Timeless Subway Tiles - Part 1: Style

Dark gray ceramic tile backsplash behind blue-gray granite countertop covered with San Pellegrino water bottles, slices of limes and lemons, and stainless steel martini glasses.

Mass-produced vs. handcrafted, square edges vs. beveled edges, and clean solid colors vs. fun patterns or exciting glazes... there are a lot of options when it comes to choosing the right subway tile style for you!


Whether you choose the classic white 3x6" subway tile or opt for a large multi-color arrangement, subway tiles are a timeless choice for your kitchen, bathroom, or fireplace surround. 

The Classic: 3x6 White Glossy Offset Subway Tile

Bathroom with white pedestal sink, white octagon-and-dot mosaic tile floor, 3x6" white subway tile wainscoting topped with a white ceramic chair rail. The walls are painted with a yellow faux finish.

These mass-produced little ceramic tiles are what started lining the New York subway in the early 1900s, hence the name "subway tile".


The most traditional version of subway tile is:

  • 3x6"
  • White
  • Glossy
  • Set in a 50% offset brick pattern
  • No variation/texture

This is usually the least expensive version of ceramic subway tile, running appx. $3/sqft.


Low-maintenance, bright and clean-looking, these have been a standard of kitchen and bath design for the past century.


However, numerous variations on style, color, finish, size, and layout are now available to give you a multitude of ceramic tile options. Peruse our 5-part look book to find your perfect subway style!

Consider Style

Simple & Clean

Shower with white 4x16" tiles set in a stacked pattern. Chrome fixtures and a white quartz shower shelf.

Uniform ceramic tiles with no fuss or frills.


Clean lines at low cost.


These are the basic, universal subway tiles.


Available in a number of sizes and colors, these tiles make a great, neutral backdrop to other design elements.

The Handcrafted Aesthetic

Pale gray blue ceramic tiles on a wall. There are five diamond-shaped white and gold planters filled with succulents hanging on the wall.

A little irregularity on the edges and a little wobble in the glaze provides more character than the mass-produced basic subway tiles.


Whether truly handmade or machine-made with variation in the design, these tiles are usually more expensive than uniform subway: around $10-$15/sqft for machine-made and upwards of $20/sqft for truly handmade tiles.


These subway tiles are gorgeous in a Craftsman home, cozy in a cottage, add character to a Victorian, and embody shabby chic style.

Beveled Edges

Close up of backsplash with white matte beveled ceramic subway tiles. There is a dark nickel-colored pencil liner running through the backsplash. The countertop is white speckled quartz.

Beveled tiles range in price from $4/sqft to $15/sqft for uniform tiles, and upwards of $20/sqft for handmade beveled tiles.


The beveled edges add a bit of class and refinement to the standard subway tile, and create depth and interest on what would be a flat wall. 


Use beveled tiles to echo details of cabinetry and furniture in the room for a cohesive, elegant look.

Patterns Galore

Black tile with multiple patterns on a wall. There is a white shelf with a shaving kit on it hanging on the wall.

Some tiles spice up their lineup with patterns and detailing. Instead of a solid ceramic surface, these tiles feature printed or 3D patterns for added interest.


The effect of pattern tiles can range from a strikingly modern geometric affair to a cozy patchwork quilt look.


Artsy Glazes

Close up of a kitchen backsplash with lime green glazed tiles. The kitchen countertop is white quartz and there's a stainless steel pot on the stovetop.

Embrace uniqueness, color, and texture with a gorgeous glaze! 


Subway tiles don't have to be monochromatic or solid. Like a ceramic vase, a wonderfully varied glaze can add character.


Expect to pay a premium: tiles with these rich glazes can run upwards of $40/sqft

Other Considerations...

Check out the rest of the Subway Tile Series:

Part 1 : Style

Part 2: Color

Part 3: Finish

Part 4: Size

Part 5: Layout 

Bonus: Edge Trim, Grout, & Beyond


Set up a complimentary in-store design consultation and we'll help you pick the perfect tile.

253-872-0449 or info@tilelines.com

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