7 Things You Need to Know About Subway Tiles

subway tiles

The City Hall subway stop in New York City is one of the country’s most well-preserved abandoned structures. Each year, hundreds of tourists flock to this underground ghost town for a look into years past.

What you may not know, though, is that this underground station is also home to the world’s first subway tiles. What’s now seen as a modern home design staple was once a modest tile used to brighten up the gloomy underground City Hall stop.

From their far-reaching popularity, you may think you’ve learned everything there is to know. Think again, because we’re bringing you this list of the 7 things you probably don’t know about subway tiles.

So, before you install your new subway tiles, check out this list for some surprising facts about these classic design elements.

What are Subway Tiles?

Initially created in the early 1900s, subway tiles have become a new classic in modern home designs around the country. They get their name from their first use in the below-ground subway system in New York City.

Their popularity spread, which is why you can see these tiles featured on ceilings and archways in subway systems across the city.

Today, homeowners love the sleek, modern design of subway tiles. Yet the subway tile aesthetic isn’t the only reason people like them. Here are 7 more reasons you might consider using subway tiles in your home design.

1. A Variety of Uses in the Home

The rise of subway tiles began with an obsession with cleanliness in the 1900s. And with the subway tile’s clean, white appearance and stain-resistance, it’s no wonder they became a hallmark of this trend. It’s also why these tiles are commonly found as backsplashes in kitchens and bathrooms.

Yet those aren’t the only places you can use your subway tile. Laundry rooms, showers, and even cafes can benefit from the addition of subway tiles. Check out this article for more subway tile ideas for using them in your home.

The only place you shouldn’t use subway tiles is for your floors. Regardless of the materials out of which these tiles are made, they’re created to be quite thin. That means they won’t stand up to all the wear and tear your floors go through daily.

2. Easy to Clean

One of the main reasons homeowners love subway tiles is that they make clean up incredibly simple. As we mentioned before, subway tiles are also relatively stain-resistant. Add these two facts to the subway tile’s ability to reflect light and you’ve got yourself some truly sanitary looking tiles.

3. A Minimalist’s Tiling Dream

With the rise of the trend toward minimalistic design, subway tiles have gained even more popularity. Their white color and practical design mean they go with absolutely any style or choice of furnishings. What’s more, the historical conception of subway tiles is changing to allow for variation on the classic design.

4. Create Tile Designs

Due to the subway’s tile’s rectangular shape, there are many different ways to lay them. From herringbone patterns to alternating crosshatchings, there’s no limit to the way you can have yours installed.

Traditionally, subway tiles were always set in a simple offset design. More creative ideas abound these days and subway tiles can now be laid in:

  • Diagonal offset
  • Vertical offset bond
  • Stack bond
  • Running bond
  • Vertical stack

In addition to different ways to install your tiles, there’s grout to consider. While the classic white on white design is modern and clean, you may prefer to go funky with black or grey grout. If you’re designing a kid’s room, what better way to scream creativity and fun than with colored subway tiles and grout?

5. Different Compositions

Subway tiles don’t just allow you to create a variety of tile designs. They also come in a variety of compositions to suit your fancy. The original subway tile was created from ceramic, but nowadays, you can find them made of glass, stone, and more.

Similarly, you can ask for different finishes. Beveled, cracked, textured, and dimpled finishes are popular today. Depending on your home design and personal style, you can find a subway tile that’s unique to you.

Oh, and one more thing: even the dimensions of the classic subway tile are changing. Once, a subway tile was almost defined by its 3 by 6-inch rectangular shape. Yet today, you can find mini subway tiles and even square subway tiles on the market.

6. An Interior Design Classic

For some homeowners, there’s no better reason to use the subway tile than its status as a design classic in American culture. Considering that they literally go with anything, we think that means they’ll continue to be a timeless staple in home design for many decades to come.

7. Oh, So Affordable

Yep, that’s right: on top of all the incredible features we’ve already mentioned, subway tiles won’t break the bank, either. On the low end, you can get subway tiles for as little as $1 per tile or $8 per square foot. Hand-made tiles or tiles taken from older structures may run you as much as $60 per square foot.

It’s this variety in cost that makes subway tiles affordable for absolutely everyone. So, what are you waiting for? Start searching for your perfect subway tiles today!

More Trendy Ideas For the Home

Now that you’re an expert on subway tiles, are there other home design topics you want to delve into? Search no further than Tasteful Space’s For the Home blogs. Check out more of our educational content today and subscribe to our newsletter to get new articles delivered straight to your inbox.


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