9 Ways to Refresh the Humble White Subway Bathroom Tile
The classic style can still be exciting.
Published May 28, 2020 12:00 AM
White subway tile bathrooms are the avocado toast of the design world: Great in 2016, but the excitement surrounding them has since become slightly dimmed. However, their appeal is timeless—the sleek silhouette matches every single aesthetic, and the price tag is generally affordable. There’s no doubt that these glossy geometric shapes are here to stay, but they’re definitely due for a refresh.
Luckily, there’s hardly a shortage of inspiring spaces proving exactly just how versatile the classic design is. From clever layout ideas to the simple grouting trick every renovator should know, here are nine rooms that got it right.
Take a 360 Approach
Follow Louisa Pierce’s lead and dedicate more of your space to the style than just a backsplash; why not coat your entire room with it? From the walls to the ceiling to even the archway above her luxurious tub, the little rectangles are everywhere. It’s proof that simple white tiles can still be statement making—there’s power in numbers.
Mix Up the Shapes
In this St. Petersburg studio by Russian firm Int2architecture, irregularity is a good thing. A mix of subway and square shapes brings visual interest to what is otherwise a very pared-back space—it adds to the cool, geometric-inspired aesthetic that makes the room feel über-modern.
Use a Different Finish
There’s more than just porcelain and ceramic; we love shimmering zellige for infusing an easy dose of old-school character into even the newest of builds. Megan Schlachtenhaufen definitely pulled off the charm in this shower design, which is covered top to bottom in handcrafted clay pieces.
Set It Against Wood
To offset the urban feel of a white subway tile bathroom, incorporate some warmer touches. Raili Clasen styled hers against planks of hardwood in this Coronado, California, farmhouse; coupled with sage green cabinets and an antique-inspired rug, the room errs on the side of rustic.
Emphasize a Nook
In this 1920s Portland, Oregon, home, Jessica Helgerson wanted to preserve the vintage glamour of the house; enter: this stunning bathroom. She used grayscale marble subway tiles sparingly in a backsplash to turn the sink vanity area into a mini jewel-box moment without overwhelming the space in opulence.
Arrange Your Own Pattern
Go against the grain and channel your inner designer to create a bespoke layout à la this shower by Julia Miller Interiors. There’s no rule book that says each slab has to fall uniformly; besides, the mixed-up arrangement is far more interesting to look at.
Try Colorful Grout
Colored filler is the unsung hero of the bathroom world, expertly employed here by Doherty Design Studio in an electric blue. Ditch the neutrals and bring a little edge through your bold hue of choice; match it to your bath textiles for an easy palette.
Space It Out
Creating a border between rows makes it not look like subway tile at all. Sarah Sherman Samuel kept a thick, distinct line between each set—which, when stacked vertically, definitely offers a fresh take on a timeless style.
Design a Mosaic Inlay
In this elevated space, a black-and-white pattern is almost expected to match the luxuriousness of textured stone and marble flooring. Have some fun crafting your very own motif; whether you stick to monochrome or introduce a medley of colors, it’s all about the satisfaction of having something totally personalized.