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Design & Inspiration

20 Subway Tile Bathroom Ideas

By Ted Ryan

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

powder room with white subway tile and blue wallpaper with birds

Tile Shown: Tusk 3x6 // Design & Image: Tori Wesszer

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

bathroom with soaking tub and subway tile half wall

Tile Shown: Salton Sea 3x6 // Design & Image: The Flip Hubb

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

bathroom with blue subway tile and claw foot tub

Tile Shown: Adriatic Sea 3x6, Navy Blue & White Wash 2" Hexagon // Design: Bright Bazaar

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

neutral colored bathroom with parquet tile floor

Tile Shown: French Linen 3x6 // Design: Alison Designs Co. // Image: Luke Gibson

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

walk in shower with charcoal subway tile

Tile Shown: Cyclone 3x6 // Design: SVK Interior Design // Image: Suzanna Scott Photography

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

black and white tile bathroom

Tile Shown: White Wash 3x6 & Basalt 2x8 // Design & Image: Liz Stanley

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

traditional bathroom with two tone tile walls

Tile Shown: White Wash & Hunter Green 2x4 Sheeted // Design & Image: Maggie Finch

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

bathroom vanity with green tile wall

Tile Shown: Rosemary 3x6 // Design: Sarah Sherman Samuel, Emily Farnham Architecture // Image: Tessa Neustadt

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

Tile Shown: Calcite 3x6, Calcite & Sea Glass Mini Star & Cross // Design & Image: Stephanie Feinerman Design

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

shower with green tile and brass hardware

Tile Shown: Evergreen 2x4 Sheeted // Design: Oh Joy, Project M Plus // Image: Bethany Nauert

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

Art Deco bathroom with arched shower

Tile Shown: Adobe 6x12 & Sand Dune 1x6 Sheeted // Design: Anne Sage // Image: Monica Wang

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

bath tub with green subway tile surround

Tile Shown: 3x6 Rosemary // Design: Sarah Montgomery Design // Image: Margaret Rajic

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

traditional bathroom with white and grey tile walls

Tile Shown: Cyclone 3x6 // Design & Image: House of Brinson

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

bathroom with hand painted floors and herringbone tile shower

Tile Shown: White Wash 3x6 & Mazagan Neutral Motif // Design: Kate Lester Interiors // Image: Gray Malin

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

shower with high variation green tile
Tile Shown: Salton Sea 3x6 // Design & Image: Zig Zag Studio

A single color of subway tile in an offset pattern doesn’t have to be as uniform as it sounds when you choose a high variation glaze as Monika Martin did here. This Salton Sea color creates visual interest in a scattered patchwork of light and dark tones to keep the eye intrigued by its handmade qualities.

16. Break the Mold

bathroom with blue checkered tile

Tile Shown: Nautical & Flagstone 2x8 // Design & Image: Joy Street Design


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

modern bathroom with cool white tile

Tile Shown: Moonshine 3x9 // Design: Lyons Studio // Image: Kylie Fitts

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

bathroom with windows and tan tile

Tile Shown: Feldspar & Dolomite 2x6 // Design: Veneer Design // Image: Charlotte Lea

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

colorful tile bathroom

Tile Shown: Desert Bloom, Mandarin, Ember, Mustard Seed, Aegean Sea, Magnolia w/ Black Patine, Lake Tahoe, Spruce Gloss, and Lichen 2x8 // Design & Image: Banyan Bridges

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

bathroom with dog shower

Tile Shown: Nautical 3x6 & Tusk 1x4 // Design: Noz Design

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.

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