20 Subway Tile Bathroom Ideas
Subway Tile is such a classic choice for bathrooms. Durable, timeless, and completely customizable to your style and specifications, it’s no wonder that subway tile is such a workhorse in interior design.
With so many choices, we’re sharing 20 of our favorite subway tile bathroom ideas from today’s top designers and trendsetting homeowners.
What is Subway Tile?
Subway tile is a rectangular glazed ceramic tile. Subway tile got its name from its incorporation in the original design of the New York City subway system where it is still used today. The original subway tile measured 3x6 and for purists, this is still the precise measurement for an authentic subway tile. But today most small to medium-sized rectangular tile can be called a subway tile, especially if they have a height to width ratio of 1:2 comparable to the classic 3x6.
Why are Subway Tiles Good in the Bathroom?
Subway tiles were originally featured in the NY Metro because they had a clean look and were easy to keep that way due to their strength and glazed finish. Those are perks that make subway tile perfect for the bathroom as well where staying clean and standing up to water, wear and tear are as important as how they look.
But speaking of looks, subway tile is one of the most timeless and versatile finishes for a bathroom. Whether you’re keeping it traditional or putting a new spin on the classic, subway tile isn’t something you’ll want to replace every time a new design trend comes and goes.
20 Subway Tile Bathroom Ideas
1. Keep it Traditional
It doesn’t get much more classic than white 3x6 subway tile in an offset pattern. Tori Wesszer of Fraiche Living adds even more traditional charm to her powder room with Architectural Ceramic Trim Molding.
2. Choose the Classic with Clean Lines
Subway tile with a Scandinavian touch, this bathroom by Kenna Valdez of The Flipp Hubb uses the classic 3x6 in a straight-set pattern in a cool neutral green to create an environment to relax and rejuvenate.
3. Go Bold with Blue
With walls reminiscent of the subway and floors like a classic cafe, this bathroom by Will Taylor of Bright Bazaar on New York’s Long Island takes inspiration from the city but boosts the design with bold and glossy blue glaze.
4. Focus on the Floor
Subway tile in a light neutral is an understated idea but adding pattern is a great way to increase the intrigue while maintaining the neutral palette of the room like this timeless parquet floor in French Linen Subway Tile.
5. Be Daring with Darks
Black subway tile, or a dark charcoal like this shower shown here, is a classic combo that’s a little more adventurous than the traditional white.
6. Consider Contrast
Pairing black and white tile takes the two classics to the next level with high contrast visual appeal. Liz Stanley of the Say Yes blog features a black shower with a white floor and boosts the contrast even more with white contrasting grout on black tile and a warm grey grout with the white tile.
7. Try Two-Toned with Wainscoting
Another way to achieve contrast in your design is to use a wainscot in a dark color and finish the rest of the wall in clean white subway tile. This bathroom features white subway tile walls with a rich hunter-green wainscot.
8. Blend In
If you prefer a more uniform look, choose a colored grout that either matches the color of your tile or complements it, like this dark grey grout accompanying Rosemary green tile in Mandy Moore’s bathroom.
9. Support a Specialty Shape
White subway tile creates a subdued space that’s perfect for a scene-stealing specialty shape. This bathroom by Stephanie Feinerman complements the shiplap walls with a white subway tile shower but all eyes are on the star and cross floor tile in Calcite and Sea Glass.
10. Make a Showstopping Shower
The shower area is where many interior designers go all out and this sheeted 2x4 subway tile shower by Joy Cho (aka Oh Joy!) is no exception. The straight-set subway tile pattern in glamorous Evergreen is as luxurious as showers get.
11. Put Oversized Subway Under Mosaic Tile
Sticking to the 1:2 size definition for subway tile, these 6x12 tiles are among the largest you can get. The oversized shape balances the tiny 1x6 mosaic tiles in Anne Sage’s beautiful Art Deco bathroom design.
12. Surround Your Tub in Calm
A tub surround with a soothing colored subway tile creates a perfect space to unwind surrounded by great design. This bathroom features jade green Rosemary tile accentuated with white grout for a clean and calming look.
13. Honor the History of Your Home
Subway tile is perfect for historic restorations of older homes. Preserving the home's original 1900s subway tile and trim, House of Brinson tiled the upper half of their bathroom walls with complementary Cyclone subway tiles for a seamless and time-honored design.
14. Harness Herringbone
A herringbone pattern takes subway tile in a new design direction that’s both classic and contemporary. Kate Lester gives white subway tile the herringbone treatment in Gray Malin’s lakehouse for a luxury look to go with the handpainted tile floors.
15. Play with Variation
16. Break the Mold
The definition of subway tile is evolving and elongated rectangles are breaking the rules of what was once a staunch 3x6. This bathroom by Kelly Finley uses a broken stripe pattern for a fun take on a new interpretation of subway tile.
17. Make it Modern
Continuing to bring subway tile into the modern era, this bathroom in Moonshine 3x9 is as modern as can be with minimalist color and the cleanest of lines.
18. Act Naturally
Highlighting the natural environment around this sunlit bathroom, sandy neutral-colored subway tile uses Scandi principles to celebrate the Southern California locale.
19. Make it Yours
Most importantly, for any design with any shape in any room, put your own personality into the installation. Racheal Jackson of Banyan Bridges was tired of playing it safe and designed a bathroom that represented her rather than what she thought would be appealing to others. Turns out, we love it!
20. Don’t Forget Fido
Last but not least, the utilitarian nature of subway tile is the perfect finish for a pet washing station that you may not have yet but will wonder what you did without once you do.
Inspired to incorporate Subway Tile in your bathroom design? With 100+ standard colors as well as custom options, we can make any design possible, plus free design assistance to bring it all together. Request Free Design Assistance now to be put in touch with your personal consultant.