12 Different Subway Tile Patterns & How to Lay Them

12 Different Subway Tile Patterns & How to Lay Them 1

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Subway tile patterns have garnered widespread admiration for their timeless appeal. Yet, while subway tile offers a classic charm, it can sometimes verge on the mundane. However, by infusing it with creative patterns, you can elevate its presence in your home to an entirely new level.

Today, we delve into the realm of subway tile, exploring the myriad ways in which it can be laid to impart a distinct character to your living space.

Subway tile hit the scene during the early 1900s when it was put in underground train stations in New York. People were inspired and began using it in their homes, adding it to their kitchens and bathrooms.

While the traditional size of subway tile measures 3 inches by 6 inches, contemporary variations abound, ranging from elongated rectangles to compact squares. This adaptability has cemented subway tile’s status as a design staple, ensuring its relevance for over a century. Not only does subway tile exude a timeless elegance, but its smooth surface also facilitates effortless maintenance—a welcome bonus for homeowners.

Initially available only in white, subway tile now boasts a diverse array of hues, sizes, and textures, offering boundless possibilities for customization. Navigating the selection process can be daunting, but the beauty lies in the freedom to experiment beyond the conventional horizontal layout in rows.

Subway Tile Layout Visual Guide

12 Different Subway Tile Patterns & How to Lay Them

1. Herringbone at 90 Degrees

The classic herringbone pattern, but just tilted 90 degrees. It works well for a taller space, like a shower, to create vertical and horizontal subway tile patterns rather than just one large pattern that can be overwhelming when used in a large and tall space.

The herringbone at 90 degrees also draws the eye up and creates visual interest in the space.

Herringbone Subway Tile at 90 Degrees

subway tile patterns two tone herringbone ceramic tile in a step ladder formation from Mercury Mosaics

Photo Credit: Mercury Mosaics

2. Step Ladder

Imagine this look like stepping stones in a step ladder. This one looks awesome in a surround shower pattern and makes the space feel larger and more open.

12 Different Subway Tile Patterns & How to Lay Them 2

It’s definitely a different layout and not one you see often, however, as you can tell, makes a great statement. Consider the step ladder in a niche in the shower or as a more creative subway tile layout in the kitchen.

3. Classic Subway

Pictured here is the classic subway tile. In this design, the tile is stacked like bricks. This is how subway tile was first started and adds a classic look to any space.

12 Different Subway Tile Patterns & How to Lay Them 3

This is what our clients most opt for because it’s timeless and pairs well with other shapes, like the hexagon. We love using a fun pop of color with the classic subway tile pattern. 

classic subway tile backsplash

4. Geometric Look

This fun look is easy to create by placing two horizontal tiles next to two vertical tiles. It creates a geometric pattern that adds boldness while still maintaining a classic feel.

We did this one in our kitchen and are in love with how it turned out.

Geometric subway tile patterns for a kitchen by Mercury Mosaics | construction2style

Subway Tile Pattern Ideas Mixed Pattern | construction2style

5. Classic at a Diagonal

Shake the classic subway tile patterns up with a little twist! All you do with this is take the traditional subway tile, stack it like bricks, and rotate it at a 45-degree angle.

This twist on the classic adds a surprise in the kitchen because it’s so unique and rather unexpected. The diagonal pattern helps to expand the room while keeping the classic look.

Classic Subway Tile at a Diagonal - Subway Tile Pattern Ideas | construction2style

Photo Credit: A Beautiful Mess

6. Stacked Vertical

Pretty simple one here, stack the tiles vertically on top and beside each other. Because of the vertical pattern, it can make the ceilings feel taller and work well behind your counters.

the primrose place stacked vertical subway tile | construction2style

the primrose place stacked vertical subway tile | construction2style

stacked vertical subway tile in the shower

7. 90 Degree Classic

Rotate the classic stacked subway tile 90 degrees, and you’ve got a whole new look to the classic subway tile pattern. This design helps to enlarge the room and makes a statement in your space that’s more fun than the traditional design.

Vertical stacked subway tile pattern | construction2style

Photo Credit: Apartment Therapy

8. Stacked Horizontal Tile

Similar to the stacked vertical, except now the tile is stacked horizontally.

Stacked Subway tile

stacked subway stile

stacked subway tile pattern in the shower

The grout lines are linear and the tile lines up next to and on top of each other. This look works well with a modern design and open wood shelving that creates pleasing horizontal lines throughout the kitchen.

If you love the mid-century modern look or your style is more modern than traditional, this is one of the subway tile patterns for you because of the linear look. We recently used the horizontally stacked tile in one of our favorite bathroom remodels.

Below we paired a custom tile from Mercury Mosaics with a fun bold wallpaper.

Check out more on that project HERE

stacked horizontal subway tile in bathroom remodel

stacked horizontal tile in bathroom remodel

horizontal stacked subway tile in the shower

9. Stacked Vertical – Alternating

Create a visually interesting shower wall by using the vertically stacked subway tile pattern, but then offset the rows. This pattern is a more modern look and therefore works well with full tile walls, like in a bathroom or as a statement wall in the kitchen or by the hood.

Stacked Vertical - Alternating white subway tile in bright bathroom | construction2style

Photo Credit: Apartment Therapy

10. Classic Herringbone

One of our favorites that give subway tile a whole new look! The tiles are diagonal and create a cool pattern. It makes any wall pop and works as an accent wall.

We do the herringbone pattern a lot for our own homes and for clients’ floor tile. It’s a classic look that I don’t think will ever go out of style.

Classic Herringbone subway tile in downstairs Molitor home

Classic Herringbone subway tile

Classic Herringbone subway tile in shower at black lake property

Classic Herringbone subway tile pattern

For the project below, we used handmade tile to create this herringbone pattern and it added a unique element to this kitchen refresh. The white tile is accented by “whisper gray” grout, making this classic herringbone pattern stand out. 

Classic Herringbone subway tile pattern

Classic Herringbone subway tile

Classic Herringbone subway tile

11. Stacked Horizontal – Alternating

Just like the stacked vertical alternating, alternate the tiles horizontally. This classic look is still able to create a unique pattern, it will make your laundry room or bathroom appear chic and elegant.

Horizontal Stacked Offset White Subway Tile | construction2style

Photo Credit: Remodelista

12. Herringbone at 45 Degrees

For this look, take #10 and rotate it 45 degrees. This is a good pattern for a smaller bath or kitchen because it keeps your eyes moving throughout the room making it seem bigger.

It’s also a great way to draw the eye around the room or direct attention to a specific element in the space.

Herringbone at 45 degrees White subway tile pattern in a shower | construction2style

Photo Credit: This Old House

No matter which of the subway tile patterns you choose, you can’t go wrong! Shake it up and have some fun with it. Even if you incorporate the classic subway tile in the classic design, try to include some other fun tiles and layouts.

Ready to get tiling? We have a video tutorial too. 

How to Tile Video Tutorial

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