How to Use Subway Tile in a Bathroom


Subway tile gained prominence in 1904, when the New York Subway system opened, and the walls were covered with classic white tiles approximately 3 inches wide and 6 inches long. The tile was durable and easy to clean and soon was a popular choice in homes of that era. Subway tiles have enjoyed resurgence. And while white is still the color most associated with subway tile, it is now available in a variety of hues, glazes and materials like glass and natural stone.

Things You'll Need

  • White and colored subway tiles
  • Black-and-white octagonal floor tile
  • Glass subway tile
  • Marble and granite subway tiles
  • Vessel sinks
  • Contemporary vanity
  • Pedestal sink
  • Clawfoot tub
  • Chair
  • Paint
  • Wallpaper
  • Stencil
  • Apron-front sink
  • Antique dresser
  • Install white subway tile from floor to ceiling. Build a platform for your tub, and cover it in white subway tile. Do the floor in white marble with black accents or tile manufactured to resemble marble or granite. For a modern look, add matching marble vessel sinks on a clean-lined, contemporary vanity. Break up the expanse of white with a glass tile backsplash in cool blue or green.

  • Go three quarters up the walls with subway tile. Add black accent tile as a border, and paint the rest of the wall. For a vintage look, use white and black octagonal tile on the floor, a pedestal sink and a clawfoot tub. If your bathroom is large enough, add a soft slipper chair or chintz-covered chaise for a truly luxurious experience.

  • Install subway tile halfway up the walls. Add a contrasting border, and tile in a second color above it. Add a border of the same contrasting color at the top of the wall, under the ceiling. Or paint or paper above the tile going halfway up the walls. Use vinyl wallpaper, as it resists moisture. Give the bathroom country flair by adding a stenciled border and an apron-front sink installed in a converted antique dresser.

  • Choose colored subway tile for the top of the vanity and the backsplash. Use white tile on the walls and floor, highlighted with the same tile you used on the vanity and backsplash. Tile halfway up the shower enclosure with the same color, and finish with white tile, adding a border of the other tile at the top of the wall, under the ceiling. Surround the window with the colored tile. Use pink or mint green for a bathroom that looks like it is straight out of the 1950s.


  • Photo Credit Martin Poole/Lifesize/Getty Images
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