12 Different Ways to Lay Subway Tile | Pattern Ideas

Subway tile, everyone’s favorite. Subway tile patterns can be a little mundane, but when you shake it up and add a fun pattern, it can make a world of a difference in your home. So today, we’re talking subway tile and the different ways to lay it to create a unique look in your home.

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. It’s so classic, yet modern looking too! The original size was 3 in x 6 in, but today subway tile is all different sizes from long and skinny to short and stout. This tile is one of those design aspects that will always be in style since it’s so versatile and has been around for over 100 years.

Subway tile has a clean look, and it’s also easy to clean – BONUS! Back in the day, it would only come in white, but now subway tile comes in all shades, sizes, and textures. It can sometimes even be a little overwhelming to choose your perfect subway tile. The coolest part is you don’t have to just lay it horizontally in rows. Here is some inspiration for fun subway tile patterns and subway tile layouts for your bathroom or kitchen.

subway tile patterns shown in different ways to lay by construction2style

1. Herringbone at 90 Degrees

The classic herringbone pattern 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.

Two tone herringbone ceramic tile from Mercury Mosaics | construction2style

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. It’s definitely a different layout and not one you see often but 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.

Step Ladder Herringbone Pattern - Subway Tile Pattern Ideas | construction2style

Photo Credit: Apartment Therapy

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. This is what our clients most opt for because it’s timeless and pairs well with other shapes, like the hexagon. Below we incorporated a warm color scheme and then complimented the subway tile with mosaic tile in the niche and pebble tile on the floor. More of this bathroom remodel HERE.

Traditional Master Bathroom with Classic Subway Tile | construction2style

Another bathroom with the classic subway tile is shown below. We combined the classic subway pattern layout with a black hexagon statement wall that became an absolutely stunning feature in the space. Our clients wanted the space to bring in the timeless subway tile, but also wanted something unique and different. We think the hexagon and subway tile turned out to be the perfect pair. See more of this bathroom HERE.

Classic subway tile patterns in a shower | construction2style

In this remodel below, we used white glass subway tile. If our clients want to go with the traditional layout, we always urge them to go with a tile that’s a bit more fun. There are so many cool options out there, and glass is definitely one of our favorites, and it comes in a ton of cool colors as well. Typically with glass, the price point is a little higher, but it totally makes a statement and is worth the price tag if you’re looking for a wow factor.

Subway Kitchen Tile Pattern | construction2style

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 which 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 | construction2style

Subway Tile Pattern Ideas Mixed Pattern | construction2style

5. Classic at a Diagonal

Shake the classic subway tile 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 not expected. 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.

Subway tile patterns stacked vertical in a kitchen | construction2style

Photo Credit: My Paradissi

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 subway tile pattern | construction2style

Photo Credit: Apartment Therapy

8. Stacked Tile

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

12 Different Ways to Lay Subway Tile | construction2style

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 subway tile layout is definitely for you because of the linear look.

Subway Tile Layout in a Stacked Pattern Bathroom Vanity | construction2style

Photo Credit: Emily Henderson

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.

white vertical subway tile in bright bathroom | construction2style

Photo Credit: Apartment Therapy

10. Classic Herringbone

One of our favorites that give subway tile 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 and I don’t think will ever go out of style. For the project below, we used handmade tile to create this herringbone pattern and it added a unique element this kitchen refresh. See the full before and after HERE.

white subway tile pattern in a white kitchen | construction2style

11. Stacked Horizontal – Alternating

Just like the stacked vertical alternating, alternate the tiles horizontally. This is more of a classic look, yet still creates a unique pattern that looks great in a laundry room or bathroom.

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.

HerringboneWhite subway tile pattern in a shower | construction2style

Photo Credit: This Old House

No matter the subway tile design 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 incorporate some other fun tiles and layouts. In this remodel below we did the shower with the classic subway tile and then had the accent wall give the pop of color and added dimension with these blue fish scale tiles.

Subway Tile Moroccan Fish Scales in bath | construction2style

Then for the main bathroom floor within this same remodel,  we went with wood looking tile and laid it in the herringbone pattern. You can find more of this remodel HERE.

How fun are these? Ready to get tiling? We can’t wait to try them in some of your projects!