Past to Present: 3 Ways to Bring Back Subway Tile

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Subway tile must be celebrating its time in the spotlight—it sure is getting a lot of it! Perhaps it has something to do with the popularity of white spaces in general or the fact that just about everything always comes back into style. Except pet rocks and lava lamps. Those should never come back. Ever.

Like its explanative name, subway tile originated when the New York subway opened in 1904. The builders knew they needed something that could withstand the grit and tile was the perfect vehicle to do so as the long, rectangular ceramic tile is easily scrubbable. The original tile is long since gone and replaced with more modern materials, but its influence is felt even in 2013.

When creating a white-walled space you could easily succumb to painted walls or stucco, but tile creates a polished, clean and nostalgic vibe. Let’s take a look at a few examples and why they are successful.

Subway Tile Used in Studio Spaces

White Kitchen Subway Tile
Image: Lingered Upon.

The studio space, above, uses the white subway tile as a backdrop for hanging art. Set with more rustic elements like wooden beams and earthy colors, it adds a bit of punch to the space that could otherwise be drab.

Subway Tile in Pantries and Kitchens

White Subway Tile Pantries
Images: (Left) Kiyoaki, (Right) Design Traveller.

The pantry and kitchen here look like they could be used in a professional setting because it is covered in floor-to-ceiling subway tile. The tile creates a hygienic, “let’s-make-some-food” vibe.

Irregular Shaped Subway Tile

Irregular Sized Subway Tile
Images: Abode Love.

These two examples show how you can add some interest with the size of the subway tile that you choose. The oven hood on the left is decked out in the tile with smaller sized pieces interspersed for visual interest. The kitchen on the right uses a mini subway tile, adding a bit of whimsy to the space.

Are you a fan of subway tile? What about all white? Done with it? Or gung ho?

1 Comment

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Brittany Watson Jepsen is an American designer and crafter who just returned to America after 2 1/2 years in wonderful Copenhagen, Denmark. Her motto is "a creative mess is better than tidy idleness" and she lives each day accordingly. During graduate school for interior design she spent one summer working for designers Jonathan Adler and Celerie Kemble and another summer studying textile design at the Danish Design School. She created her blog, The House That Lars Built, as a way to keep her designing and crafting. She currently runs her blog and her etsy shop, where she sells her home accessories and paper flowers.