Since the early 1900s, subway tiles have been one of the most popular finishes for spaces such as kitchens and bathrooms. (If you look closely, youll start to notice these popular 3-by-6-inch rectangular tiles almost anywhere.) From bathrooms designed in the 1920s to recently redone luxury kitchens, subway tiles are now a timeless option.
Do you know their back story? The original tiles first appeared in you guessed it the first subway stations, a groundbreaking commission for architects Christopher LaFarge and George Heins. The pair was tasked with designing the first stations for what would become the New York City subway, which opened in 1904. As part of that project, LaFarge and Heins specified glossy white tiles for the walls in the subterranean stations, not only because they were bright and hygienic, but also because they were highly effective in reflecting the daylight that would stream down through glass blocks set in the sidewalks above. The same reasons the tiles were used in the subway stations durability, luminosity, ease of cleaning quickly became reasons for people to put them in their homes, too. By the 1920s, subway tiles werent just for subways: They were being used in kitchens and bathrooms across the country.
Though the popularity of subway tiles has waxed and waned throughout the decades, there was a strong resurgence for this iconic tile in the early 2000s and it hasnt let up yet. In restaurants and hotels, in residential kitchens and bathrooms, subway tiles became the new It element again for interior designers everywhere. The stacked rectangular tiles are still in vogue, but their looks are slowly evolving. Instead of the bright white style that has become ubiquitous, the tiles are taking on some twists including unexpected shades and bold patterns.
Sage, emerald and hunter green are all colors exploding in popularity for the home so, why not take this trend and apply it to your tile selection, too? Choose a deep and moody hue for an ultramodern feel, or opt for a lighter, muted sage for a vintage-inspired look. Whichever green shade you choose, it will add a natural, earthy edge that instantly makes anyone feel at home. Plus, it effortlessly complements almost any countertop, so its a win-win design choice.
Though subway tiles were originally designed to give stations a light and bright look, the new black alternatives will add some exciting edge to your space. With glossy and matte finishes to choose from, you can customize the overall look to bring your vision to life. And a major perk? Black tiles can mask dirt and stains quite well, making them a practical choice for high-touch, high-traffic areas like kitchens and bathrooms.
Plain subway tiles arent your only option. Explore patterned designs that will give your space an unexpected twist. From geometric prints such as stripes to intricate paisley designs, there are subway tiles out there that reflect your personal aesthetic. You can even choose a pattern that spans across multiple tiles for a bolder look that could serve as the focal point of the room, giving you an instant accent wall. Or, if you love the look of solid-color tiles, try installing them in an unconventional formation think herringbone, or stacked in neat rows, oriented either vertically or horizontally. Going with anything but the classic brick-wall pattern will create a contemporary, subtle patterned look.
Blue is having a moment. From moody navy cabinets to a sky-blue ceiling, embrace this shade in your space especially since it can swing from calming to dramatic. But think way beyond throw pillows and accent rugs: Instead of just pops of blue here and there, try blue subway tiles to define and enliven an entire space. Whether you use them for backsplashes in your kitchen or for every wall of a bathroom from floor to ceiling the possibilities are nearly endless.
Embrace the Pantone Color of the Year for 2021! It is called Ultimate Gray, says Pantone, emblematic of solid and dependable elements the colors of pebbles on the beach and natural elements whose weathered appearance highlights an ability to stand the test of time encouraging feelings of composure, steadiness. Opting for subway tiles in a great gray will transform a space. And, think outside the box when it comes to the final finish: Tiles that look like matte stainless steel or shiny chrome will make for a modern take on a traditional look. Besides serving as a statement-making detail, the reflective surfaces of the tiles will bounce light around the room for a brighter, airer look just like architects LaFarge and Heins imagined almost 120 years ago. Form mixed with function never goes out of style.
A dream kitchen and dream baths start with a dream home. Find yours with the agents of Briggs Freeman Sothebys International Realty, who know neighborhoods, facts, figures and trends. Get in touch with one of our expert agents today to start the fun and rewarding journey of finding the perfect home for you.