Subway tile has been all the rage for the past few years where I work in North Carolina. The white rectangular tiles have been used in kitchens, bathrooms and I even saw them recently in a foyer floor. Technically subway tiles are considered small rectangular shaped tiles and are usually made of white porcelain or a ceramic material. I was recently asked if subway tiles were going out of style. To answer the question ‘are subway tiles out of style’, the the answer is…yes and no. As an Interior Designer I think the standard subway tile laid on a soldier grid in an all-white kitchen is kinda boring. However, there are numerous new design options and trends to move you beyond plain white subway tiles and affordably.
For example by taking a standard subway tile, aligning it in a brick formation and changing the color, a kitchen can become fresh and inviting. The white kitchen above is not that interesting with its white cabinets and white/grey countertops but the 2-3 analogous colors and textures in the glass subway tiles makes this a very pretty kitchen. I also like that the tile reaches up the wall to the ceiling and does not stop at the standard backsplash height.
Along the same lines changing the material from a plain white tile to white and gray marble with lots of visual texture brightens the room. In the above photo, the absence of a window over the sink the designer added a focal point in the metallic gold frame around a matching tile motif. The pretty swirl shapes and darker grout draw your eye to the tile and enhance the pretty design.
Another trend I have seen is mirrored subway tiles which I love! These glass tiles are great in a bathroom because they’re easy to clean and eliminate the need for a traditional mirror. I love the white marble vanity and exposed pipes in this glam regency style room. I believe they could be used in a modern kitchen design with black cabinets.
In 2021, I still see a lot of exposed natural wood in furniture and accent pieces so adding very small subway stiles and varying the colors is very cheerful. I love the brown, cream and gray colors of the glass tile above and can see how this tile in a modern mid-century home or in a traditional farmhouse style. These tiles are also in essence rectangular ‘subway’ tiles on a smaller scale.
Speaking of farmhouse style, there has been a huge trend in concrete patterned tiles. The colors tend to be available neutral black, gray and some blues. This style reminds me of my grandmother’s quilt but they are basically rectangular or square tiles laid in a grid pattern. I think this design trend is a natural successor to all white subway tiles.
Next if you want to keep the white in your backsplash but want to venture into something less ordinary, take a look at the white tiles above. These small hexagonal tiles, also laid in a modified soldier grid with gray grout look beautiful in this elegant kitchen. The bottom cabinets in blue/gray and gold accents are very trendy.
And let’s look at something that is not traditional porcelain, glass or ceramic tile but rather wood in the soldier grid pattern. The bathroom above is so interesting. I have designed using this type of wood block pattern on furniture but adding it to a wall in a bathroom is clever. This design adds a lot of personality to a somewhat bland beige room.
Lastly, above is a daring design of dark teal tile in an alcove. The white grout emphasizes the grid pattern and the curved shape of the tile. I cannot decide which I like more, the matching teal hood or the tile. This design is not for everyone. But if you’re interested in changing your tile and exploring what comes after subway tile affordably then give me a call.
First Impressions by Julie Wagner
Chapel Hill, NC