How to use subway tiles in home design

Subway Tiles are one of the timeless choices of materials for walls. They have been around for more than a century and interior designers have experimented and created eye-catching designs with different types of Subway Tiles. 

In this post, we want to give you a complete guide on how to use Subway Tiles in your home design. 


Table of Content 


What are Subway Tiles 

Subway tiles are rectangular-shaped tiles are often come in a 75x150 mm size. They come in various materials and finishes. 

white subway tile with brick pattern

Their origin goes back to New York subway stations in the early 1900s. Subway tiles are recognised for their neat and tight joint lines, and are considered a classic design for designing many modern spaces.

New York subway in the early 20th century. There is a man wearing black coat and hat

One of the characteristics of Subway tiles is that they are highly versatile and can be matched beautifully with almost any other materials such as timber, porcelain and stone mosaics.


 Types of Subway Tiles? 

Subway Tiles can be made from ceramic, porcelain or natural stone. However, nowadays they are mostly either ceramics or porcelain. Marble or stale subway tiles are not very popular today for different reasons, mainly because porcelain and ceramic tiles are easier to maintain and more affordable. 

white subway tile with herringbone pattern

The iconic size for Subway Tiles is 75x150 mm but nowadays they come in different sizes such as 300x75 mm, 300x100 mm and 240x60 mm.

dark subway tile sample

Subway tiles became famous in the early 1900s for their gloss and shiny look.  The iconic look of Subway tiles today is still the gloss finish, however, the matte finish is also available. 

pink subway tile

Interior designers often use gloss Subway tiles for bathrooms, kitchens or walls, because the highly coated surface makes it easier to clean and is too slippery for flooring.


Installation Patterns 

How you lay your Subway Tiles is crucial because it affects the look and atmosphere it creates. Different installation patterns are used for different spaces and purposes. 

When choosing an installation pattern for your tiles, try to pick one that complements your space and design. 

There are many installation patterns. Here are some of the popular patterns you might choose for your Subway Tiles:

  • Brick Lay Pattern 
  • brick-lay-pattern-subway-tiles

    This is the most recognised pattern that gives the classic and timeless look of Subway Tiles. 

    This pattern is commonly used in kitchens as it gives a nice eloquent look to backsplash areas in kitchens. 

    If you are using this pattern it’s a good idea to have a grout of the opposite shade to make the pattern stand out. 

  • Stacked Pattern 
  • horizontal-stacked-pattern-subway tiles

    You can lay your tiles in a stacked pattern to have a more modern look. The stacked pattern is minimalistic and contemporary. It is recommended for kitchens and living rooms. 

  • Herringbone Pattern
  • traditional-herringbone-pattern-subway-tiles

    The herringbone pattern draws more attention to details. Often used for kitchen backsplash, this is a stylish choice for laying your Subway Tiles on any walls. 

    There are multiple variations of herringbone patterns such as straight or diagonal herringbone. 

  • Vertical Pattern 
  • vertical-pattern-subway-tiles

    The vertical pattern is a great choice for small bathrooms when installed floor to ceiling. This will make your bathroom look more spacious and fresh. 


    This pattern draws the attention upward. 



    Like other porcelain and ceramic tiles, Subway Tiles come in many different colours, with gloss to matt finishes. 

    The iconic subway tiles look is white or vanilla colour tiles with dark grout, but nowadays we see many interior designers using various colours and shades for Subway tiles in different spaces. 

    There are no right or wrong colours for Subway tiles and you can get creative and inspired by designs you like to use Subway tiles differently. Here we provide some basic guidelines and tips on how to choose the right colour for your Subway tiles.

    a bedroom with blue subway tiles on the headboard

    If you are tiling a small space, you can choose white or vanilla Subway Tiles to make the space look bigger and if are tiling a larger room you can use darker shades to give it some character.

    Also, consider the finish. For instance, Subway Tiles with a bevelled finish are a great choice for heritage kitchens and gloss tiles work well with contemporary looks. 

    Ask yourself whether you want the tiles to blend in with the rest of the design or do you want them to stand out. This can help you decide on the colour. Consider balance with the rest of the design.

    spacious bathroom with white subway tiles laid in herringbone pattern

    If your floor tiles are decorative and you intend to draw attention to them, it’s best to choose Subway Tiles’ colour something of bright shades to balance it out and not overwhelm the design. 



    Just like the tiles' colour and type of finish, grouts can change the look of the space. The classic look of Subway tiles is a combination of white gloss tiles and black grout. 

    a study room with beige tiles flooring and black subway tiles on a feature wall.

    Many people still like this classic and timeless look, but you can experiment with different colours of grout to make your space look unique.

    For a seamless and slick look use the same grout colour as your tiles. You might need to order custom-colour grout to match your tiles’ colour. 

    a restaurant with blue subway tiles and timber flooring

    Choosing a contrasting grout colour will give your tiles some depth with the pattern it creates. 

    Bare in mind, that cleaning grouts with lighter colours might be more difficult than darker shades. 

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