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4 Tips & Ideas to Jazz Up a Simple Subway Tile

Posted on January 26, 2021 by KylieMawdsley

4 Subway Tile Ideas for Your Kitchen Backsplash & Bathroom

As far back as the early 1900s, subway tile has been a top choice for tiled surfaces. Why? Well, there are a few reasons…


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).


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 1900s – it’s awesome. 


Subway tiles are a versatile product that can transition into a TON of styles depending on personal tastes, colour, layout, grout choice, etc…

How to pick the best subway tile pattern and product. Marble, brick layout, travertine, glass and more. Kylie M INteriors Edesign for backsplash or bathroom

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!

White contemporary kitchen with Cambria Ellesmere countertop on island. Off-white subway tile backsplash. Kylie M Interiors Decorating,Design and Online Color Consulting

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. 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)…

Small bathroom shower, subway tile, hexagon and Benjamin Moore Gray Cashmere paint colour. Kylie M E-design and Online Colour expert

White laundry room with mud room built-in benchs, hooks, cubbies, white subway tile, gray tile floor. Sherwin Williams High Reflective White, Kylie M Interiors online paint color consultant

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.

In this next photo, we chose a beautiful tumbled travertine subway tile for my local client. It complements the warm veins in her granite as well as the natural cherry cabinets…

Natural cherry cabinets, black granite, travertine tile subway backsplash, pot filler, stainless steel

Ideas to Update Older Granite Countertops

This next kitchen features a gorgeous marble subway tile backsplash, coordinated with the quartz countertop and white cabinets…

Kitchen with Sherwin Williams white cabinets, LG quartz countertop, marble subway tile backsplash white oak flooring. Kylie M INteriors Edesign, online paint colour consulting

Should I Paint My Cabinets White? And Which White is Best?

2. SUBWAY TILE IDEA – add colour & 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. The classic SHAPE of the subway tile gives you room to be brave with colour and style!

Benjamin Moore Amherst Gray painted cabinets, driftwood backspash in subway tile layout. Kylie M Interiors E-design

The 4 Best Gray & Greige Paint Colours for Kitchen Cabinets

I’m OBSESSED with this next blue subway tile with its hand-glazed look…

White Dove butlers pantry cabinets, Calacatta Botanica white quartz countertop, blue backsplash tile, wood floating shelves, black hardware. Kylie M Interiors Edesign

Benjamin Moore White Dove on cabinets and walls

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…

Gray subway tile shower surround with niche or alcove in hexagon shape marble tile for an accent by Kylie M INteriors

See this bathroom remodel HERE

3. SUBWAY TILE IDEA – tile edge & grout details

Traditionally, subway tiles are flat 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…

Glazed shiny gray subway tile in kitchen remodel with quartz countertops and white painted cabinets by Kylie M Interiors

I looove me a bevelled tile…

White kitchen cabinets with white bevelled subway tile backsplash, navy blue le creuset accents. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consulting and blogger

See the whole project HERE

You can also consider a unique glazed porcelain subway tile with dark grout to really define the pattern, as shown in this next kitchen…

Warm gray painted kitchen cabinets with gray subway tile and dark grout and Fulgor stove in kitchen with white oak flooring. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint colour consulting

See the before and afters of this kitchen HERE

The best paint colors for your room. Benjamin and Sherwin. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint colour consulting. Home Decorating and diiy ideas blogger.market

Click HERE or on the above image to see available packages

4. SUBWAY TILE IDEA – size & layout

As shown in a few of the previous photos, 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.

update to an almond bathroom with cream elongated subway tiles, espresso vanity and glass mosaic tile. Kylie M Interiors

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.

Cambria Ellesmere black quartz countertop, white kitchen cabinets and off-white light gray subway tile backsplash. Kylie M Interiors Decorating and Design

In this next photo, I LOVE the colour my clients chose for their kitchen cabinets – Benjamin Moore Kitty Gray. And they couldn’t have chosen a BETTER backsplash – love the elongated, glazed look!

Kitchen cabinets, shaker style doors painted Benjamin Moore Kitty Gray lightened, blue green gray backsplash tile, black countertops, stainless appliances. Kylie M INteriors Edesign, client photo (2)

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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Need help picking the perfect paint colour for your kitchen? 

Check out my affordable E-Design services!

Online paint colour consultant Benjamin Moore Sherwin Williams, Vancouver Island, USA, UK. Interior, exterior, edesign colors. Kylie M Interiors, blogger marketing

Kylie M Interiors Edecor and Edesign

Originally written in 2017, awesome updated in 2021


  1. Completely agree, Kylie! I love the simple, clean look of subway tiles. Have you noticed that many TV commercials with kitchen scenes have subway tiles? You just can’t go wrong. Great suggestions and thank you.

  2. Hi Kylie! I’m thinking of using Cambria’s Berwyn quartz. Should I use subway tiles or glass mosaic?What color schemes should I use? My kitchen cabinets are white. Thanks in advance!

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  3. Hi, My cabinets are a antiqued cream, my granite is white w/gray, cream & some purple spots. I am looking for a nice clean subway tile look for backsplash. Should I go w/a cream, linen or a light gray?

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      Hi Cheryl! With this kind of thing it’s always guessing without photos, but I’m inclined to say a cream that ties into the undertone of your cabinets or a gray that ties in to the flecks in your countertop!

  4. Hi Kylie,
    I’m going to put in white kitchen cabinets by Cliq studios. They only have one shade of white option. Is it ok to install shiny white subway (12″) if it’s whiter than cabinets? I’m going with white Quartz counters that have occasional gray veins like Carrara marble. The counter is definitely white but, again, not as bright as backsplash. I’m worried that the white cabs will look dingy. One professional said it would look good (he had my samples in showroom ) but in my own home’s lighting, it looks different. Darker lighting.
    Thanks, Joey Tamler

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  5. In your experience, which standard/common to find (not high end) white subway tile have you discovered is the most pure white of all (so many have a creamy or gray tinge to them)? Think BM “Super White” or Pratt & Lambert “Expert White”…

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      Hi Kirsten! You know what – none! It seems every supplier has their own subway tile and even then, when they put out another batch there can be small shift, so I always make sure the lot number on the boxes match, so I’m not mixing any whites! White subway tile is ALWAYS a tricky one. I’ve found that the matte finish subway tiles can look a touch more grayed out, whereas the glossy tend to give a more clean, crisp look…

  6. I have noticed a trend to use darker grout, six hours as grey even black, with white subway. WHat are your thoughts on that? Is that a fad that will be dated years from now?

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      Hi Bobbi, I’ve found that it’s more about what suits the kitchen, so while it is a bit trendy, if it pulls nicely into the countertops/flooring then it will look good! As long as the grout lines are very small…

  7. Hi, I just viewed your bathroom reno on Pinterest. I am 5 hours away from a city so I’m looking for suggestions before I head out. I purchased the bellatyne vanity from Lowes (partly because my husband was getting tired of me procrastinating lol) my home is basically beige lol. Could the tile you used on the floor be used on tub surround? I wish I could post my bathrooms on here but I’m obviouslytechnically devoid…..

  8. My husband and want to redo our countertops in the kitchen. Our cabinets are white and the backsplash will be mother of pearl small subway tile (staggered like brick). We’d like a black or darker colored countertops with Pearl incorporated into it. Glossy finish. Any suggestions which black to use? Black Pearl, Black Galaxy…or maybe you suggest a whole different idea. I don’t want the countertops to be in competition with the backsplash but to compliment.

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      Hi Christie, thank you for the note! When in comes to EXPENSIVE recommendations like countertops, it can be pretty risky to do without photos. I’ve also limited my consulting to just paint colours due to demand, so I’m sorry I won’t be able to help!

  9. I didn’t realize it came in different sizes. They installed my beveled 3×6 today. It feels a little busy. I’m hoping once appliances and personal touches are in it will feel better. Any suggestions.

  10. Kylie, the subway kitchen tiles are spot on for what I did with my kitchen. I opted for a canvas color for the cabinets (actually it’s very creamy as opposed to beige) this presented a problem as they have a slight yellow backnote and the island is a warm barley color. This ruled out white tile and I could not find a beige tile to work with. I did find a tile called french canvas (3×9) that has a mixture of warm grey, cooler grey and a vanilla tiles within the mix for the individual tiles. Oh, its very shiny which helps with the color contrasts. What I loved most in the kitchens you showed was that there wasn’t some decorative element in the area over the range. Thank you for showing me simplistic subway tiles at their best!

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      Wow, what a great comment to get Gail, thank you!!! It sounds like you really listened to your home and hit it right on the button!

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