November 22, 2019

The everlasting appeal of Subway tiles

Over the years different styles of wall tiles come and go, one however has been consistently popular over the decades. And that is the Subway tile also known as the Metro tile or the Underground tile, with its distinctive proportions, finish and profile it is easily recognisable even from a distance. The tile represents a slice of history that was first made popular in the New York of the early 20th Century when the city’s subway system was first opened. It was inspired by a similar tile used for the London underground, one of the world’s first mass transit systems, in the previous century. In order to convince the populace to go underground and use the system the designers selected a finish that would be easily cleaned, generate confidence and be familiar at the same time to line the walls of the stations.

From underground to over ground

The first subterranean urban mass transit systems which in New York is known as the Subway, the Metro in many Continental European cities and the Underground in London is still home to the ubiquitous tile. The reflective qualities, simple proportions and hygienic aspect however also made the Metro tile popular in other areas; the kitchen, public baths, toilets, etc. For some time now they have also been a favourite wall finish in the home.

What is the best way to define the Subway tile?

Generally speaking, the tile is twice as long as it is high, originally 6 inches by 3 inches (150mm x 75mm) with a glazed finish and rounded edges. However, over the years the Subway tile has evolved to include square shape versions, to have a more pronounced bevelled edge and larger proportions. And traditionally although the Subway tile is generally accepted as being a thin, low-fired, glazed ceramic wall tile it can also be made from other materials such as glass and stone.

Subway tiles in the kitchen

For anyone who wants to lend their kitchen décor a retro vintage feel that is practical and hygienic at the same time, the Subway tile is perfect. In fact, the Subway tile was adopted by Butcher’s shops (and is also known as butcher’s tile) because of its sanitary properties. Easily cleaned with a simple wipe of a cloth.

Subway tiles in the bathroom

Subway tiles are also a popular choice for bathrooms, and there is more than one reason why they are so beloved in the design world: they are durable, timeless,  easy to use and maintain and extremely versatile, providing unlimited opportunities for adding interest and character to the interior design.

Subway tiles in the living room

When decorating a home, the living room is one of the first places we look — after all, it’s where we spend time with family and friends, the room where we unwind after a long day at work. It is, therefore, necessary to carefully plan everything, taking into account all the details so that it would be pleasant to be in this room for a long time. With that in mind, creating an accent wall using Subway tiles will take you back in time and will be perfect for creating an extremely contemporary contrast.

A modern twist on the traditional white Subway tile

For a more daring look, you can lay Subway tiles in different ways, using patterns to make white bathroom walls a stunning focal point. In particular, the herringbone pattern is a great way to add a little movement and a touch of the unexpected to any space including the bathroom.

Introducing colour

The Subway tile also lends itself to the bathroom where colour can be introduced for the more daring. Combine white tiles with different coloured tone tiles or even glass for a watery, translucent texture. And for the really intrepid how about black.

Don’t underestimate the importance of grouting

The key for achieving the right effect is in the grouting, from the almost joint less, to the pronounced contrasting colour options, black, white, grey or even a colour. From anti-bacterial grouts to standard grouting there are numerous options to choose from. Each will provide a very different overall effect.


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