Back to Journal

Art of the subway tile

With endless options of colours and styles, the subway tile is the perfect tile choice for your bathroom. From ultra affordable to serious luxury, there is a reason why everyone is going mad for these tiles!

subway tile bathroom
Art of the subway tile
Lori Bolon
July 14, 2022

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
This article was originally posted on Making Space, a Substack penned by our Cofounder, Matteo Grand. Subscribe below to receive more content just like this.

It doesn't matter what your design aesthetic is or your budget, the subway tile is truly universal and better yet, timeless. With so many options out there, it’s the perfect tile for your bathroom or kitchen. Originally designed in 1904 for the New York subway stations, the subway tiles have come a long way and have since been on the rise. From rustic rooms to modern marvels, the subway tile is featured across some of the best homes internationally. And there is a reason for it; they are durable, classic, endlessly versatile and insanely affordable. They also provide opportunity for bold colour, contrast with grout, play with pattern, or keeping it simple, the limit does not exist. So we're spotlighting the trend that will never die with 15 chic spaces featuring the beloved subway tile.

1. Keep It Classic  

Subway tiles are beloved for their classic timeliness, so keep things classic with a white repeating bond pattern with grout to match. If you want something a little more lux opt for a gloss finish.

Amber Lewis Bathroom Subway Classic Tile Portaire
Interiors by Amber Lewis

2. Have it in Herringbone

Another way to bring timelessness to your subway tile is to lay the tile in a herringbone pattern. We absolutely love the earthy feel of this terracotta subway tile!

Moroccan Bathroom Subway Tile Rustic Interiors
Interiors by Studio Ezra

3. Play with Direction

The subway tile is the perfect option if you want to get creative. Why not play with the direction for an effective and affordable design detail?

Direction subway tile teracotta and white bathroom ideas
Interiors by TRIAS Studio

4. Great Grouting

Getting creative with the subway tile seems like an obvious choice, but getting creative with the grout is seriously cool. Opting for a matching grout colour and playing with the grout thickness is something we are loving at the moment.

Moii Creative Studio Portaire Grout solutions for bathroom renovation
Interiors by Mooi Creative

5. Go Colourful

This stunning green subway tile shows that the subway can work in any colour. With endless colour options available, the subway tile is a great choice if you want to bring colour into your bathroom. Mixing with a small amount of marble in this bathroom means this affordable tile looks luxurious.

Green subway tile marble bathroom interior ideas
Interiors by Hecker Guthrie

6. Play with Pattern

One of the best parts of the subway tile is the endless options and patterns you can create. This cross hatch laid subway tile is a great way to bring texture into your bathroom whilst still keeping it timeless. Using a contrasting grout colour will really accentuate the pattern.

Cross-hatch subway tile white bathroom luxury interiors
Interiors by Caitlin Wilson Design

7. Dare to go Dark

Matte black subway tiles with grout to match certainly gives you that masculine and moody feel. Using the straight stack pattern provides a more structured aesthetic and we suggest using this if you want to create the ultimate bachelor pad.

Black bathroom masculine interiors moody design
Interiors by Emily Henderson

8. Meet me Half Way

You don’t have to commit to the subway tile everywhere to get the effect. We love the use of mixing the materials half way, and even better with marble to create a luxurious feel.

Mim Design Melbourne Interiors Lux Bathroom Ideas
Interiors by Mim Design

9. Get Vertical

Though most opt for the running stack pattern, why not flip it on its head and lay the tiles vertically? This is a great idea if you have low ceiling heights to make the room look taller.

Decus Interiors Modern Rustic Bathroom Ideas Interiors
Interiors by Decus Interiors

10. Create Contrast

If you want the industrial New York Loft look, opt for a contrasting grout colour. This small decision creates a totally different feel, and certainly makes the tiles more of a feature. We love this bathroom in the beautiful Williamsburg Hotel in NYC.

Willaimsburg Hotel Loft Bathroom Interior Portaire
Interiors by Michaelis Boyd

11. Make it Marble

Looking for a more luxurious look? Why not get marble subway tiles and lay them in a herringbone pattern. The herringbone pattern of the Calacatta floor tile feels classic, luxe, and somehow fresh even though it is a traditional design. We suggest pairing it with gold toned hardware.

Marble Luxury Bathroom Interiors Hamptons Design
Interiors by The Fox Group

12. Size Matters

Whoever says size doesn't matter was wrong! Playing with the size of your subway tiles is another simple and effective option. Using a grout colour to match the tile creates a textured and interesting wall finish.

Rustic Minimal Bathroom Interiors Calming Neutral Palette
Interiors by Manuel Aires Mateus

13. Really Rustic

When we think of the subway tile, the classic white tile comes to mind but recently the Moroccan style subway tile is making a huge appearance in the interior industry. If you are looking for an earthier and more rustic feel we suggest this!

Portaire Mediterranean Bathroom Interiors Sydney Style Terracotta tiles
Interiors by CM Studio & Romi Weinberg

14. Waterproofing Wallpaper

We love the use of wallpaper in a bathroom, as it brings in softness and can certainly help you achieve that show stopping feature. It is however not always great around wet areas, which is where the subway tile comes in. Why not tile the bathroom half way and wallpaper the rest? Talk about green with envy..

Wallpaper Bathroom Green with Envy Green and Gold Interiors
Interiors by Divine Savages

15. Mix and Match

Last but certainly not least mix and match your subway tiles! We love the use of mixing black and white subway tiles in this bathroom to create an interesting and unique floor design.

Fraher and Finlay London Interiors Pink Bathroom Black and White Marble tiles
Interiors by Fraher and Finley

I'm sure by now we have convinced you the subway tile is truly versatile and looks great in any bathroom, regardless of your style and budget.


Any other ideas on the subway tile, we would love to hear. Please share in the comments section below.