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Our Favorite Twists on Traditional Subway Tile

updated Jul 17, 2020
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(Image credit: Santa Clara 1728)

Subway tile: it’s classic, it’s versatile, it’s beautiful — and it’s everywhere. If you love the idea of a lean, minimal tile but the ubiquitousness of subway tile has you a little fatigued, take a look at these ten alternatives — fresh new options that have all the advantages of subway tile, but with a little dose of added personality.

(Image credit: A Beautiful Mess)

This tile, in a kitchen from A Beautiful Mess, is just ever so slightly elongated, for a subtle variation on the usual subway tile look. Stacking instead of staggering the tile also makes it look more modern.

(Image credit: Bicker)

This kitchen from Bicker (via Desire to Inspire) shakes up the expected look of subway tile a bit by turning the tile on end and setting it in a stacked, instead of running bond. But the thing I particularly like about this tile is its subtle texture. Handmade tiles (or tiles that just look handmade) have subtle imperfections that give an appealing warmth to a space.

(Image credit: Santa Clara 1728)

Case in point: this bathroom from Santa Clara 1728, where, despite the incredible freestanding stone tub, the simple white wall tile nearly steals the show. If you look closely you’ll see that there are both square and rectangular tiles, laid in an irregular pattern.

(Image credit: Doherty Design Studio)

I’m definitely intrigued by the tile in this bathroom by Doherty Design Studio (via Home Scene Journal). Here, rows of rectangular subway tiles alternate with rows of square tiles that are exactly twice as large. It’s unexpected, but still maintains a lot of the subtlety that subway tile is prized for.

(Image credit: Sandra Rojo)

Another subtle variant that I very much appreciate is beveled subway tile, seen here in the kitchen of this lovely Barcelona apartment. The look is a bit architectural, textured and dimensional but with a distinctly modern feel.

(Image credit: Lindye Galloway)

This kitchen from Lindye Galloway gets a luxe look thanks to subway tile in marble. (If you look closely, you’ll also notice that these tiles are slightly elongated from the usual rectangular subway tile shape, which is twice as long as it is tall.)

(Image credit: Emily Henderson)

Another option for a white tile that will add just a little bit of texture to your space is Moroccan zellige tile, seen here in Emily Henderson’s kitchen. Brightly colored zellige tile can be a real showstopper, but I’m also a huge fan of the white, which allows the tile’s more subtle qualities — its handmade texture and gentle color variation — to really shine.