Subway tiles are the paramount New York residential-style icon. As the name suggests, these timeless vintage tiles originated in the New York subway stations in the early 1900s where they provided a bright addition to the dull subways. During this period these tiles had a glass composition, so their glossy surface was easy to clean- the ultimate solution for the busiest subway in the world. Since then, the practical subway tile has evolved from a glossy, classic white tile to a range of design solutions in an array of decorative patterns, materials, colours and textures. This tile has grown into an obvious choice for residential purposes such as in bathrooms, kitchens, laundries and mudrooms due to its easy to clean, bright attributes. Below you can learn more about how Rycon uses subway tiles across multiple applications to achieve various design aesthetics throughout our custom home builds.
Classic Hamptons Style Flat Tiles
The most popular style of subway tile is the traditional flat white ceramic tile. Due to its rectangular nature, when laid horizontally in a brick pattern, and complemented by a simple white grout, it effortlessly creates a clean, luminous result. It is also the most inexpensive option of all subway tiles. Below you can see the how the humble subway tile is used as a backdrop in this functional kitchen in our Blackburn Hamptons style home, allowing the rich navy joinery, Calcutta island bench and feature hardware to delight. In this image you can also see how the reflective white surface bounces the light around the kitchen, bringing the bright and airy Hamptons look to fruition.
Using classic subway tiles to show off feature tiles
It is a common practice to utilize the common white subway tile as a backdrop to let other features shine. Below we show our Northcote luxury home, and how your subway tile can enhance not only important design elements in your home but other feature tiles as well. The masterful placement of the subway tile in this kitchen allows the more expensive metallic tiles to shine as the feature tile against the dark cabinetry.
This concept has been used again in this spacious bathroom at our Blackburn home. You are drawn to the geometric patterns of the flooring on this occasion, as the simple white subway wall tile blends into the background, and the Hexagonal mosaic tiles provide the character and flair that the homeowner desired.
Using coloured tiles
Should you want your subway tiles to become an opulent feature themselves, you may select a coloured tile. Below we are showing how a deep navy ceramic tile contrasts with a white grout to add a unique difference to this bathroom. This particular Camberwell home has used the Hamptons influences of navy throughout, so we have cohesively brought it into the bathroom using the tiling. Thoughtfully paired with the skylight, white cabinetry and large double mirrors, this coloured subway tile brings sophistication and personality to this indulgent bathroom.
Using hand-made ceramic tiles for texture
Subway tiles can be comprised of a wide range of materials including stone, marble, ceramic, stone, glass and porcelain to suit any desired style outcome. To help with your material selection, you should first think about its function, application and texture. Our favourite tile to create depth and charm is the hand-made ceramic tile, pictured in the spacious scullery below. These usually come with an irregular edge to create the ripples and subtle imperfections, and are available both matte and gloss finishes, in a range of colours. This tile works best as a contemporary influence on a vintage-inspired home where the modern flat finished surface may not suffice.
Using luxurious marble tiles
Should you be after something a little more lavish, you can opt for a marble subway tile. Marble tiles certainly create a unique, luxurious aesthetic in your chosen wet area. Our clever use of marble subway tiles in this powder room is pictured below, showing how you can bring in an element of decadence to any area. Keep in mind that marble is a more porous material than others used for subway tiles, so it does require sealing when applying marble subway tiles in wet areas. Further to this marble is a heavier material than ceramic or porcelain so you should speak to your custom home builder to see if your choice of tile is more labour intensive than others before making your decision.
Creating different patterns with angles
The beauty of the inexpensive standard rectangular ceramic subway tile is that you can achieve a striking look through placement. Instead of your linear horizontal brick or stacked pattern, you could try a geometric pattern such as our classic herringbone subway tiles laid in our powder room below. By changing the angles of the tile you create a whole new level of depth, perfect for adding flair to any size room.
If you have a specific element in the room you would like to draw attention to, you can even lay the herringbone pattern at 45 degrees. In the right circumstances, you can also lay the tiles vertically, diagonally or in a range of patterns such as an ‘L’ shape.
Using grout with subway tiles to bring out features
The grout colour choice can often be overlooked, however, it has the power to turn an economic tile into a statement piece. You can choose from a wide range of colours for your grouting requirements, which can be used strategically so your design ambitions become a reality. In this case, we have used Ardex grout in Trevertine in this powder room, which subtly picks up the gold highlights throughout the room creating a cohesive, luxurious result, which is carried throughout this entire Northcote home. Alternatively, you can create a unique, linear look, by using a dark grout paired with a stark white tile should your design call for something a little bolder.