Subway tile is a rectangular, brick-like, usually polished ceramic tile that was first introduced in NYC subway stations in the early 1900s. Adorning kitchens, bathrooms and powder rooms, it comes in many colors and fits all kinds of styles, from traditional to contemporary.
The best thing about subway tile? It's always fashionable. Like the little black dress, subway tile is the best choice if you want your bathroom to look great and retain its decor value through the years.
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Wrap the Walls
With its sleek look and modern feel, you can never really have too much subway tile in a bathroom. This bathroom by Burchard Design Co. proves our point—all the walls are covered in the crisp white tile, with a few black accents (including that stunning clawfoot tub that's in the shower) and plants to add some color.Continue to 2 of 35 below.
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Use Different Types of Tile
Who says you need to simply stick with one type of tile? Not us. This romantic bathroom by Amy Leferink at Interior Impressions contains three different tile styles and sizes, including a large version of marble subway tile in a traditional pattern and a smaller version arranged in a herringbone style. The color scheme keeps everything cohesive, yet the different patterns create a dynamic space that keeps the eye moving across the room. The gold accents on the tub and the chandelier add a bit of elegance that ties it all together.Continue to 3 of 35 below.
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Keep It Simple
Adding subway tile can take a smaller space and give the illusion of something larger, as shown in this shower from Brophy Interiors. The tile is only present in the shower, and the traditional pattern gives the impression of a larger shower as it wraps around the corners to fully envelop the space. It seamlessly blends in with the rest of the white color scheme, creating an effortless transition.Continue to 4 of 35 below.
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Try Colorful Herringbone
Same tile, different orientation, a whole lot of fun: this herringbone inset in a dark gray subway tile shower is interesting and eye-catching in this design by Cathie Hong Interiors. The tile is the same, but in a different orientation: herringbone. It's an easy project that doesn't add to your renovation costs and adds a whole lot of design value, while the color also adds an element of surprise.Continue to 5 of 35 below.
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Play With Layout
Herringbone isn't the only way to present stunning subway tile. This vanity wall from AE Designs alternates between horizontal and vertical positions to create a complex design that isn't actually all that difficult to put together. We also love the way the sharp, sleek lines from the tile contrast with the circular mirrors.Continue to 6 of 35 below.
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Try Modern Meets Rustic
Pairing subway tile with metallic accents is easy but is far from the only ideal pairings. The exposed wooden beams and chair in this bathroom by Marie Flanigan Interiors add a distinctly rustic touch, while the subway tile creates a modern feel.Continue to 7 of 35 below.
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One of the easiest ways to seamlessly blend subway tile with other aspects of your bathroom is by simply using the same design or pattern. This bathroom from interior designer Maite Granda is a great example—the stone bench and the subway tile walls are united by the same marble pattern, creating a seamless transition.
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Use Larger Tiles to Make an Impact
Large-scale subway tiles create an outsize impact in this bathroom from Marie Flanigan Interiors that enlarges and lightens up the room.Continue to 9 of 35 below.
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Use Vertical Tile With Dark Grout
This bathroom doubles up on new ways to present subway tile. Changing the layout from the classic horizontal to a vertical position gives the effect of a taller shower, especially since it goes all the way up to the ceiling. Additionally, AE Designs opted to change things up from an all-white effect by choosing a darker grout for contrast and visual interest.Continue to 10 of 35 below.
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Go Simple and Subtle
This bathroom from Emily Henderson Design is an ideal example of the subtle impacts of subway tile in a shower. "The subway tile is super classic, in a forever timeless “stagger” install," Henderson says, "but this tile has this amazing beveling that gives it a bit more depth while still keeping it simple. I love the soft texture and shadows that it creates on the wall without making anything too visually crazy."Continue to 11 of 35 below.
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This green subway tile shower by Charlie Interior Design is paired with a gray marble bench, handheld showerhead, and marble-lined niche that feels more like a luxurious getaway than a closed shower in a bathroom.Continue to 12 of 35 below.
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Pair With a Vintage-Style Tub
There's nothing out of the ordinary about this subway tile in a bathroom by Erin Williamson Design. But it's here to show you that subway tile is the perfect backdrop for showcasing vintage or eclectic pieces. It's subtle, classic, and doesn't distract from more stimulating elements of your design, such as the copper clawfoot bathtub and patterned floor shown here. So if you get tired of your mismatched mirror and rustic vanity, change them up to something different without needing to change the tile—because it will accommodate any style.Continue to 13 of 35 below.
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Try Black Subway Tile Flooring
While white is always a classic, it isn't the only color you have to work with. This bathroom floor from Marie Flanigan Interiors proves that black subway tile is a gorgeous choice to implement—it adds an almost dramatic flair that complements the grayscale scenic wallpaper perfectly.Continue to 14 of 35 below.
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Work With Similar Shapes
Subway tile serves as an ideal backdrop for different styles and concepts. However, reinforcing the pattern by incorporating similar shapes can highlight your tile choice. This bathroom vanity from House Nine Interiors includes a mirror that holds similarities to the rectangle pattern established in the subway tile, which creates a cohesive effect.Continue to 15 of 35 below.
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Use Tile in Multiple Places
In this bathroom by Erin Williamson Design, white subway tile lines the shower and the sink vanity for a cohesive look that allows the hexagonal window to shine.Continue to 16 of 35 below.
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Tile the Built-In Tub
This bathroom from Jessica Nelson Design doesn't just limit the tile to the shower walls but also adds it to the outside of the built-in tub to create a seamless look.Continue to 17 of 35 below.
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Accent with Plants
Accenting subway tile with plants creates a modern yet earthy feel in any bathroom—especially when you add wicker and wood accents like this bathroom from @jcdesign1.1.Continue to 18 of 35 below.
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Opt for the Floor
One of the major benefits of subway tile is its versatility. Whether you want to use it on walls, counter, vanities, or even the floor (like this bathroom from JK Interior Living). This marble herringbone arrangement is the only pattern in an otherwise white space, adding some depth and interest.Continue to 19 of 35 below.
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Pair With Wallpaper
Subway tile also suits different patterns, like this autumnal blue and orange wallpaper choice from K Shan Design. The vibrant colors and whimsical pattern is surprisingly not as overwhelming as you might think. And, of course, as a blank canvas to start from, a classic white subway tile allows for infinite decor possibilities.Continue to 20 of 35 below.
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Use With Vanities of All Shapes and Sizes
Subway tile can be used in spaces of any shape and size. In this bathroom from Marie Flanigan Interiors, marble tile is used as the backsplash for the triangular-shaped double vanity area to create an elegant and sophisticated look.Continue to 21 of 35 below.
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Tile the Lower Wall
White subway tile on the walls of this small and narrow bathroom designed by Malcolm Simmons for Emily Henderson Design keeps them safe from splashes while blending into the white walls and allowing decorative elements to shine.Continue to 22 of 35 below.
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K Shan Design used black and white subway tiles in a bold striped pattern that adds interest to this small bathroom without breaking the budget. The horizontal stripes make the room feel larger than it is.Continue to 23 of 35 below.
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Make the Niches Disappear
Tiling the twin shower niches in the same white subway tile as the shower walls allows them to virtually disappear in this bathroom designed by Malcolm Simmons for Emily Henderson Design.Continue to 24 of 35 below.
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Louis Duncan-He Designs combined flat white subway tile on the side walls with textured white subway tile on the far wall of this basement shower that elevates the simple design.Continue to 25 of 35 below.
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Play With Layout
Cathie Hong Interiors chose an unconventional layout for the off-white subway tiles in this California bathroom shower that makes them look brand new. Beige grout and gold plumbing fixtures keep it light.Continue to 26 of 35 below.
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Vary Color and Pattern
A mix of two-tone subway tiles in contrasting vertical and horizontal layouts add color and interest to this bathroom designed by Max Humphrey and Beebe Skidmore for Emily Henderson Design.Continue to 27 of 35 below.
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Make It Marble
Michelle Boudreau Design used marble subway tile on the floor and on the shower walls of this bathroom, running the tile all the way up to the ceiling to make the space feel larger. Gold-toned accents add contrast.Continue to 28 of 35 below.
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Try a Glazed Finish
Glossy glazed emerald green subway tiles add a rich feel to the shower walls of this bathroom designed by Max Humphrey and Beebe Skidmore for Emily Henderson Design. Pale grout adds lightness that works well with the white hex tile floor.Continue to 29 of 35 below.
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Use a Vertical Stack Layout
Cathie Hong Interiors added pale sage subway tile backsplash in a vertical stack pattern to add color to this California bathroom mixing midcentury modern influences with Japandi elements.Continue to 30 of 35 below.
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Use Glass Tiles
A pale gray painted glass subway tile backsplash behind the double sink vanity of this cool-toned bathroom from Leclair Decor adds a touch of color and shine to the neutral space.Continue to 31 of 35 below.
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Mix With Patterned Tiles
Mindy Gayer Design Co. used white subway tile with black grout to define the bath area using a floor-to-ceiling surround that works well with the patterned floor tiles.Continue to 32 of 35 below.
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Tile the Upper Wall
Laura Brophy Interiors tiled the upper half of the walls in this California bathroom with off-white subway tiles that add texture to the smooth stucco and polished concrete surfaces throughout.Continue to 33 of 35 below.
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Glossy black subway tiles in a herringbone pattern add interest to the walls of this bathroom from Leclair Decor that works well with the dark wood tones on the sink vanity.Continue to 34 of 35 below.
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Erin Williamson Design paired white subway tile on the shower walls with classic penny tile on the floors of this vintage Austin TX bungalow outfitted with period appropriate finishes to create a timeless look and feel that looks like it's been there forever.
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Make It a Background Player
Ashley Montgomery Design used a quiet subway tile backsplash that lets the stormy wallpaper in this petite powder room take center stage.