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Subway Tile

Subway Tile Designs & How To Lay them

Few tiles are as ubiquitous as the classic subway tile. Subway tiles are quickly becoming the most popular tiles out there, with renovators choosing these dynamic tiles in the bathroom, kitchen and in various spaces around the home. The versatility and effortless chic of these tiles make them the perfect choice for contemporary and traditional homes. If you are hoping to use subway tiles but are unsure of how to incorporate them into your home and how to lay them, today we are going to cover all you need to know. 

A brief history of subway tiles

The first subway tile was designed and laid in 1904 to be used in the New York City subway system. This versatile tile was chosen for its sleek look and also because it presented an easy-to-clean option for New York City subway staff. The subway environment in the early 1900s was understandable and unclear given the technology and function of this transport, and the subway tile was the most hygienic option. There are many subway tile-inspired designs, but a true subway tile has the 3” by 6” rectangle dimensions. As time has gone on, we have seen different dimensions come into play but they still retain that subway tile look and feel.

What subway tile designs are there?

Do not be fooled into thinking that the subway tile is a straightforward and plain option, as there is a range of ways that you can lay a subway tile to achieve different designs and styles. If you are looking for inspiration for your bathroom and kitchen tiles, then here are some of the most popular options to get you thinking about your design.

  • Vertical stack
  • Vertical offset
  • Brick bond
  • Vertical brick bond
  • Herringbone
  • Offset herringbone
  • Basketweave

If these selections sound bamboozling to you, you might benefit from using these terms to search for inspiration on Pinterest to see what they look like in situ. Better yet, if you have a box of subway tiles or can access some, play around with creating these tile designs so you can see for yourself what you like.

Tilemall Mould Tile Pink 1

What style of subway tiles is available?

If you have decided on a subway tile, your decisions making is not over just yet. You will need to select the size, shape, colour and texture that you want. As previously mentioned, the typical dimensions of a subway tile are 3” by 6”, but they can be smaller, longer or slimmer. Some other popular dimensions are 2×4, 2×8, 3×12, 4×8, 6×12 and 4×12.

The subway tiles used in the New York City subway systems have a gloss to them, but you can also find them in a matte texture. There is also the option of having a straight edge or a bevelled edge. The straight-edged subway tile can make the area look sleek and sophisticated, and the bevelled edge creates a natural and intriguing finish.

Subway tiles can also come in a natural stone tile, porcelain tile or glazed tile. These differences might seem subtle to the naked eye, but you can feel the difference in the surface feel, and even the temperature of the tile. Tilemall has a wide selection of subway tile styles so that you can find the suitable size, colour and texture for your unique home design.

What are some of the top subway tile trends?

Now that we have covered the various designs and styles of subway tiles let’s take a look at where we are seeing these tiles in the home and why. In recent years, renovators have chosen to include bold colours in their kitchen, which is why the subway tile has become a popular splashback kitchen tile. Deep greens and blues have been some of the more prominent colours, as well as various pastel selections. The classic straight lines and rectangle shape can work in with any kitchen design, appliance choice and competing surfaces. The brick bond and herringbone subway tile designs are the more prominent designs, but what you choose may depend on the area you are working with.

Stylish laundry splashbacks have also become a popular subway tile trend, and savvy renovators have even used their remaining tiles in this space to give it modern spruce. Using the same tile design, colour and type throughout the home can create a cohesive look and feel. If you are choosing to use the same subway tile in more than one room, stick with the same design so that it does not look too messy.

Shower tiles have always been plain, white squares and lacking in inspiration, but that was before the subway tile trend expanded into wet areas. The simplicity of these subway tiles makes it perfect to accompany dramatic tapware and shower fixtures. The clean lines also make it easy to include a shower recess, which is another huge bathroom tile trend on the rise.

Next steps for choosing your subway tiles

If you have married down your choice to a few different subway tiles, then you might get value in utilising Tilemall’s sample tile service. This allows you to receive a sample selection so that you can place them in the room in question and get a better understanding of how this kitchen tile or bathroom tile will work in with your existing design concept. If you are unsure whether you want a traditional look or a bold statement look, ensure there is both a white subway tile and a colour subway tile in your sample selection. Colour selection is always a personal choice, but remember to choose a style that works with your room and not against it.


We hope this has been an informative guide to subway tile designs, how to lay them and where they can be utilised in your home. Tilemall has a comprehensive range of subway tiles to suit your kitchen, laundry and bathroom, with a playful selection of colours. Be sure to explore our other articles to get inspiration for your tiling projects, renovations and home refresh.

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