Step Aside, Subway Tile: These 2018 Trends Are on the Rise

gif of 3 different types of tiles

Getty Images. Graphic by Cristina Cianci

We'll never tire of a good, square-tile or subway tile kitchen backsplash. But even though they're classics, they aren't the most original choices when it comes to tile selection. Lately, we've seen so much of subway tile that it's starting feel a little too "safe," and well, a bit boring, too.

Let's be clear: No one's saying subway tile is out, and that you should forego it altogether; it's super-versatile and often a very stylish choice. But in the name of diversity, we've come up with some lesser-used, and arguably more interesting, options that embody the very best of 2018's tile trends.

Not only have these nine types of tiles shot to popularity at recent interior design expos, but they also feature prominently in newly-designed hotels (always a good sign) and are trending all over Pinterest. They aren't cut into wacky shapes or composed of second-fiddle materials that will disappoint you in a couple of years, either: Rather, they're made of age-old materials such as terrazzo, terracotta, and cement.


You've probably already noticed these glazed, colored terracotta tiles in your travels, but weren't aware of what they were. Zellige (aka Moroccan tiles and zilij tiles) is a ceramic tile that has been produced in Morocco since 10th century AD. They're covered in enamel and fired to hardness—and no two are alike. They reflect light beautifully due to their imperfect organic shapes and somewhat irregular surfaces, making them a popular choice for tone-on-tone shower stalls and textural kitchen backsplashes.

Clé 4"x4" Shattered Pearl Zellige - 200 pieces minimum $420

Tinted Glass

Once the often-maligned, most boring paint color choice, beige has officially made a comeback in the design world, and its popularity has now spilled over into the kitchen backsplash realm—with translucent tinted-glass tiles featuring an inner layer of opaque beige. And beige isn't the only pigment either. We're now seeing glossy, richly-colored glass tile in tints like grays and greens cropping up in a fair number of recent kitchen revamps.

Walker Zanger 6"x12" Roku Field Tile in Cashmere - sample $11


When you think of terracotta tile, your mind likely conjures up a 70s bathroom nightmare, but the popularity of this ancient, all-natural, rustic material is actually having a resurgence. Now it's being crafted in more modern, unexpected ways: Think large hexagon shapes and pastel tones.

Clé 6" Antique Terracotta in Provincial Red - 225 pieces minimum $1658

Encaustic Cement

Encaustic cement tiles (known as hydraulic tiles when they were first pressed in 19th century France) have always been characterized by their bright colors and their use in traditional (and very intricate) Moroccan and European design motifs. This year, geometric shapes, such as cubes and pointy triangles, are now getting some play.

Clé 8" Square Point in Kelly - 24 pieces minimum $165


Subway-style tiles haven't dropped off the map, but these 2018 versions are decidedly edgier. These skinny pieces of glazed and sliced, cross-sectioned brick look delightfully imperfect and feature slight variations like pinholes and roughed-up surfaces. Try them in black, pair them with dark grout, and take them all the way up to the ceiling in your kitchen for a fresh, modern backsplash.

Pieces of sliced brick tile in black.
Fireclay Tile 2.5"x8" Brick in Bitterroot - square foot $18

Colored, Mosaic

In bright, poppy shades ranging from pink to navy, 2018's new ceramic mosaic-style tiles are several tiles in one; each individual tile is composed of several bonded, sectioned squares or rectangles arranged in a grid pattern (with impressive yet slight color variations from section to section), thereby making it much easier to complete a perfectly-tiled kitchen backsplash in a modern-day colorway.

pink colored mosaic tile
Bedrosians 5"x5" Cloe Ceramic Mosaic - square foot $8


More than one year ago, we predicted the return of terrazzo, a 500-year-old material that enjoyed its second-coming back in the 1960s. Invented in Venice, Italy during the 16th century, terrazzo tile is composed of a mixture of bound-together marble, granite, quartz, and glass chips. We're now seeing it all over the place in 2018, with many touting it as an easier to install, cheaper alternative to marble tile.

terrazzo tile
Clé 12" Square Forage Terrazzo in White - 10 pieces minimum $110

Pastel, Penny-Round

We love the tile industry's refreshed take on penny tiles, and can't wait to see the new soft, pastel shades decorating kitchen backsplashes this year. They're a fun, textural and very retro-chic, calling to mind 1900-era vestibules and parlor floors.

Mint colored penny-round tile in an 11-inch square sheet.
Merola Tile 11" Square Galaxy Penny Round in Mint - square foot $15

Oversized, Hexagon

Small black-and-white hexagonal tiles have always been a classic bathroom-floor scenario, but in 2018, oversized hex tiles in both bold and passive colorways are all the rage.

An oversized black hexagonal tile with white lines.
HexArt 8" Nero Deco Porcelain Matte - square foot $9

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