The metro tile (or subway tile) is a product that has stood the test of time. It’s been around since the turn of the 20th century when the inner city underground train system began taking shape in places like New York, Paris & London.
During the Victorian times, this namesake tile was used throughout the London underground system, growing in popularity into residential and commercial spaces too. From butcher’s walls to bathroom floors, it was the go-to product of the time.
Since then, we’ve seen the evolution of the classic brick size tile to include a vast array of colours, finishes, and sizes. It’s been hugely popular within homes that are after a more utilitarian or industrial look, capturing the aesthetic of exposed pipes in a warehouse setting. I’m now seeing it combined with a wider range of interior styles. With the play on pattern design, contrast grout and amazing colour choices, the application of these tiles is limitless.
Read on to discover the different ways you can make the most of these 20p tiles in your own home.
The traditional placement of the subway tile mimics that of brick laying design and is the most common application. Recent years have seen even more creative applications of these 20x10cm tiles from weaves, to herringbones in straight and diagonal patterns. Take a look at some of the different applications of layouts in these bathrooms & this brilliant graphic of 12 different patterns you could achieve.
Originally made in white, the metro tile now comes in a wide range of colours, textures and finishes. White is still cheapest, but if you have the budget, go for an interesting colour, like this emerald green from Mandarin Stone with a green ombre effect, creating a lovely rustic aesthetic. If you’re after a lighter tone, this blush pink is the perfect neutral but with a touch of colour.
Why stick to just one colour when you can have more? Go for a colour blocking effect with a 2 tone split or alternate the colours to create a striking new pattern. If you just want a dash of colour, try adding a trim or border with just a row or two in a contrasting colour.
Three colours or more
If you’re feeling really bold, go for a mix of 3 or more. Take inspiration from the tiled floors of Marrakesh or from India Mahdavi’s application of the subway tile on one of London’s most iconic restaurants Sketch.
Paint & Grout Colour
You can also change up your look by opting for an unusual grout colour. If you’re tight on budget, stick to a simple coloured tile to save on cost and opt for a striking grout colour to add that element of surprise! If you want to be bolder, get a matching paint colour to your grout and take it up the walls. You don’t always have to tile the whole area - stop halfway & paint the rest of the area in water resistant paint.
Varying grout width is a fairly new trend that I’ve seen becoming popular lately. It’s a simple idea that gives you more layout options and designs to play with. Simple rows of white tiles broken by larger spaces create a really striking look.