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Square Tile is the New Subway Tile and We’re Not Sorry

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Entrance)

Subway tile is everywhere. For years it’s held sway over our bathrooms and kitchens, and for good reason: it’s classic, it’s inexpensive, it’s easy to install, and it matches practically everything. But all those things are also true for subway tile’s somewhat less prominent cousin too: the humble 4″ x 4″ square tile. Combined with dark grout, it feels at once classic and fresh. It has all the versatility of subway tile — and you’re not tired of it yet.

(Image credit: Entrance)

Above (and lead image): In this bathroom from Entrance, square tile contributes to a graphic, modern look. The black hex tile on the floor is a nice pairing.

(Image credit: Svenska Mäklarhuset)
(Image credit: Svenska Mäklarhuset)

I like how the square tile in this kitchen from Svenska Mäklarhuset contrasts with the space’s more textured and more traditional elements, like the wood floor and the wood worktop. It’s a nice mashup of new and old.

(Image credit: D Magazine)

Setting square tile in an ashlar, or staggered, pattern, gives it a slightly more traditional look. In this bathroom from D Magazine, square wall tile complements the more bold concrete floor tile, without competing with it.

(Image credit: Lotta Agaton)

In this kitchen from Lotta Agaton, via Sanna Fischer, staggered square tiles are a beautiful complement to traditional elements like shaker-style cabinets and a marble countertop. Thinner, lighter grout lines mean these tiles read more as a texture element than a graphic pattern.

(Image credit: Design*Sponge)

The black, white, and gold palette of this bathroom from Design*Sponge is very traditional, but the square tiles, paired with dark grout (and square vessel sinks) add a modern edge. Another thing that contributes to the modern feel is the tiled countertop — not a look that’s for everyone, but certainly a very striking one.

(Image credit: Studio McGee)

As evidence that square tile can also be very nice in a more traditional space, there’s this kitchen from Studio McGee, where square tiles are a beautiful complement to shaker cabinets and and an intricately patterned cement tile floor.

(Image credit: Country Living)

From Country Living, here’s another space where square tile becomes part of a very traditional look — paired, interestingly enough, with VCT floor tiles.

(Image credit: Elle Decoration)

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s this bathroom from Elle Decoration, where square subway tile, laid in a stacked pattern, feels distinctly modern. Pairing the square white tile with colored tile (and a colored tub) is an unexpected choice, and a very nice one.