tile on a budget: art of the subway tile

Creating a unique space on a budget can be both challenging and rewarding for anyone. You can take the simplest of tiles and transform a space through color, pattern, and design. As a designer, I believe that the necessary art of transforming any space is to take something old and blend it tastefully with the new. A subway tile does exactly this.

a traditional base

Since it’s introduction to New York City’s subways over a century ago, difficult economic times have marked the American consumer’s partiality to the subway tile. White and black ceramic subway tiles are both inexpensive and timeless. Evidence of it’s continuing popularity is contiguous with our latest recession and will stay true in 2015. When it comes to designing kitchens and baths, the attractive yet simple qualities of the subway are both in its versatility and subtle ability to create a beautiful foundation. The option of either remaining traditional in design or addressing the unexpected can vary in cost but still remains a reasonable investment for your home.

style, color and form in a subway tile

Subway’s are popular in their trend setting styles by ranging from the standard white mass produced straight-edge 3×6 subway to the handmade ceramic tile. From color to size these tiles are in mass production and consumers love them for all that simple American nostalgia of NYC. The past few years have even introduced all different kinds of colors, sizes, even textures to this simple rectilinear form.

Here are 5 unbeatable tips to give your subway tile a classic design with a bit of an update set to endure:

  1. The Basics of Tile: Lay your subway to best fit your space. Horizontal brick pattern or vertical, herringbone or gridded in lines. The style of a subway transforms to the style of your home.
  2. A Sure Thing: Change the size and keep your colors neutral. Dare to be conservative and respective of the classic black and white subways by instead selecting a subway with an extra-long rectilinear size like a 2×10 or 4×16. This will embolden your design to the 21st century without changing it’s classic appeal.
  3. Add Color to Your Color: If your room is unalterably designed to express one to two singular colors, (meaning that if you love the color blue for example, more than just your walls are covered in blue, your cabinets are blue or your counters have blue in them–then by all means pop some of that blue into your subway tile.
  4. Change Texture or Style: Pick out your subway tile to match the style of your space by changing from a perfectly squared edge to a handmade or hand crafted “imperfect tile”.
  5. Make Your Mark: Pick your subway and add some color to the design with a glass mosaic. While respecting the size and neutrality of the subway tile, line your tile up with a splash of the here and now. Make sure to do something minimal and unexpected with your glass. For example: Take a classic 3×6 white subway herringbone design and take out one 3×6 at random and fill it in with the glass mosaic. By choosing a classic design foundation and selecting something minimally daring you may have created the next big thing, or something that is seen as uniquely interesting 30 years from now.