I usually pick out a cheap field tile the 16"x16" are eighty cents a sqft. at Lowes. Then secret is to look on the bottom shelf and there are usually ripped bags of thinset and grout for 1/2 off or more. I was able to get a bag of thin set for 1/2 off $2.50 and a free bag of grout. My total came to $19.50 for a 4x5 bathroom.
So let's do this!
(forgive the bad pictures)
Step 1: Layout Your Tile
Layout your tile somewhere flat and be sure to put in your spacers. Then just draw a curved river. I like to hold two pencils in my hand at once to keep the lines evenly spaced. Then with the river drawn out I lightly trace the lines with my grinder. This way your lines don't wash away when you cut the tiles.
Step 2: Cutting Tiles
The trick to cutting the tiles is keep the tiles wet and make light passes. If your tiles break your pressing to hard. Should take about 5 light passes. I usually just get a $10 tile blade for my grinder is works almost as well as the expensive ones.
Step 3: Start Tiling. Why Rush?
I'm not really going to get deep in to how to tile but here are a few hints.
Mix your mud so it looks like peanut butter. Then let it sit for 10 minutes.
Make sure you mud the back of the tiles "and" the floor before setting tile.
*Best hint someone gave me. Tiles move after you set them so start by laying the tile right next to the last tile you put down and slide it in the mud away form the other tile then adding your spacer. This way tile will want to suck back towards that tile and squeeze your spacer instead of floating apart.
Your first row of tiles is the most important. Measure your area and if it's not square. Usually they are not. Then just split the difference with the tiles. In such a small area you should be fine.
Be creative but be square.
Step 4: Man You Are Cheap!
After you finish laying down the tile, fill the center space half full with mud. I used pee gravel from my driveway for the river. You can use anything just make sure it's smooth and not raised up to high. Think about what it would feel like when you have bare feet.
Hint: If you go to Michael's Craft Store river rocks are a lot cheaper then anywhere else and you can always finds 40% coupons online.
Step 5: Wait! Then Wait Some More!
Wait overnight before you grout. Typically you would want to try and match the grout with the tile. That way it really hides any pieces that are not 100% straight. (I was just being different when i used dark grout)
Now that your almost done wait over night again before setting your toilet. Then wait three days to two weeks to seal your grout. Depending on what your grout label says. If you have young boys like me you really want to seal your grout soon!
Step 6: Couple More Tips.
You should remove the cabinet and anything else in the bathroom. Mine was glued to the wall so i cut the front legs about 3/8 above the floor with a multi-tool. One of the vibrating saws and slide my tile under it.
Use two wax rings when setting the toilet again
Creative does not have to mean slow! Yes, it takes a little longer to make a river but if you just focus and continue working you should be able to complete the job in a few hours. If you are just doing it for fun find every rock one at a time at the beach and enjoy.
Cutting around toilets can suck but if you did the river you should be a pro. It does not have to be perfect since the toilet covers a lot more then just the hole. If you only have a table saw make multiple cuts in a circle pattern then just snap the pieces off for the toilet hole.
The small imperfection that you notice will disappear with the some color grout.
A different idea instead of gravel or rocks is to fill the river with grout let it setup for a hour of so and stamp it. I have used kids toys (fish, sea stars etc) just make sure you spray the toys with pam or grease before you stamp it. You can then acid sketch it. It's all up to you be creative but make sure the field tiles are strait and square.
Just have fun and be creative.