Renovation Diary: Choosing Subway Tiles

In recent years Subway Tiles (also known as Metro tiles) have become hugely popular in interior design.

The beauty of these simple, classic white rectangular tiles is that there are so many ways to use them in the home.

From the kitchen, to the bathroom and back again!



Subway tiles are brick-shaped ceramic tiles that were first used in the early 1900s when they were installed in the very first subway station of the New York Subway by designers George C. Heins and Christopher Grant La Farge.


I love this look and have been dreaming about using them (and pinning them!) for years… and finally the waiting is over for me. My dream home is currently under creation. Yes, at the moment it still looks like a building site but, slowly, the butterfly is emerging.

Except first, I have to make a million tiny decisions. Who knew renovating was actually made up of a million decisions all having to be made right there and then?

With my well planned Pinterest board and my magazine tear sheets and my flipfile of swatches and colour schemes I thought I was ready for this renovation! I was wrong. You see, I might have decided to use subway tiles in my home but that is just the start!

The questions to consider when choosing to use subway tiles in your home include some (or all) of the following:


Which room/s are you going to use the subway tiles in?

Most people choose to use subway tiles in their kitchen or bathroom but they can just as easily be used elsewhere in the house such as the entrance hall.


How are you going to use them?

Once you’ve established where in your home you’re going to use these feature tiles you’ll have to decide on how much you’re going to use. Are you going to tile to the ceiling or just to a point halfway up the wall or maybe just as a splashback above the bathroom basin or between the kitchen counter and cupboards. You can also choose to use them as an accent or just for one specific area such as in the shower?







What colour subway tile do you want?

These days the classic style tile doesn’t only come in white, you can choose from black, blue, pink, orange, green, grey even red – the colour options for subway tiles these days are almost endless!




Mixed or Uniform?

The colour question leads to the next one… do you want to mix ‘n match your colours to create a unique look or pattern that’s all your own? Or would you rather stick to what works – the tried and tested repeat of one tile colour and style?


Glossy or Matte?

Yet another decision to make when it comes to choosing the finish of your subway tiles is whether to opt for Glossy or Matte. Glossy can look lovely and clean and add more light to the space as it bounces light more readily, whereas Matte can bring great balance to a space especially if your counter tops are glossy. Glossy can be more “sterile” while Matte can look warmer. The traditional option is glossy but your final decision might be down to how large the area you are hoping to tile is as too much shine from the glossy tiles can overwhelm in a bigger space.



Bevelled or Plain?

If you’re a fan of reading online home decor or renovating forums you’ll discover that one of the biggest dilemmas when choosing subway tiles is whether to opt for bevelled or plain tiles. Bevelled tiles are great for adding texture, depth and interest to what can otherwise be a rather simple look, but on the flip side they can also make a space look rather busy and confuse the eye especially if used in a large area and more angles might mean more cleaning! Plain, flat subway tiles are more likely to go the distance in terms of staying in style for longer as they have a more timeless appeal. Flat subway tiles also look more modern so if you like a simple aesthetic they might be a better option. Then again if you’re trying to be original flat subway tiles are a dime a dozen so bevelled is more unique. A tough decision but one that will probably be based on how large an area you’re looking to tile.



Horizontal or Vertical?

Normally these rectangular tiles are installed in a horizontal pattern, but arranging the tile vertically or even in a herringbone pattern can put a new twist on an old classic.



Light or Dark grout?

Grout – don’t forget about this essential decision. It’s an important part of your tile installation and one that is often overlooked. There are a few options… White, Light Grey or Dark Grey. White grout will result in a clean, simple look. Light grey grout is a timeless look that won’t date, while dark grout is one that you will either love or hate – it’s that polarising. Dark grout with white tiles allow the shape of the tile to pop. Bear in mind that choosing grout to match the tile perfectly isn’t always easy as the grout will most certainly darken over time and then look dirty. Many designers suggest rather choosing a contrasting grout colour to make a statement rather than trying to hide it.



So, have you decided how you’re going to be using subway tiles in your home? I hope these questions and images have helped to give you a clearer idea of the look you are going for!


I’ve finally narrowed down my selection from the great Subway Tile selection available from Douglas Jones and can’t wait to see the final result… all will be revealed in the next few weeks as I share my Renovation Reveal!


Which is your favourite look featured in the photos here?



This post was first published on the Douglas Jones website 

Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn is a South African lifestyle blogger and mom of 2 who has been blogging daily for over 9 years! She writes about travel, health, beauty, fashion, decor and family... but not food (unless it's food she's eaten made by someone else) as she is a hopeless cook. She only wakes up early for 2 things... a red-eye flight to somewhere exotic and early morning game drives. She has just finished an extensive home renovation and would prefer to never see another box again. She's never met a chocolate or glass of bubbles that she didn't like!

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