4 Tips & Ideas to Jazz Up a Simple Subway Tile
As far back as the early 1900s, subway tile has been a top choice for tiled surfaces. Why? Well, there are a few reasons…
Subway tile is budget-friendly
The average kitchen needs 30 sq ft of backsplash. You can easily find FABULOUS subway tiles for under $8 sq ft. So, worst case scenario your tile is going to cost $250 (do not check my math on that one). Best case scenario you’re looking at approx. $90 (plus grout and spacers).
Subway tile is timeless
If you stick with good old white/off-white in a standard subway tile layout you will get YEARS worth of style out of it. There’s a good reason why this tile has been kickin’ it since the early 1900’s – it’s awesome.
Subway tile is flexible
Subway tiles are a versatile product that can transition into a TON of styles depending on personal tastes, colour, layout, grout choice, etc…
And while subway tile might sound boring, being so ‘affordable, practical, timeless, etc…’ there are some SUPER fab ways to jazz it up to make it LOOK like you spent more money, without bustin’ out the kid’s piggy banks!
Kylie M Interiors E-Design
1. Subway Tile Idea – Choose your material carefully
Traditionally, a subway tile would be porcelain or ceramic but you can get the subway tile PATTERN in any number of products such as marble, travertine, glass and more – so don’t limit yourself to what has always been done, see what else is out there!
Let’s start out simple with none other than the classic white subway tile (two different sizes)…
Notice that in BOTH of the above projects, the grout is a soft gray, which accents the brick layout of the subway tile, whereas white grout would have blended more.
This next bathroom shows subway tile OUTSIDE of its normal zone, acting as a backsplash to the freestanding tub. Also, notice the soft greige colour and elongated size of it…
In this next photo, we chose a beautiful tumbled travertine subway tile for my local client. It complemented the warm veins in her granite as well as the natural cherry cabinets.
This next kitchen features a gorgeous marble subway tile backsplash, coordinated with the quartz countertop and white cabinets.
2. Subway Tile Idea – Adding colour and texture
Choosing a subway tile in a colour (solid or mixed tones) is a great way to keep things classic and simple, while still adding a personal touch. So, whether you love the relaxing colour of sea glass or the textured look of a tone-on-tone tile, you can be braver with colour when you’re using a classic style of tile size and layout.
Kylie M Interiors E-Design
In this next photo, I’m SUPER happy with how this shower surround turned out with its glazed greige porcelain tile. Look at the subtle texture/dimension…
In this next photo (similar tile, different bathroom), notice that while the tile is flat (unlike the above tile), it still has a hazy, glazed look to it.
See this bathroom remodel HERE
3. Subway Tile Idea – Tile and grout details
Traditionally, subway tiles are pretty flat looking with very slightly rounded edges. While this is a ‘timeless and classic’ approach, you can also jazz things up with a bevel, reverse bevel or glazed finish as shown below…
And of course, I looove me a bevelled tile…
See the whole project HERE
And of course, you could consider a unique glazed porcelain subway tile with dark grout to really define the patterns, as shown in this next kitchen…
See the before and afters of this kitchen HERE
Click HERE or on the above image to see available packages
4. Subway Tile Idea – Size and layout
You can also jazz things up via tile size to add a slightly different look to your tile installation.
In this next bathroom, we chose an elongated 4×12 cream coloured subway tile in a staggered layout. It suits the shape of the floor tile (12×24) and the warm tones are softer than the traditional white.
Next up, with its matching grout, the 4×12 off-white subway tile is a subtle complement to the white cabinets and quartz countertop. My clients were wanting a more contemporary look so we did a stacked layout, rather than a brick layout.
In this next photo, I LOVE the colour my clients chose for their kitchen cabinets – BM Kitty Gray. And they couldn’t have chosen a BETTER backsplash – love the elongated, glazed look!
And seriously, there are MANY more ways to play with subway tile and I’m sure I’ll be writing ANOTHER long-winded blog post on this topic – but for now, that’s it!
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Originally written in 2017, awesome updated in 2019