Subway Tile Inspiration

Why Subway Tile is a Solid Choice

white kitchen with grey island, black granite and subway tile

If there’s a tile that takes the cake for versatility, cost effectiveness, and timelessness, it’s subway tile.

As trendy as it is at the moment, there’s a reason designers come back to it time and again. The variety of options available – from classic white to beveled and patterned – gives it plenty of individuality, while practically, it’s a great way to get a high-quality design for an affordable price. And as a bonus, subway tiles are typically easier to install (and clean!) than more complex patterns.

So, to get you started, we’ve rounded up some tips and inspiration to get you dreaming about your remodel. Scroll below to see some of our favorite trends today.

RELATED: Get Fast and Affordable Interior Design Advice

Traditional Tile Styles

Your typical subway tile look is about as classic as it gets – flat, white, and simple. It’s perfect for giving a room a streamlined look, whether you’re adding it to a kitchen or bar backsplash, or using it on your shower and bathroom walls. With a clean white tile, you’ve got the flexibility to shift the overall style of the room as the years pass, and it pairs perfectly with contrasting tile patterns, wall colors, and a wide variety of design trends.

Basement Bar
Crisp white subway tile backsplash pops against the darker shelves of this basement bar / Design by Carla Bast Design
White subway tiles with black grout
White subway tiles make this shower feel open, bright, and airy / Design by Carla Bast Design
White subway tile backsplash pops against dark kitchen cabinets and butcher block counters
Paired with dark navy cabinets and butcher block countertops, white subway tile it’s the perfect neutral backsplash / Source

RELATED: Are White Kitchens Timeless or Trendy?

 

Non-Traditional Tile Styles

Subway tiles don’t have to stick to only traditional white and flat looks. If you want to branch out from the crowd and add a splash of personality to your design, go for a larger-sized subway tile, or one that’s glass as opposed to ceramic. You can even play with different color schemes, and with everything from green and blue to marbled white and gray, there are endless options to choose from. Mixing and matching is always a good bet, too, if you want to try a couple of complementary tile designs for different areas of the room (think an accent tile wall in the shower or behind the kitchen sink).

 
A white and bright kitchen with white and gray marbled subway tile
White and gray marbled subway tile give this kitchen a textured look with plenty of visual movement / Source
Black subway tiled wall in bathroom
Black subway tile makes this bathroom stand out, and the dark walls help the décor elements pop / Source

Grout Colors

While your tile color and size makes an impact, your grout is just as important (and a detail many people forget to focus on). There’s a wide range of grout colors available, and the shade you choose can completely shift the look of your subway tile within the room. Typically darker grouts are going to make your white tiles pop, but they can also make for a busier look overall, so the key with these is to keep the rest of the room simple. On the other hand, lighter grouts will make for a more streamlined and clean look, though they are more prone to stains and discoloration. Whichever way you go, be sure to put some thought into your color choice and determine which design option is the best for you, and which one will pair best with your ideal subway tile.

White subway tile backsplash with white grout in kitchen
Simple white subway tile is paired with white grout for a subtle and refined look in this coffee bar kitchen corner / Design By Carla Bast
Powder Blue Subway Tiles Paired with Gray Grout
A creamy gray grout is used with this powder blue tile for a rustic and natural feel / Source
Dark grout pairs with white subway tile in this basement bar for a gorgeous look
Dark grout makes this bar’s white subway tile backsplash pop and create visual interest / Design By Carla Bast Design

Unique Patterns (Vertical / Herringbone)

Tired of the usual subway tile layout? Change it up! Laying your tiles vertically or in a herringbone pattern allows you to keep to the subway tile trend while still getting creative and creating a unique visual tableau. Sometimes a little tweak can give a classic style a whole new look.

A unique kitchen backsplash with white subway tiles in a herringbone pattern
White subway tile is arranged in a herringbone pattern for this kitchen backsplash / Source
This bathroom uses sea foam green glass subway tiles for a subtle and chic color pop
Sea foam green glass subway tiles are arranged vertically to accentuate the height of the room / Source
White Subway Tile Arranged Vertically and Horizontally
Traditional white subway tiles combine vertical and horizontal placements for a unique shower wall pattern / Source

Textured Tile (Beveled / Catalina)

Beveled and Catalina styles are great options if you want a bit of texture added to your tiles without going in a completely different color direction. With beveled tile, you get extra depth and each tile is defined individually while still working together as a whole – these are particularly beautiful in kitchens as backsplashes. Catalina styles give the subway tile trend a purposefully imperfect vibe – the uneven surface makes the space feel natural and weathered. It’s a softer look that looks gorgeous in any space.

Kitchen backsplash with vertically-arranged white Catalina subway tiles
Catalina subway tile is arranged vertically, giving this kitchen backsplash a calm and serene vibe / Source
Kitchen backsplash uses cream beveled subway tiles for a sophisticated look
Cream beveled subway tile adds texture and depth to this kitchen backsplash / Source
Kitchen backsplash with gray Catalina subway tiles
Soft gray Catalina-style subway tile is the perfect addition to this kitchen and gives it instant visual contrast / Source

Shine vs. Matte

One other consideration for your tiles is whether you want to opt for a high shine or a more matte version. Both are beautiful, and there are versions between the two that strike a nice balance. But the thing to keep in mind when making your decision is the overall feeling you want your room to evoke. High shine tiles are a bit more showy and reflect light quite strongly, meaning that if you want to make a statement, that’s the perfect match. Matte or low shine tiles, conversely, will make things feel more subtle and sophisticated.

Kitchen with Bright White Subway Tiles
This kitchen backsplash uses a high shine white subway tile to add a touch of glam to the space / Design By Carla Bast Design
Bathroom Shower with Matte White Subway Tiles and White Grout
A matte white subway tile is added to this bathroom, pairing perfectly with the matte black faucets and hardware / Source
White Subway Tiles in High Shine Reflect Light
The bright shine on this kitchen’s subway tiles makes the backsplash pop underneath the lights / Source

So, are you more of a traditional subway tile aficionado? Or are you all about making a bold statement with a bright blue glass style? Whatever your preference, we think it’s a tile you simply can’t go wrong with. Get creative, and you’re sure to find the perfect tile style for your space.

By Megan Johansson, Contributor to Carla Bast Design

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