12 Best Square Subway Tile Ideas to Try Immediately

emily henderson kitchen

Design: Velinda Hellen, Photo: Veronica Crawford


Scandinavian design is having a moment, and we’ve witnessed one trend, in particular, making its way across the Atlantic: square subway tile. A staple in Swedish homes for both bathroom walls and kitchen backsplashes, square subway tiles are very friendly on the wallet and are a minimalist’s dream tile. They may be a budget staple in European Nordic homes, but stateside, they're cropping up in the coolest spaces, from hotels and restaurants to luxury apartments. Paired with dark grout, pretty soap bottles, brass fixtures, and luxe bathrobes, these tiles will be all over Pinterest soon. If our predictions are correct, they may even replace subway tiles as the budget backsplash of choice. Keep scrolling for our favorite square-tiled rooms.

01 of 12

Combine With Dark Grout

Subway Tiles
Jonas Berg

Pictured here as a built-in shelf styled with pretty bath products and luxe towels, this square ceramic tile is combined with a thicker-than-normal dark grout, giving it an edgy, urban look.

These builder-grade white ceramic tiles can be purchased for as low as $1.40 per square foot.

02 of 12

Tile the Whole Wall

Subway Tile Ideas
Courtesy of Fantastic Frank

Since many bathrooms in old European buildings are very small, it’s customary to tile the entire walls and have an open shower. With a wet room concept, you could almost attempt your own sauna.

03 of 12

Try a Half Wall

Square Subway Tiles
Petra Bindel

This bathroom features a half-tiled wall with an elegant double-black border. The black-and-white motif is repeated in the floors and in the chic, stitched satin hotel bathrobe hanging by the door. We call this instant sophistication.

04 of 12

Add in Brass

Square Subway Tile Ideas
Romain Chirat for Design Sponge

Square subway tiles pair especially well with brass hardware and minimalistic fixtures. We absolutely adore these timeless, angled sconces.

brass sconce
Schoolhouse Electric Princeton Short Sconce $189
05 of 12

Use Color Sparingly

Square Subway Tiles in Bathrooms
Courtesy of Alexander White

In this bathroom, another half wall is accented with a black border and paired with a black hexagonal tile floor. The styling is kept simple, with only a few yellow accents to add a pop of color.

06 of 12

Do a Half Backsplash

Square Subway Tiles in Kitchens
Courtesy of Lovely Life

Half backsplashes might seem weird but keep an open mind. In this colorful kitchen, the four simple sconces positioned above the backsplash make the height look intentional.

07 of 12

Go With a Matte Floor

Subway Tiles in Bathrooms
Anders Bergstedt

This bathroom combines the white square subway tile with a black, hexagonal tile floor. We love that the walls have a certain glossiness, but the floor is kept matte.

floor tile
Merola Tile Hexatile Matte Nero Porcelain Tile $5
08 of 12

Use Open Shelving

Subway Tiles in Kitchens
Anders Bergstedt

Square subway tiles pair great with open shelves. Antique silver platters and terra-cotta pots bring warmth and history to this minimalistic kitchen.

09 of 12

Combine Tile With Wallpaper

Subway Tile Ideas in Kitchens
Anders Bergstedt

While you wouldn’t necessarily imagine pairing a minimalistic white ceramic tile with ornate floral wallpaper, we think it works particularly well in this old-meets-new kitchen. The tile is stretched to the ceiling on one side and stops midway by a wood picture railing on the other.

Anthropologie Lepidoptera Wallpaper $218
10 of 12

Go Floor-to-Ceiling

Subway Tile Trends
Petra Bindel

A floor-to-ceiling wall of white ceramic tile frames the views of the adjacent home office in this Scandinavian kitchen. The mix of vintage, antique and modern accents gives the rooms a lived-in feel.

11 of 12

Accent With Black

Square Subway Tile Trend
Petra Bindel

Hello, black appliances! The glazed ceramic tiles and warm black and brass accents soften up this kitchen. We especially love the dusty pink accents thrown into the mix.

12 of 12

Add a Border

Square Subway Tile Backsplashes
Jonas Berg

In another kitchen, the tiled backsplash is lined with a thin brass border, adding a dash of elegance to the space. The saddle leather pulls and blackened cabinets also add to the chic factor.

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