03 Dec 2021

Interiors: How to style a subway tile

All Things Interior with Louise Higgins of Aspire Design

Interiors: How to style a subway tile

Mix colours with subway tiles

Considered a classic tile, a subway tile or metro tile is extremely versatile, durable and very affordable.

Around since the 1900s, the subway tile is still a leader in tiles and is now available in a range of different sizes to suit classic and contemporary home projects. There are also many different tile layout options to choose from to ensure you create the perfect scheme to suit your home style.

Whether you love traditional, classic, contemporary or quirkyS,, there is a subway tile layout to suit your taste.

In addition to tile layouts and shape there are also other variations of subway tiles to consider which include bevelled tiles, elongated tiles, mixed colour tiles and textured tiles which can be chosen to enhance your kitchen or bathroom design.

Here is a glimpse at some of my favourite ways of working with subway tiles.

‘Classic Brick Effect’

Laying subway tiles in a horizontal brick effect pattern is its most popular layout, and is referred to as the ‘classic subway’. This is how subway tiles started out, and creates a timeless look for any home. However, in recent years the brick effect tile layout has also been laid vertically which can help make a room appear taller and works well as a kitchen splashback. For a twist on the classic subway tile, you could opt to rotate it 45 degrees to create a diagonal brick effect.

‘Stacked Vertical’

For Bathrooms and wet rooms, you could consider laying the tile in a vertically stacked tile layout. For added visual interest you can also off-set the rows to create a contemporary layout.

‘Mixing Colours’

White is the most popular colour chosen in subways tiles but in recent years we have seen a shift to colourful options, especially in smaller areas such as the area above a bathroom sink or a kitchen splashback. For a bold look consider black tiles in a mix of matt and sheen textures. In addition, mixing tiles of different colours creates a fun look for a contemporary or quirky interior. Mixing textured tiles of the same colour is another option to consider.


A Herringbone design can give your subway tile a whole new look and dimension and is a perfect choice for a feature wall or for a kitchen splashback. An alternative to the classic herringbone is a 90-degree herringbone which works well for taller spaces like a shower area or large wall.

‘Basket weave’

If you are looking for a showstopper layout then the ‘Basket Weave’ could be the perfect tile layout. It adds interest and depth to a room and looks equally good in a bevelled tile.


Another tip is to be mindful of the colour grout you use when tiling. For a classic minimalist look choose white grout with white tiles. For a contemporary scheme choose a dark grey grout to make the white tiles pop even more. Using a contrast grout colour to your tile will showcase the tiles shape and layout design.

I hope you have found this week’s column helpful and that I have given you some inspiration when choosing subway tiles for your home. Remember if there is a topic that you would like covered in my weekly interiors column then please drop me a line with your suggestions.

Louise is a former winner of TV3’s Showhouse Showdown. Contact 086 3999926; email;

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