Why I Adore Classic Subway Tile

classic subway tile (n.) – tile defined as the proportion of 1:2, most commonly in a 3″x6″ format.

As this is my first post, I thought I’d start with one of the most classic and timeless of tiles. A little history: this tile first appeared in the New York City subway system in 1904 (hence the nickname “Subway” tile) in it’s most well-recognized form: a white ceramic 3″x6″ installed in an off-set joint (staggered) pattern.

New York Subway Station

There’s a reason we keep seeing this tile around. It’s a beautiful pattern that adds a bit of linear and brick-like interest to a backsplash or bathroom tile, without looking trendy. It’s pretty safe to say it will never look “dated” either, considering it’s been around for more than 100 years.

Classic White Ceramic Subway Backsplash

That being said, trendy subway tile does exist, as evidenced by the up-and-coming eco-friendly company Art of Board, which recycles old skateboard decks into boldly graphic tile and furniture.

Art of Board Subway Tile

Subway tile is always my go-to field tile when designing a backsplash. It’s more contemporary than the traditional 4″x4″ field, and generally on the same price-point (disclaimer: this is only true for ceramics). It’s also generally quite easy to incorporate a spendier accent tile for that extra punch of flavor.

Being the tile addict that I am, here are some subway styles that I really lust over (if only I had a use for all of them!):

If this were my bathroom, I may never be seen again.
Walker Zanger Roku Glass

Walker Zanger "Roku" Glass Subway

I like to picture myself as an elegant European woman dressed in a silk gown, taking drags from a long cigarette and drinking from a glass of white wine when I see this tile. It’s pure luxury.

Walker Zanger "Tribeca"

Walker Zanger "Tribeca" Series

And the grand finale…what I consider to be one of the most beautiful subway tiles ever to be used for residential purposes: natural green onyx tile. I have had many a love affair with this particular stone, (which will be covered in following posts) but until then, eat your heart out:

Ann Sacks Green Onyx

Ann Sacks Green Onyx Subway

Sigh. Makes you wish you had double the rooms to renovate in your house, doesn’t it?

If you would like assistance planning your next tile project, email me at tiletramp@gmail.com for a free consultation!

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3 Responses to “Why I Adore Classic Subway Tile”
  1. That Ann Sacks tile is absolutely divine. Too often, green onyx tile has tons of brown streaks and blots in it that unfortunately remind me of camo. I love brown –heck, I am brown– but I often don’t appreciate that effect. These lettuce and kale tones in the tile, though, are different than what I’ve seen at lesser brands and are just perfect for the kitchen.

    • Tile Tramp says:

      I know isn’t it to die for? It sucks, but there’s a reason designer stone tile is more expensive 😦 But if you like that, there’s another stone tile by Walker Zanger of a similar material, but a honey version in a honeycomb pattern…no browns, not a lot of veining, very subtle. I’m working on a concept board for it at the moment that I plan to post shortly.

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  1. […] but it doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all. You all probably already know that I have a significant love for subway tile, so I’m very happy with this trend. Sorry square tile. I’m sure the time will come when […]



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