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SUBWAY TILES: 5 Ideas to Make Your Backsplash More Interesting

Posted on November 26, 2023 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…


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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, color, 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.



If you’re here for white subway tiles, have I got some beauties for you! We’ll get a bit more wild and crazy(ish) below, but let’s start with the basics…


3×6 subway tile is the tighty-whitey undie of the tile world. It’s classic, it suits a wide range of homes and styles, and is timeless in the right situation. What it comes down to is choosing the RIGHT white for your space.

This laundry room below suits this clean, crisp white subway tile as it matches the Sherwin Williams High Reflective White cabinets and trim…

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

To add a bit of depth and variation, the grout is a mid-toned gray to show the brick-bond, classic subway tile layout. It also connects with the dark charcoal-black 12×24 tile floor.

This next tile isn’t a traditional 3×6 size, but it has great white bones for this space…

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

Trends may come and go, but THIS bathroom will keep on kickin’.

This next kitchen has a white subway tile with light gray grout and a slightly glazed look, two topics we’ll be hitting shortly…

Off-white warm gray painted kitchen cabinets, Sherwin Williams Eider White with light gray quartz, stainless steel and subway tile

Notice that ALL THREE of the above projects have non-white grout. This is a great way to show off the running bond/traditional subway tile layout. If the grout is white, the pattern will blend in.

This next kitchen’s subway tile backsplash was made more interesting by the tile inset behind the stove…

Kitchen update, painted white cabinets, Sherwin Williams Pure White Vadara White Aura quartz. subway tile, wood floor, rattan island stools. Kylie M Edesign

Sherwin Williams Pure White

Don’t get me wrong, I think it looks BEAUTIFUL as the kitchen is styled to support it. However, if you want a timeless look with mass appeal (for resale), stay away from any extra detail either behind the stove or in any other form (i.e., no racing stripes – they’re definitely early 2000s).

BTW, notice how the white subway tiles recede in the above photo as it has WHITE GROUT. Compare this to the previously shown projects.



Choosing a subway tile in a color (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 braver with color 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 glazed-looking tile), notice that while the tile is flat (unlike the above tile), it still has a hazy, glazed look…

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

This next photo is a great angle showing the glazing of this warm gray subway tile with soft, light gray grout…

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



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 glazed finish (as shown in some of the above images) or a bevel or reversed bevel, as shown below…

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

I looove me a beveled tile.



Traditionally, a subway tile would be porcelain or ceramic. However, you can get the beauty and timeless nature of a subway tile PATTERN in any number of products such as…

  • marble
  • travertine
  • glass (rarely my fave – too 2000s)
  • natural stone
  • glazed ceramic

Kitchen, wood floor, MSI Miraggio Duo white quartz countertop, gold brass cabinet hardware, Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace Kylie M Interiors, online paint color consulting, marble subway tile backsplash.

Don’t limit yourself to what has always been done, see what else is out there!

In this next photo, we chose a beautiful tumbled travertine subway tile for my local client (in the early/mid-2000s based on the palette). 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

Backsplash Ideas to Update a 2000s Kitchen

While travertine isn’t QUITE trendy again, the tile size and layout help it along. If we were to update this space for today’s trends (while keeping the granite countertop/cabinets), we’d step away from travertine and go to a soft beige-brown subway tile – if I could see more of the countertop, maybe even an off-white beige. However, you do you boo. If you’re staying in your home and aren’t worried about resale – and love travertine, give ‘er a go!

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?

While the above white on white on white kitchen might not be trendy forever, each element has a timeless quality to it. For example, if a new homeowner doesn’t like white cabinets, they could choose a dark gray-blue to complement the marble and quartz.

The Best Vanity & Island Paint Colors

Remember, if you’re looking for longevity…

NOTHING beats the timeless appeal of a simple 3×6 subway tile in a solid neutral color or marble. 

Unless you don’t like subway tile, in which case you probably aren’t reading this blog post and are installing something not timeless (which is okay if you love it!)

Benjamin Moore Caldwell Green painted wood cathedral arched kithen wood cabinets, floating shelves, subway tile backsplash, white quartz countertop, raised bar island

The Best Dark Green Paint Colors

Many features in the above kitchen will come and go, but that white subway tile could live forever! Sure, it won’t suit EVERYONE’S tastes, but compared to other options, it’s the most versatile.



The color of your grout is the most important element, other than picking the tile itself!

A well-coordinated, contrasting grout color…

  • shows off your tile pattern
  • enhances the colors in your tile
  • or, blends your tile pattern and colors, making a more simple, unified surface

This next kitchen shows a glazed porcelain subway tile with dark grout (it’s not black grout, but it’s darn close) to define the pattern and coordinate with the dark greige painted island

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

Kitchen with warm gray, Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter cabinets and Sherwin Williams Urbane Bronze painted island. White oak wood flooring. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, blog and colour advice online

See the before and afters of this kitchen HERE

In this next bathroom, it’s obvious it was renovated in the early/mid-2000s. How do I know?

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

  • It was my client’s home. This was back when I had fewer wrinkles and way more energy. I’m also WAY better at color (it’s amazing what 15 years will do) and would make the walls less creamy-toned.
  • The racing stripe in the shower – a popular feature in the early 2000s in bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Mosaic tile detail in a mix of travertine and glass.
  • Dark espresso-colored vanity.

But what’s one thing that ISN’T outdated in the above bathroom?

The off-white subway tile. Add in a more modern vanity, and tile floor, and nix the racing stripe, and this subway tile has YEARS left. This space wasn’t renovated to be timeless, it was done to suit the people who live in the home. Again, while I might refer to trends, if you don’t like current trends – you do you, boo!

This next kitchen got an awesome, budget-friendly update with painted cabinets – and it was easy as the granite countertop and off-white subway tile are well coordinated…

Kitchen with painted wood cherry cabinets, wood island, granite countertop, cream subway tile backsplash, wood floor. Sherwin Williams Alabaster and Creamy. Kylie M ONline paint color expert

Paint Color Ideas to Update Your 2000s Kitchen

While some might blend the tile with matching grout, the darker grout detailing adds a nice layer of interest.

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



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.

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 wanted a more contemporary look so we did a stacked layout, rather than a brick/running bond layout…

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

Tile Trends: Subway Tile, Zellige, Herringbone & More

Notice how the matching grout BLENDS the tile layout vs accenting it.

Next up, Buttercup!

I LOVE the color my clients chose for their kitchen cabinets – Benjamin Moore Kitty Gray. And they couldn’t have chosen a BETTER backsplash – love the super 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)

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!


Tile Trends: Subway Tile, Zellige, Herringbone & More

Backsplash Ideas to Update a 2000s Kitchen

The 10 Most Timeless Interior Finishes

4 Tips & Ideas to Update Your Kitchen on a Budget

3 Kitchen Countertop Update Ideas to Save Money

3 Steps to Choose the Best White Paint Colours for Your Home

How to Choose Carpet with Confidence

Need help picking the perfect paint color 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 2023


  1. 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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  2. 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!

  3. 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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  4. 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…

  5. 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…

  6. 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…..

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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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