Subway Tile Ideas: A New Take on an Old Classic

Subway tile continues to be a popular and timeless look in kitchens and bathrooms, and for good reason.  Subway tile is classic and it’s a look that works for many different styles, designs and tastes.  I talk to kitchen clients who are making changes in their homes, and many of them worry that subway tile is overdone, or too trendy.  I disagree.  The great thing about it is that you can change it up and make it your own – with different colors, textures and patterns.  Let’s take a look at how you can change up this classic with some fresh takes on subway tile ideas.

Subway Tile Ideas: A New Take on an Old Classic

Classic Subway Tile

Let’s start with what I think most of us envision when we think about subway tile – white tile with white or dark grout like you see here in this beautiful bathroom.  It’s clean, it’s classic, it’s gorgeous.  And don’t get me wrong – I’m not criticizing this look at all.  I love a classic subway tile look.

It’s equally beautiful in a kitchen.  Look how the subway tile goes from floor to ceiling in this kitchen.  Who says timeless can’t be bold?

And let’s face it, the appeal of subway tile is that it gives you such a clean backdrop for design to shine.  It’s there, and you notice and admire it, but it still allows the other design elements to take center stage.

So let’s look at ways we can change things up with subway tile.  There are so many possibilities!  

Subway Tile Idea #1: Go Big

One option for a new spin on subway tile, is to change the size of the tile.  Rather than go with the “standard size”, if your space can handle it, go bigger.  You still get the clean lines and subway style, but the larger size gives it some added interest.  Look closely at the tile backsplash in this kitchen.  Still subway, but a larger scale.  With the large window, tall cabinetry, daring range hood and stunning flooring, this kitchen can handle the scale.

 To make it even more interesting, they tiled all of the kitchen walls.  Talk about bold.  But it is so gorgeous, don’t you think?

Subway Tile Idea #2: Add Color

Subway tile can be a focal point when you choose a tile with color.  You can be bold with it – and that’s really where it draws you into the space and serves as a show stopper.  I’ve seen some black subway tile in home design lately, and it’s definitely eye-catching and really sharp looking.  Check out this gorgeous black subway tile backsplash that was in a basement bar of a local home that’s for sale.

Subway Tile Ideas - Black subway tile in a basement bar

You know I’m smitten with this gorgeous navy subway tile that my friend Cyndy shared at The Creativity Exchange.  The whole navy tile trend is so pretty.  She did a whole blog post on navy tile trends that you don’t want to miss!

Subway Tile Ideas: Navy Subway Tile in Wood Toned Kitchen

And sometimes, just a little bit of subtlety goes a long way.  Choose a subway tile in a muted color to add some contrast to your space.  This pretty warm gray subway tile transformed this kitchen that I recently painted (walls were yet to be painted when I took this photo).

Warm Gray Subway Tile

Using a subway tile with a soft hue also allows for other tile to take the spotlight.  Look at how pretty this subway tile looks, paired with the beautiful patterned tile on the floor.  It adds to the story, but doesn’t have to be the star of the show.

Subway Tile Idea #3: Play with Pattern

The other great thing about subway tile is that you have so many options in terms of how you lay out the tile.  That in itself can be a game changer.  This bathroom from last year’s Homearama does double duty – they went bold with the color, and added even more interest with the tile layout.  It still sticks with me – so bold and striking!

Black subway tile bathroom design

A herringbone pattern with subway tile is always a classic winner, in my opinion.  It gives you some interest, in that it deviates from the standard subway tile layout, but is equally timeless.  And I love that this tile backsplash material mimics brick.  So unexpected!

If you really want to be interesting, how about a double herringbone tile layout?  This bathroom from The Stables really knocks it out of the park.  The tile layout is interesting, and the color and texture of the tile draw you in as well.

A crosshatch design with subway tile is another one that I think is under appreciated.  Look how pretty it looks as a tiled wall in this bathroom from Caitlin Wilson Design.

Do you have subway tile in your home?  Are you looking to add it?  I think this is one area where you really can’t mess it up – it’s just that timeless.



  • Reply
    January 8, 2022 at 1:06 pm

    Do you know where the bathroom vanity with the white farmhouse style sink is from? It’s gorgeous!

    • Reply
      January 11, 2022 at 3:27 pm

      Sorry – I don’t have that information.

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.