17 Subway Tile Ideas That Are Far From Boring

Put a modern twist on this longtime favorite with these creative ideas for subway tile.

<p>Marty Baldwin</p>

Marty Baldwin

Subway tile is a timeless classic. Popular in kitchens, bathrooms, and anywhere else that uses tile, the rectangular tile has become a design icon with a history dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century. The white tile was first used in New York City subway stations, which is why it's called subway tile. The glazed rectangle-shaped wall covering was a practical choice as it was easy to keep clean and its glossy white surface reflected light well to brighten the dark subways.

Today, subway tile goes beyond the traditional running-bond look and is available in countless colors, materials, and finishes. You can use different grout colors, play around with placement to create unexpected patterns, mix it with other types of tile, or pair it with a bold paint color for dramatic impact. If you think plain subway tile is boring, think again—we're sharing stunning subway tile ideas that put a modern twist on the classic design.

Related: 23 Stunning Shower Tile Ideas for a Standout Bathroom

Create a Chevron Pattern

<p>Ryan Bent</p>

Ryan Bent

Have fun with subway tile arrangement and use a chevron design. This is sometimes also referred to as a herringbone pattern when the tiles are positioned at 45-degree angles. The pointed design helps draw the eyes up, highlighting the vintage-style wall sconces and a wood plank covered ceiling in this kitchen.

Pair it with Natural Wood

<p>Adam Albright</p>

Adam Albright

Glossy green subway tile arranged in a traditional running bond pattern pairs beautifully with natural wood floating shelves in this modern kitchen. Its vibrant color modernizes the tile's classic arrangement and extending it all the way to the ceiling infuses the space with fresh energy and a big dose of color.

Black Subway Tile

<p>David Greer</p>

David Greer

Switch things up and go for black subway tile and white grout to make a bold statement. Here, light grout accentuates the tile's rectangular shape while white cabinets brighten the space and add contrast. A set of bright floating shelves pops against the dark wall covering.

Combine Tile and Wallpaper

<p>Jay Wilde</p>

Jay Wilde

Create a layered aesthetic by pairing classic white subway tile on the walls with an ornately detailed wallpaper and a small-scale tile on the floor. It's an easy way to dress up classic white subway tile and prevent it from looking boring. It also gives the room an eclectic feel while maintaining a neutral color palette.

Related: The 11 Best Mops for Tile Floors of 2023 Your Home Needs

Use an Accent Tile

<p>Kimberly Gavin</p>

Kimberly Gavin

A patterned subway tile adds a decorative accent above the stove in this rustic kitchen. It provides subtle contrast to the surrounding plain white backsplash and softens the appearance of the wood cabinets and black stone countertops.

Juxtapose It with Bold Wallpaper

<p>Brie Williams</p>

Brie Williams

A traditional white subway tile gets a contemporary makeover when juxtaposed with a bold bathroom wallpaper. The glossy white lower half of the bathroom balances out the busyness and vibrancy of the wallpaper, mixing the modern and the classic in a seamless and elegant fashion.

Subway Tile with a Border

<p>Marty Baldwin</p>

Marty Baldwin

Add visual interest and break up a wall of plain white subway tile by incorporating a colorful border made up of small mosaic-style tiles. The blue square tiles in this bathroom contrast the subway tile in size, shape, and color, and tie in the blue accents for a cohesive look.

Tile the Range Hood

<p>Jay Wilde</p>

Jay Wilde

A range hood is an unexpected kitchen element to cover with subway tile, which instantly makes the basic tile look more special. It blends in seamlessly with the backsplash, and its classic arrangement creates subtle contrast to striped pattern of the shiplap-covered ceiling.

Highlight a Walk-In Shower

<p>Annie Schlechter</p>

Annie Schlechter

Dark subway tiles help highlight this stunning walk-in shower and tie in the charcoal gray walls. The dark tiles pop against the crisp white trim, while a vintage-style rug alongside brass and acrylic pedestal sinks bring a note of elegance to the space.

Use Vertical Subway Tiles

Adam Albright
Adam Albright

Modernize subway tile with an unexpected placement, such as this vertically arranged bathroom tile. It helps draw the eyes up and extends the height of the bathroom walls, which is a great trick for small bathroom spaces.

Black and White Bathroom

<p>Jay Wilde</p>

Jay Wilde

This black and white bathroom layers a traditional white subway til with a bold patterned black and white floor tile for a timeless effect. White subway tile can easily look boring and sterile, but only using it halfway up the wall and setting it against a more dramatic tile keeps it fresh.

Marble Subway Tile

<p>Jay Wilde</p>

Jay Wilde

Marble subway tile is a fun way to add a luxury material into your kitchen, and the cost for marble tile is typically much lower than for countertops. Opt for this look if you want a classic aesthetic with a little more dimension than plain white tile.

Large-Scale Subway Tile

<p>Brie Williams</p>

Brie Williams

An oversized subway tile backsplash extends to the ceiling and provides an uncluttered backdrop for floating shelves in this kitchen window space. Go for a large-scale tile to avoid a busy look, especially when the rest of the space is busy and detailed.

Green Subway Tile

<p>Stacy Zarin Goldberg</p>

Stacy Zarin Goldberg

Green subway tile defines a luxurious walk-in shower and enlivens this otherwise all-white bathroom. Use colorful subway tile as a color blocking trick to section off different areas within a bathroom, creating contrast and visually assigning a function to each.

Farmhouse-Style Kitchen

<p>Edward Gohlich</p>

Edward Gohlich

Beige subway tile adds warmth to this farmhouse-style kitchen. Its glossy texture works well with the room's light and bright aesthetic, helping bounce light around. The tile color is the perfect complement to the wood planked ceiling which is painted a fresh shade of light blue for an illusion of bringing the outdoors in.

Colorful Subway Tile

<p>Adam Albright</p>

Adam Albright

If you have open shelving in your kitchen, consider the colors of the items on display when choosing your backsplash to enhance a color scheme. Here, white cabinets are a neutral backdrop for vibrant dishes and glassware, and a green subway tile backsplash brings depth and integrates a non-permanent display feature such as dishes in an intentional way.

Keep it Neutral



Glossy beige subway tile adds a hint of color and a ton of warmth to this small but functional kitchen corner. A neutral color palette prevents the nook from looking cluttered while creating a soft aesthetic and allowing the glazed ceramic tiles and rustic wood corner shelves to shine.

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