Designing with Subway Tile

Whether you want to go classic or contemporary, subway tile can help you create the perfect look.

Designing with Subway TileIt’s been over 100 years since the New York City subway system first popularized a certain type of tile we now know as “subway tile.” The durable, attractive, versatile tile quickly made its way into residential design, especially as bathroom tile. Recently, it has enjoyed a veritable explosion in popularity. Here are some tips to help you use subway tile in your space.

How to Create a Classic Look

If you want to create a classic, timeless look that hearkens back to subway tile’s early days, all you have to do is make sure you hit these four requirements for your design:

  • Tile Size: The typical size for a vintage subway tile is 3 x 6 inches.
  • Tile Color: The quintessential subway tile is a white-glazed ceramic, though colored tiles were occasionally used to create borders.
  • Tile Layout: Traditionally, subway tile was laid in an offset pattern much like you find in brick buildings. It was most commonly used as wall tile though some subway stations did feature tile on the ceilings as well.
  • Grout Color: Since the low-maintenance aspect of subway tile was a huge factor behind its adoption, naturally most designs called for a slightly darker grout color that would stand up to dirt and discoloration better.

Contemporary Design Tips for Subway Tile

By playing with any of the four design elements described above, you can easily use subway tile to create a more contemporary design for virtually any room in your home or business. Here are some examples of contemporary tweaks that are currently very popular:

Large Format Tile: Choosing a larger size tile that still maintains the proportions of subway tile (twice as long as it is high) is a very easy way to create a contemporary look that still maintains a certain degree of classic appeal.

Bold Colors & Finishes: Another excellent way to use subway tile in a more contemporary space is to explore beyond the classic white tile. These days you can find subway tile in virtually every color imaginable, including this year’s top shades. You may also want to consider trying out tiles that have an unusual finish such as a crackle glaze, a color wash, or a metallic finish.

Glass Subway Tile: Glass subway tile is very popular right now, especially for kitchen backsplashes and other accent tile uses. The glass captures light and creates a much more dynamic look than ordinary ceramic subway tile. It is an excellent way to get a bit more of an exciting design without necessarily having to choose a bold color.

Contemporary Layouts: One final design update that will positively scream contemporary is to use a grid pattern instead of the traditional offset pattern. A few designers are even starting to orient the tiles vertically—either offset or in a grid—which not only creates an unexpected look but helps to make low ceilings appear higher.

Want More Inspiration?

If you are looking for more tile design inspiration for any room in your home or business, come to Mission Tile West today.