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Subway tiles are still going strong. They are a classic design element that truly can’t go wrong with. There are many different ways to incorporate subwile into your home and there beautiful patterns to use for high impact spaces also.

I worked at a local flooring store for few years and majority ofthe homeowners looking for a backsplash or redoing a shower, were asking about subway tiles. Personally, I love a god subway tile – If you’re an avid Slice follower you know that I always have to do something unique because I’m not a “follow the pack” kind of designer. I’m going to give you the low down on the basics and the details of the wild.


size matters

I mean this in the most obvious way… Using certain sizes are going to give your space a specific look. The most timeless look is 3”x 6” rectangular tile. This literally originated from the white glossy tiles that were installed in the Subway Train Stations. Laid in a 50/50 brick pattern, over the years this has become a renovation staple.

Other popular sizes are : 3”x 12” and 4”x 16” which will give a more modernized look.


Find the perfect shade

I found that similar to paint colours, there is every single colour possible when it comes to subway tiles. Now don’t get me wrong, if you’re after a particular size, the colours may get limited and vice versa – if you’re looking for a particular colour, then the select of available sizes may decrease.


What are subway tiles made of?

The most popular material used for Subway Tile is Porcelain. Porcelain is made from the same material as cermamic, it’s simply treated differently which makes it more dense than ceramic and in turn, is a hard product. 

Truthfully, a subway tile can be manufactuered out of any other tile material – Glass is very popular right now also and you can always opt for a natural stone subway tile [marble, travertine, onyx, slate, etc.]. 

Endless pattern options

Now when it comes to picking the pattern for your subway tile, I believe it could make or break the space. If you love classic herringbone pattern or want to experiment with the form of parquet, make sure to consider this at the beginning of the project to ensure your design will have the visual impact you’re looking for.

Here’s the most important info you need to know about Subway tile patterns:

  • Herringbone Pattern – There are two ways that this can be installed. The first is on a 45 degree angle which is the most sought after design look. If you’re leaning toward this pattern for your project, be sure to order enough tile to account for the “waste”. You’ll need to order between 10-15% waste when it comes to this pattern and you will also pay a little more for the installation labour due to extra cutting that needs to be done . The second way this pattern can be accomplished, is on a 90 degree angle. You won’t require as much waste and the extra labour shouldn’t be anything crazy but it will still be more than laying the tiles completely square.
  • The Basketweave – Using this 2x2 tile pattern creates the look of a woven basket and it sometime referred to as “Parquet”. This patternwas seen trending over a decade ago and it’s slowly making it’s way back into spotlight.
  • The Classic Brick – This can be done sooooo many ways. One way is the simple 50/50 Brick pattern like you see above. Side Note: this actually shouldn’t be done if you’re laying bigger format flooring tiles. This pattern is OG of Subway Tiles and is the exact pattern that was used in the Subway Train Stations. A favourite brick pattern of mine is the 1/3 offset which looks similar to the Classic 50/50 but I feel it gives just a little bit of OMF and adds slight more visual interest to application. You can also take both of these patterns and lay them on a 45 degree angle 😉
  • Stacked – This is the most modern and contemporary pattern of them all. Unlike the other patterns, I truly believe that this pattern should be used carefully because it will dictate quite a bit when it comes to the style and overall look of your space. As always, I say to check out inspiration photos and getting it designed by a professional before pulling the trigger. You can check out my Pinterest Board dedicated all to Subway Tiles.

check out Elle Decor’s Subway Tile Gallery for more inspo

Planning a project?