10 Creative Ways to Use Subway Tile
I have talked about this classic tile before in many, if not all, of my posts (here, here, and here). If you’re considering a kitchen remodel and don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on a fancy-patterned ceramic tile, but still want something a little more interesting than a boring field tile, these designs will open up a world of possibility to you. This post was inspired by a colleague of mine who has a vendetta against subway tile, saying the traditional offset-joint field pattern is too reminiscent of actual subways. While I respect his opinion, the goal of this post is to prove the versatility of this tile by showing ten different ways it can be set as a kitchen backsplash.
1. Offset Joint
First, we’ll start off simple: the most popular off-set brick pattern. This was the original setting of the tile when it was first introduced and remains the most popular way to install it. This is the look that my colleague doesn’t care for. Of course, I respectfully think he’s crazy.
2. Offset 1/3
If you want to use the brick pattern, but want to be a little different from the crowd, offset the bricks by 1/3 instead. This gives a slightly more horizontal look to the tile and elongates the space a bit more. It’s not a huge difference, but when you compare the style to the offset joint, you can see that the movement is slightly different.
Too traditional for your taste? I’m the first to admit that an offset brick pattern doesn’t work in every home. If you are working with a modern space, try straight-setting the tiles. This creates straight lines which reflect a much more contemporary aesthetic. This is one of my personal favorite ways to install it.
4. Vertical Straight-Set
We’re going to get a little more crazy now…keeping the straight-set format, turn the tiles on their side and set them vertically for an unexpected pattern. This is a particularly nice setting if you are dealing with a more narrow space (less than 18″) as it can visually widen the space. This is also a very modern aesthetic which would look best in a newer room.
5. Vertical Offset Joint
Kicking it up a notch, offset the vertical tiles to give a bit of a funky vibe to it. I imagine this would look absolutely amazing in a loft-type kitchen with some bright glass subway inserts (I’m thinking reds, cobalts, etc.). It has become my personal mission to install this into a lofty-type kitchen by the end of the year.
6. Offset Joint + Vertical Straight-Set Trim
For those who prefer the traditional aesthetic with a bit of extra “oomph”, consider running a band of vertical subway within your field to act as trim. For tall spaces, run a second band to add extra interest. In an accent color, this pattern would be too busy for most spaces, but when using the same color throughout it just adds another element of interest.
Taking a bit of a more ethnic look, try out a cross-hatch. Reflecting the appearance of a weave pattern, this has a bit of a more natural effect. To really play up the pattern, use a darker grout. For a subtle bit of texture, use a very light gray grout.
Get back to some wild patterns with a fun herringbone (one of my absolute favorite patterns of all-time) to give some movement to your kitchen. I particularly love this style because while it’s a much more daring pattern, herringbone is never going to be out of style.
9. Offset Joint Diagonal
For something out of the ordinary, but not too crazy, simply turn your brick field on a 45 degree angle to get these crisp, clean lines. This is an especially good pattern for those with elaborate counters, as the movement of the tile draws the eye back down to that level.
10. Straight-Set + Vertical Trim
For a contemporary look that I think would work in both traditional and modern homes, straight-set the field tile and run vertical straight-set tiles as trim. I depicted it running throughout the kitchen, but it would also look great as just two bands of trim over the stove. If you wanted to pack some extra punch, replace the vertical subway trim with linear glass to give a waterfall effect.
So there you have it. As an FYI, a beautiful handmade subway tile only costs about $10/SF and if you wanted to go REALLY budget, you can find similar subway tiles at your big box stores (of course, read this before you go the cheap route!). So consider this proof that you don’t have to spend a fortune on your field tile to get a unique look for your home; it really just takes a sense of imagination.
*First featured image courtesy of www.curbly.com. All sketches are the original work of TileTramp.
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