You are here > Westside Tile and Stone > Resources > An Ultimate Guide to Subway Tile Design Ideas and Tips

An Ultimate Guide to Subway Tile Design Ideas and Tips

Classic and versatile, subway tile remains relevant today over a century since its debut in the New York subway system. These tiles have been featured in residential and commercial properties for years besides being upgraded to meet the current market’s style sensibility.

Today subway tiles exist in hundreds of choices in all colors, sizes, textures, and shapes. Undoubtedly, choosing from these options can be daunting. You do not have to worry anymore. This guide has got you covered with everything you need to know about these timeless tiles so you seamlessly make an informed buying decision. Let us dive in.

An Ultimate Guide to Subway Tile Design Ideas and Tips

Overview About Subway Tile and Its Benefits

Subway tiles have been a staple since 1904 when designers George C. Heins and Christopher Grant La Farge were tasked with designing safe, easily cleaned, and user-friendly surfaces for the New York City’s subway system. Arising out of a Victorian-era obsession with hygiene, subway tiles gained a reputation for being sanitary and utilitarian. And quickly become a favorite wall covering for other settings, from kitchens to butcher shops and bathrooms.

Subway tiles feature a reflective quality that brightens any interior space, making them a favorite choice for individuals looking to redesign their home’s interiors. Plus, they are easy to clean and resistant to stains, meaning maintaining them is easy. Besides being family-friendly, these timeless tiles are budget-friendly. You can grab basic options at home centers at $1.5 per square foot. But thicker, higher quality subway tiles can cost as much as $15 per square foot.

Subway tiles’ versatility is quite unmatched. No longer confined to the metropolitan subway, these tiles offer various patterns, arrangements, colors, and sizes.

Tips to Select the right Subway Tile

Keep in mind the following features to pick the right subway tiles for your home.


Select a tile size that suits the dimensions of the area you intend to tile.

With a pleasant 1:2 ratio, 3×6” tiles are the most popular subway tile size. They are great for kitchen backsplashes but may look a bit busy in bathrooms. Great for showers, the 4×12” tiles offer a leaner and longer 1:3 ratio that guarantees fewer grout lines and a modern look. Other relatively longer versions include 4×16” and 4×24.

Subway Tile Design Ideas


Smooth vs. textures, glossy vs. matte, or beyond, a tile finish plays a critical role in the overall appearance.

A glossy finish makes your space look brighter, while the matte finish provides a more relaxed and casual feel. A metallic finish looks expensive and elegant and can be combined with a textured finish to achieve a more dramatic look. In comparison, a crackle finish brings an antique flavor that speaks old-world elegance.

Subway Tile Finishing


Flat subway tiles with no fuss or frills are the basic universal version. They are available in various colors and sizes, and form a great backdrop for other design features. Beveled edges add a bit of refinement and class to a typical subway tile and interest on what would be a flat wall. Among other considerable options include sculptural, uneven edge, and framed subway tiles.

Subway tile shape ideas


You can install subway tiles in multiple ways, from the horizontal running bond, stack bond, vertical offset bond, vertical running bond, herringbone, crosshatch, to diagonal offset. Before settling on a particular choice, familiarize yourself with the effects each layout brings to a room.

Subway tiles for Bathroom


Subway tiles are available in numerous colors, including modern black, blue-green, bright red, purple, yellow, classic white, and more. Select your shades carefully to achieve the desired effect, whether to elevate the mood, enrich your design, or create energy.

Subway Tile color ideas of Bathroom Tiles

6Gloss or Matte Finish Subway Tiles? Weighing Your Options

Reflective and bright, the popular glossy finish looks traditional and elegant. The shine brightens your spaces but may show dirt, dust, fingerprints, and water spots. Fortunately, cleaning high-gloss subway tiles is a breeze.

A matte finish can be dressed up to present a sophisticated look or toned down for a more casual look. You can combine a matte subway tile with a handcrafted style for an ageless and warm feel. Although matte tiles do a great job of hiding water spots and dust than glossy tiles, they might need a little more scrubbing to remove grease or oil spots.

Subway tile popular glossy finish

7Grout Always Matters for Subway Tiles

Grout plays an important part in determining the final look of your subway tile installation. Smaller grout lines appear clean but are less likely to hide setting anomalies. In contrast, wider grout lines look traditional and work well with irregular or handcrafted tiles.

The grout color matters too. A contrasting grout emphasizes your tile size, shape, and pattern to create a bold and dramatic look. While a color-matching grout vanishes into the wall, diverting all attention to the tiles. Contrarily, a neutral grout color creates subtle contrast without drawing too much attention.

Subway Tiles for Bathroom wall tiles

8Subway Tile Patterns

The horizontal layout is the most popular subway tile pattern and does a great job of making spaces appear wider and more open. A vertical layout is uncommon, so you expect it always to make a design statement. A combination of vertical and horizontal patterns guarantees a more modern look.

If you are a fan of minimalism, a stacked set could be the right option for you. But you will want to use a matte finish, textured surface, or warm tones to prevent this layout from looking too clinical. With unmatched glamour and beauty, the herringbone pattern works with contemporary and traditional designs and is a seamless way to create a focal point in your room.

Subway Bathroom Tile Patterns

9Subway Tiles Designs in Trend

» Beveled Glossy

The beveled glossy subway tile is a three-dimensional, high-style, and easy-to-maintain ceramic tile that can serve as a backsplash, shower, or wall décor in the bathroom and kitchen designs. A combination of white beveled glossy tiles and white cabinets creates a perfect drop down your counters. The elegant bevel edge capture and reflect light to avoid a monochromatic look in your kitchen. You can also use these tiles to differentiate sections in your bathroom and brighten up space. Or turn an empty wall space into an alluring focal point.

You can combine glossy beveled tiles with other contemporary designs such as porcelain mosaic wall tile or arabesque tiles to present a more dramatic look.

Beveled Glossy tile ideas

» Ombre Grigia

Durable and easy-to-maintain, Ombre Grigia is a contemporary classic subway tile upgrade famous for its alluringly beautiful shading of smoky blues, grays, and whites. This wall tile statement has proven to work wonders for vertical applications such as shower surrounds, backsplashes, fireplace facades, and vanity walls. Especially great when used to create gorgeous kitchen backsplashes, Ombre Grigia depicts unique beauty and seamlessly transcends traditional and contemporary space designs.

Ombre Grigia tile ideas

Best Subway Tile Store – Westside Tile and Stone

Do you want to convert your bathroom and kitchen into marvelous creations? Make your vision a reality with Westside Tile and Stone’s unique collection of subway tiles. Explore our tile collection or browse hundreds of photos and ideas to find the on-trend tile design you desire. More conveniently, Contact our tile designers today at (818) 704-9222 (Canoga Park) or 310-276-9222 (Beverly Hills) to get started!

Canoga Park
Beverly Hills