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10 Really Interesting Things You Can Do With Plain White Tile

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Doherty Design Studio)

It can a bit disheartening, to say the least, when you get to the point in a kitchen or bath renovation when it’s time to choose the tile. Not because there aren’t great options out on the market (there are! so many!), but because the only varieties in the “we can afford this” section might be basic rectangular, square or round white tiles. Boring? Maybe. But they don’t have to be.

First let me say this: I adore a plain white subway tile. It’s classic and will always look great in any space. But I wouldn’t blame you if you were after something with a little more intrigue. So for your inspiration consideration, here are 10 spaces that use basic tiles in a brand new way:

Above from Est magazine, square and rectangular tiles are laid in a traditonal brick-style half-offset pattern, but they’re used in alternating rows, creating a sort of striped pattern.

(Image credit: INT2 Architecture)

Squares and rectangles are mixed again here in this flat from Home Designing, only this time it’s a more rigid grid pattern made possible by the fact that the two shapes share the same height.

(Image credit: Dayka Robinson)

Here’s an increasingly-popular herringbone pattern for the bathroom, from designer Dayka Robinson, but the recessed shelf adds a ton of interest with penny tiles and high-contrast black grout.

(Image credit: INAMATT)

More mixed tiles all in basic white, this time from INAMATT‘s home studio. It’s tough to see all the detail–the kitchen island here blends, from bottom to top, three rows of large square tiles, a row of subway tiles laid vertically, a row of small square tiles and finally a layer of penny rounds (with gray borders at the top and bottom).

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

A thick, bold, high-contrast grout will up the style of any tile and really bring out the pattern, as seen here in a kitchen from Simo Design.

(Image credit: British Ceramic Tile)

You don’t always have to choose earthy and neutral shades–colored grout is always an option, too. Here’s a bold blue grout for a kitchen island, from The Design Shepard.

(Image credit: Elsie Larson)

Here’s a tile pattern you don’t see every day: Crosshatch. It couldn’t be easier with standard subway tile. Two this way, two that way, like here in Elsie’s bathroom from A Beautiful Mess.

(Image credit: Kate la Vie)

Here’s another simple idea with a very cool look: Keep the rough edge of your herringbone tile pattern so it leaves a zig-zag border, as seen here in a bathroom from Kate la Vie.

(Image credit: Simo Design)

You can also switch up tile patterns to create some visual interest, like this border of vertical tiles below the cabinets in a subway-tiled kitchen from Simo Design.

(Image credit: Dave Fox)

Or place a border of differently-shaped or -laid tiles at the top or bottom of a room to mimic the look of molding and baseboards, like here in this bathroom from Dave Fox.