are few design essentials that transcend interior styles as effortlessly
as the subway tile. It is as equally at home in a contemporary bathroom
as it is in a traditional country kitchen. But to say subway tile is
making a comeback may be disregarding its endurance
throughout a century of American design.
"metro tiles," the 3- by 6-inch ceramic plates became
ubiquitous with the urban landscape beginning in the early 1900s, when
they were plastered throughout New York City homes, buildings and travel
stations. Noted for their simplicity, durability and uniformity, the
tiles soon garnered wide appeal, and they’ve never quite fallen out of
"It is quite
possibly the hardest working surface covering in America," says
Kate Shortall of Blackstone International Inc. in
subway tiles come in a variety of colors and materials, including
ceramic, stone and glass," says Robin Swernoff, president of
Lakeside Stoneworks LLC in
While the tiles
can be positioned in countless ways — including crosshatch, stack bond
and herringbone patterns — classic horizontal variations remain the
most popular approach, she says.
mean a backsplash has to be boring, however.
versatility makes incorporating them an incredibly easy way to add
personality to a room. For example, owners can reveal a modern edge with
metallic tiles, or get a little artsy with a trio of colors arranged in
blocks or stripes.
find a look in their budget," Swernoff says.
homeowners may attempt to install tiles DIY-style, Swernoff recommends
hiring a professional. It can be difficult to get tiles lined up just
right, she says.
With so many
subway tile styles to choose from, the design possibilities are
modern, traditional or historical
project, the subway tile withstands," Shortall says. "It is
still, and will always be, a classic." M