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Subway Tile Backsplash: From Traditional to Trendy

Subway tile is named for its use in subway terminals in New York City. Although it's traditionally a glazed, white, rectangular tile, there is a range of options when it comes to designing your subway tile backsplash. Because it is available in an array of colors, sizes, and textures, you can choose subway tile in a size and style that's suited to your project's specifications. Whether you're going for a simple, mainstream look with white tile with gray grout, or you'd rather create a look that's ornate and features borders, inserts, or accent tiles, subway tile is a classic material that you'll be able to enjoy for many years. Here are a few inspirational ideas that showcase how subway tile can be used to create a backsplash in your home.

Go Beyond the Ordinary

Subway tile is generally white, glazed, and twice as wide as it is high, but there are many ways to take it up a notch from how it's typically used. Traditional subway tile is 3 inches tall by 6 inches wide, but when veering away from the norm, you can choose a tile that's 4 x 8 inches or 6 x 12 inches for a similar look. These larger tiles that have a similar shape to subway tile work well for expanses of wall space found in larger homes.

Subway tile also doesn't have to look like it's made of porcelain. Instead, try opting for a colored tile or one that resembles natural stone. You can either choose a tile that coordinates with the color scheme of your kitchen or bath, or one that adds a bright focal point to a neutral room. Consider using metallic subway tile mosaic in a dimly lit bathroom or kitchen for an unexpected twist on a traditional look, for example. By choosing tile that's a little different from the expected, you'll be able to successfully add a contemporary flair to your space through your backsplash.

When most people think of subway tile, they immediately imagine it in the kitchen or bathroom. For a nontraditional look, try also adding it to your outdoor kitchen or living area. Depending on its suggested applications, some subway tile is suitable for use outdoors, and it will give a clean, modern look to your outdoor space. For instance, you can use subway tile by your outdoor grill or built-in pizza oven to bring a personal touch to the space.

Enhance Your Subway Tile Backsplash

Try enhancing your subway tile backsplash with a complementary accent tile. This design addition will not only add a special touch to your backsplash, but it can be used to break up an expanse of tile. Insert a line of mosaic tile to contrast an expanse of solid white subway tile, for example, to make your backsplash unique to your kitchen. You can also change up the traditional look of subway tile by installing it in a nontraditional pattern. For instance, use a grid pattern for a contemporary look, or install it in a vertical pattern to create a striped effect. Keep in mind that the direction of the tile will alter the way your room appears to the eye. For example, subway tiles arranged horizontally will make your space appear wider, while subway tiles arranged vertically will make your room appear taller.

When designing your subway tile backsplash, you can use the texture of the tile you choose to achieve a decorative effect. Subway tile is available in glazed, semi glazed, and matte finishes, and some styles are slightly textured for additional visual interest. You can also combine subway tile with other types of tile in different shapes and textures in order to really elevate your design. For example, it can be used as a backdrop for unexpected tile enhancements such as custom tile murals, or glass or metallic accents.

If you have a backsplash that consists of subway tile, you can use accent tile to frame areas of the wall that you want to be noticed. If you have a great view of mountains, a lake, or the beach from your kitchen window, frame the window with a complementary, eye-catching tile to create a showcase for nature's masterpiece.

Create a Decorative Theme

Try combining different types and colors of subway tile to create a decorative theme. For example, use black and white subway tiles to create a two-tone backsplash in your kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room. Of course, you can choose any colors, but white and a single bright color is a classic combination. If you're going for a softer look, consider designing a monochromatic backsplash using subway tile in similar pastel or neutral tones. If you're the artistic type, try creating an ombré backsplash, for instance. This will give your space a one-of-a-kind look and feel.

Try to design a backsplash that reflects your environment and lifestyle. What's the style of your decor? Tuscan? Southwestern? Urban contemporary? With many variations of subway tile, the options for your backsplash are endless. If you're going for a Southwestern look, opt for subway tile in warm colors that complement the rest of the decor. On the other hand, if your design is more contemporary, you may want to go with a subway tile in a matte finish or break up plain white subway tile with metallic accents. Available metallic finishes include oil-rubbed bronze, gilded copper, and brushed stainless steel. Metallic accent tiles are also available in chair rails, rope liners, and other shapes that can be used in your subway tile backsplash.

Whether you choose to go with a traditional backsplash made of 3 x 6 white glazed tile, or you decide to add borders and accent tile in between natural stone tile, the shape and elegance of subway tile will always help you meet your decorative needs. The clean lines of subway tile create a foundation for your backsplash design, and Daltile's inspiration tools can help you select subway tiles and calculate how much you'll need for your project. Now that your inspiration is flowing, head over to the Tile and Stone Visualizer to get started on your design.

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