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Leanne Ford started her design career in an old schoolhouse in Pittsburgh 14 years ago. The Pennsylvania native, who was working in fashion at the time, was determined to turn her attic into a dreamy primary bathroom with help from her brother, Steve Ford, a seasoned carpenter, even though three contractors told her it was impossible. The roof was slanted. The window was tiny. And there was no obvious place to put a tub (a must-have for Leanne, who takes at least one soak a day). 

Still, her vision was clear: an open-concept wet zone with no shower curtain. To accomplish that, Steve cut into a crawl space and took over a closet. Next came the waterproofing. Wall-to-wall tile was absolutely necessary, so Leanne went searching for the perfect option where any other novice renovator would: Home Depot. “When I’m using construction materials, I like to use the classic, more simple stuff that big-box stores have so that it is timeless and will let my fun, funkier, more artistic pieces do the talking,” shares Leanne. An affordable white subway tile by Daltile—a case goes for $15 and covers around 12.5 square feet—called her name then, and it still does now.

Photography by Max Kimbee | Courtesy of Leanne Ford

“I used this in my very first bathroom, in my very first house, and I still love it,” admits Leanne. While the subway style is very much a staple today, the designer remembers it was hard to find back then. “Now I’m glad it’s a go-to,” she says. The trick to making it appear more custom is all in the grout. Ford tends to go for high contrast by pairing it with a charcoal shade. An oldie but a goodie.

Daltile Restore Ceramic Bright White Subway Tile

Bathroom Renovation photo

Daltile Restore 3 in. x 6 in. Ceramic Bright White Subway Tile, Home Depot ($15 per case)