pitfall on installing them.

Don’t let your tile accent strip look like this




  1. I really like this article and usually layout my accent bands using this rule.

  2. I appreciate the comment, Brian. Thanks for checking my site out.

  3. We’re planning to put a single tall niche in a 9″ tall shower with two glass shelves creating two large sections for shampoo and one smaller one for soap and razors. We were thinking of starting 36″ from the floor (three tile widths) for 36″? Any other suggestions? Where would you put the glass shelves?

  4. We have 9 ft ceilings and walk- in shower will only be 8ft. Do I use the golden ratio for ceiling height or short height?

    • I apologize. I typed a comment to this but it seems to be missing.

      My instincts say to do it off of the 8′ height. I use the golden ratio as a guide. Stand back and see which looks best in the room.

  5. I meant ceiling height or shower height??

  6. Ok. This is weird! I taufght on the Golden Ratio today ( I am a math teacher) and tonight I am planning where place mosaic tile in the bathroom I am working on tomorrow. Why didn’t I think of this myself?!? Thank you so much. It will make everything I do feel more purposeful and beautiful.

  7. What if my shower tile only goes below the shower head? Would the accent go at the top or would it be better put lower down?

  8. Where do you put accent pieces on 8 foot ceiling where you are using 2 rows of accent and you have a niche? Do you put above and below niche separated by row of regular tile -using 6×24 horizontal.

    • I think the thing to do is to keep the accent liner at 5 foot-ish and figure out how to incorporate the niche. The accent can be above the niche, below, in between two niches, or wrap through. I’ve written two posts on niches and have a 3rd coming out on Tuesday morning. These posts have a lot of photos and examples of niches and also links to other resources to look at more and get design ideas.

  9. The entrance is 64″ wide and 55″ deep. I am planning on putting a black border tile, a smaller white tile, a smaller yet black tile with the interior space filled with hexagon shaped tile. How wide should each of my border tiles be or should i scrape the idea and start with something else?

    • The best way is to get the tiles in the space and play around with the layout, pattern, and sizes. Being efficient with the material is a factor also. For example, maybe you decide to make one of the pieces 5 inches because you can get two tiles out of one piece. Being in the room and designing it will work much better than trying to come up with something over the internet.

  10. we are doing a shower/tub combo project that also has a small window in the shower. We are using base tiles in large format (16×32). There are 77 inches above the tub. If we use your formula we will end up with a strange cut pattern in the 16″ tiles. Working from the tub up we were considering doing 2 full 16″ tiles and then putting the pattern at the 51″ mark, but that seems a bit low. If we do 3 16″ tiles then the pattern ends up at the 67″ mark which not only seems high but impacts the window which is there. The window would end up cutting through about 3″ of the strip pattern which seems problematic.

    So, if this were you would you do the placement of the strip lower – the 51″ mark, or do additional cuts in the tile to achieve your 60″ placement?

    And if you recommend tile cuts, would you recommend even cuts like cutting 3 16″ tiles down to 14″ each all the way around the tub, or conversely going 16″, 16″, 6″ above the tub and having that 6″ strip kind of be the odd ball tile in the whole shower.

    • I wouldn’t cut into a row of tile and if I did it would be in the center of the tile. The golden ratio is a guide. Here’s what I see the options being:

      1. Re-examine the layout: You’re talking about starting with full tile off of the tub. What if you started with full tile at the ceiling? What if you centered the window? Maybe started full under the window? Centered the top and bottom cuts?

      Take a look at it and see which layout works the best.

      2. Re-examine the accent: What if you went with one 16 inch tile off of the tub. This would put the accent at 3 foot-ish rather than 5 foot-ish which is still Golden ratio-ish.

      Maybe do something completely different. Vertical maybe? Something else?

      3. Eliminate the accent and go neat and clean. (I know. Probably not going to happen)

      4. Install it at 67 inches.Edit: I just reread the comment. I don’t think it’s a good idea to have it go partway through the window. It usually would go completely under the window or the window would completely interrupt it. Part way doesn’t work.

      If all else fails you could cut it into the middle which would be 59 inches? Not my favorite but possibly doable.

      • Thanks! We’re going to do the start with full tile at the ceiling as you suggest – that should work out perfectly! Thanks!

  11. Hello we have a tub shower combo we are tiling and have 8′ ceilings. If we use the golden ratio, it puts our mosaic strip that is 4 inches wide in the middle of our niche. I do not want to have the mosaic tile to go into our niche. What do you suggest we do go above the niche or below the niche ?

  12. I would look at what you can do differently. Can you lower the niche? Can run the accent 3 foot-ish instead of 5 foot-ish? What about using the mosaic only in the back of the niche and not as a horizontal accent? What about running it vertically?

    If all of those things are out you’ll have to just stand back and look at it. Do you want it around the middle or a foot or two from the ceiling? I think my vote is for the higher.

  13. Would it ever be proper to put transitions at 3′ and 5′ of 8′? Thanks so much. For example, square tiles up to 3′, then diagonal tiles to 5′, then back to square.

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