9 Classic Subway Tile Backsplash Ideas You Need to See

9 Classic Subway Tile Backsplash Ideas You Need to See

Subway Tile Backsplash

For a clean, classic look, nothing can compare to subway tiles. Traditionally, these rectangular tiles are about twice as long as they are tall. They get their name because of their traditional use in New York subway stations.

With subway tile backsplash designs, you can bring this classic look into your home. Despite their simple structure, subway tiles lend themselves to many interesting design ideas. Check out the following nine ways to use subway tiles in your bathroom and kitchen.

Bathroom Backsplashes

Run the Length of the Room

Tiles are perfectly suited for use in the bathroom, so the more you can use, the better! To that end, consider extending your sink backsplash well past the countertop area.

The example above shows a bathroom in which the subway tiles continue into the bathtub area. They also serve as a boundary between the floor and the full-wall mirror. There's even a small strip in the corner that reflects this design.

Surround a Freestanding Tub

The job of a backsplash is to protect the wall from damage caused by splashing water. The first thing that may come to mind, then, is a backsplash behind the sink, but the bathtub area can face just as many splashes.

Consider beginning your bathtub backsplash at floor level and continuing until you reach chair-rail height. In the example above, the bathtub is set back into an alcove, so the backsplash surrounds the tub on three sides. Towel bars and large cabinets help maximize the storage space in this area.

Balance a Busy Pattern

Tile is amazing for creating elaborate designs like the one in the image above. With a design that intricate, though, it's smart to create balance by using a simpler style in other areas of the room. Subway tiles are just right for that job.

To counter the tiny mosaic tiles in this example, the lower section uses large subway tiles. They're about twice the size of those used in most designs, but they're a perfect fit for this bathroom.

Hang a Single Row of Subway Tiles

You don't necessarily need to employ a large swath of subway tiles to balance out a busy pattern. In this example, just a single row of rectangles serves as a strong foundation for the circular pattern above.

Notice, as well, how pleasing the color scheme is. The simple white of the subway tiles allows the blue pattern to pop.

Backsplash Your Shower

If the bathtub needs a backsplash, then the shower requires one even more! In the above example, subway tiles form a large portion of the backsplash surrounding the walk-in shower. They serve as the simplest of the many patterns used in this space and help tie the various details into one cohesive design. There are even subway tiles on the front and side of the built-in shower seat.

The well-placed railing and showerhead on the all-white wall add just enough visual interest without detracting from the floral mosaic.

For additional ideas for subway tiles in the bathroom, see the following video:

Kitchen Backsplashes

Choose Colored Tiles

White subway tiles are traditional, but they're not the only option. For a twist on this classic design, choose colored tiles in a shade that complements your kitchen decor.

The kitchen in this photo uses a light gray. It ties together the white cabinets above and the black countertops below. If gray's not your style, consider subway tiles in brick red, deep brown, bright blue, sunny yellow or lime green.

Outfit a Coffee Bar

Small areas need a simple tile design that won't overwhelm the space. In this example, beveled subway tiles serve as the perfect background for a recessed coffee nook.

A cohesive design is essential in this small space. Horizontal lines and the color white are used as unifying elements.

Tilt Tiles for a Herringbone Pattern

Subway tiles usually run horizontally, but you can use these rectangular tiles in other arrangements as well. One of the most popular is herringbone, a zig-zag pattern that's illustrated in the photo above.

You may notice that herringbone patterns often use contrasting grout between the pieces. This helps emphasize the distinctive arrangement. This look is great for giving your kitchen a contemporary feel.

Learn more about using a herringbone design to create a focal point by watching the following video:

Emphasize a Linear Design

In interior decorating, horizontal lines are often used to open up a space and make it feel more expansive. Being in a room with horizontal elements can also help you feel calm, centered or tranquil.

The uniform size and shape of subway tiles mean that these tiles naturally lend themselves to horizontal designs. Consider adding elements to your kitchen decor to further emphasize this linear look. In addition to the subway tile backsplash in the above photo, horizontal lines are found in the shelves, the drawer pulls, the table and the ceiling beams.

Which of these subway tile backsplash ideas is the best fit for your home? Whether you're updating your bathroom or redoing your kitchen, consider adding subway tiles to your decor. These geometric tiles are an attractive way to add clean lines and classic styling to your interior design.

For help with selecting the best tiles and patterns for your renovation, browse Artsaic's online catalog, or call to schedule a consultation. Our team will work with you to create a subway tile design that fits the unique style of your home.

About the Author

Nelson Londono founded Artsaics in 1998 after learning the ins and outs of designing custom artistic tiles and stone mosaics. The New York-based surfacing company specializes in producing stunning artistic tiles & stone designs with fine natural stone from around the world. Nelson and his team's passion lies in working with their hands, heads and hearts to make each and every space a unique reflection of self expression. You can learn more about Artsaics here.