Published on July 15, 2019

imagePin It
photo by aaron bengochea

If the subway tile craze has taught us anything, it’s that the best ideas come from the most unusual places—we hold a special place in our hearts for the city dweller who managed to find inspiration on their morning commute. It’s not hard to see why the glossy rectangular tiles grabbed the attention of the masses. Their classic shape and geometric grout lines lend polish to any kitchen or bathroom they grace. But now that subway tiles have saturated every corner of the Internet, we want to know: Which tile will sweep us off our feet next? 

We asked five seasoned designers to predict what the future has in store—discover their top four alternatives below.  

Zellige Tiles 

imagePin It
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ZEKE RUELAS

You might not have known their name, but believe us, you’ve been seeing these Moroccan terracotta tiles everywhere this year. “They’re still simple, geometric, and classic, but a bit more elevated than a standard subway tile,” says New York City–based designer Tina Rich. Their handmade nature and rippling texture exude character. 

“They’re still simple, geometric, and classic, but a bit more elevated than a standard subway tile.”—Tina Rich

Rich isn’t the only one picking up on their growing popularity. Jasmine Vaughn of Maxwell Gray Interiors is also happy to see zellige tiles take off. “I suggest using them on vertical surfaces or in low-traffic areas,” the designer says, adding that she loves the old-world look of Cle Tile and Zio and Sons new zellige collaboration. “The shapes are to die for.” 

Solid Natural Stones 

imagePin It
PHOTOGRAPHY BY NICOLE FRANZEN, DESIGN BY ROBERT MCKINLEY

While Lindsay Hollinger, the artist and designer behind Casa Joshua Tree, says subway tile will always have a place in the mix (particularly for renovators working with a small budget), she’s currently gravitating toward surfaces found in the great outdoors. “The simplicity of natural materials is beautiful and appealing,” she shares. “Solid marble slab backsplashes look incredible in the kitchen.”

Sheet Glass

imagePin It
PHOTO BY MADELINE BRODERICK PHOTOGRAPHY

Jenn O’Brien’s prediction is essentially the opposite of traditional tile. “I’m loving the use of sheet glass installed over colorful wall treatments,” says the Massachusetts-based designer. Wallpaper? Paint? She wants to see it all shine through. “Don’t get me wrong, I am the number-one fan of subway tile, but it’s time to have a bit more fun in our homes,” she explains. Case in point: This stunning guest bathroom shower by the husband-and-wife designers behind The Chris and Claude Co., where they used glass to preserve remnants of old wallpaper and plaster.

“It’s time to have a bit more fun in our homes.”—Jenn O’Brien

Vertically Stacked Subway Tile

imagePin It
PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEPHEN BUSKEN; DESIGN BY STUDIO LIFE.STYLE

If you’re not ready to desert subway tile completely, Melissa Benham, principal at Studio Gild, suggests flipping your perspective. “There’s been a big shift in tile trends from the expected staggered brick layout to a vertical one,” she says. “We especially love this trend applied with an exaggerated, narrow tile, which accentuates the ceiling height.” The other important trend she’s noticing? People are ditching the traditional glossy glaze for a more matte finish. Even if it’s just by making these little tweaks, she’s ready to give classic white subway tile a breather. 

See more stories like this: 
What Comes After Terrazzo? We Asked 3 Interior Designers
What Comes After Rattan? We Asked 4 Designers to Predict the Next Big Material
According to Google, These Decor Trends Are Officially Over

Discussion