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    Materials | Subway Tile

    Subway tile is a popular interior finish used in kitchens and bathrooms. The style got its name – you guessed it – because it was used in subways. The most classic and historical subway tile is a white glazed ceramic tile, like those used on the walls of the New York City subway stations in the early twentieth century. They were commonly rectangular and the standard size was 3″ × 6.”


    NYC subway tile (image from New York Times)

    Now subway tile is being using in many modern renovations as a way to reference historic materials – they are simeltaneously traditional and contemporary and thus work for a variety of design styles and applications. Subway tile can now be found in several sizes (mosaic to large: 1/2×2, 1×2, 1×4, 3×6, 2×8, 4×12), various materials (glass, ceramic, glazed) and in a range of colors.


    small, mosaic size in vertical application (image from

    Subway tile is great for kitchen back-splashes and bathroom walls or showers because it is easy to clean, withstands repeated cleaning, has great longevity and traditionally has small grout lines (less staining and dirt build up and increased durability). Subway tile can also tie a room together nicely, if you use in on repeating elements or on entire walls. The smaller grout lines and linear directionality associated with the application of the tile also makes for a more harmonious and aesthetically pleasing space. Subway tile works well in both naturally and electrically lit spaces; because they are generally glazed or glass, they tend to sparkle and shine! Traditionally, subway tiles were usually stacked in horizontal rows (straight set or offset), but as they have become more popular in renovations, designers have also begun to twist, turn, mix and match tiles to come up with new patterns and mix up colors – making lovely use of this versatile material!


    herringbone or parquet application (image from


    straight set application (image from


    offset joint application (image from Taste interior)


    offset joint and mixed colors (image from