Interior Style

5 different subway tile patterns to try in your next kitchen or bathroom renovation

These unique patterns prove just how versa-tile the classic subway is

Loading the player...

Just as we thought they were falling out of fashion, subway tiles are staging a comeback, but not in the way DIY renovators would necessarily expect.

Now available in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours, it’s easier than ever to create a look unique to your style using subway tiles creatively.

“Subways have evolved dramatically of late and are now incorporating dynamic patterns, vibrant colours and plank tile concepts,” says Vanessa Thompson, Beaumont Tiles’ Strategic designer.

“New season interior design trends are challenging the clinical look of standard white subway tiles, exploring new depths in patterns and layouts,” she said. How many different ways can you lay subway tiles, you ask? Here Vanessa reveals 12 creative patterns guaranteed to challenge the way you think about subway tiles in 2019.

Brick Bond stack with a shorter, thicker subway tile

1. Brick bond: 45-degree stack, vertical and horizontal

Pulled straight from the New York Subway, the classic brick bonding pattern has to be the most popular way to lay subway tiles, but it’s a bit done in our eyes. “Choosing a variety of different colours or mixing your finishes like satin and gloss with a bold coloured grout is daring and fun, and a perfect way to change or accentuate this style,” suggests Vanessa.

Choosing a thinner subway tile can also dramatically change the look and feel of this classic pattern, making it feel more subtle and elegant.

Brick Bond stack with a thinner, longer subway tile creates an elegant look

2. Herringbone: 45 degrees, 90 degrees and

Whether it’s for the floor, a kitchen splashback or a bathroom wall, a herringbone patterned subway tile can turn a blank canvas into a statement feature.

“The ‘Herringbone 45 degrees, 90 degrees and Horizontal herringbone’ layering styles create the illusion of movement throughout the space,” says Vanessa.

“My favourite for this look is a marble or stone subway like Nostalgia Carrara Gloss 300×75 paired with our Ardex Misty Grey grout.”

If you want to make an even bigger statement, Vanessa suggests choosing a contrasting grout, like bright blue or jade green.

A Herringbone pattern requires the tile to be on a 45-degree, 90-degree set-up

3. Step ladder

The step ladder pattern is like the herringbone, resembling dynamic movement and direction. “This unique layering option can make any space feel bigger and is a great statement piece,” says Vanessa. “The step ladder is the perfect choice for a niche space in the bathroom – particularly the shower – but would also create a dynamic and vibrant kitchen splashback.”

The Step Ladder pattern looks similar to the Herringbone pattern in look and composition, however the slight difference is the direction of the tiles

4. Crosshatch

This versatile pattern is a unique combination of horizontal and vertical stacking to create a standout geometric look. “Though the subway tiles are simply layered at 90-degree angles, grout plays a huge role in transforming the ‘cross hatch’ layout into a beautiful feature or focal point,” says Vanessa.

The Crosshatch pattern requires groups of three subway tiles to be alternatively laid out horizontally and vertically

5. Stacked: Vertical, vertical alternating, horizontal, horizontal alternating

For a safe and more traditional layout variation, DIYers can’t go past stacked tiles. “The vertically stacked layout is perfect for making ceilings feel taller, and the horizontal stack has the same principle, however with widening capabilities,” says Vanessa. “Mix things up a little with alternating vertical and horizontal stacked layouts, which simply means you offset the rows. Creating a modern look, this layout is great for full tile walls or as a statement wall in the kitchen.”

The Stacked pattern turns the subway tile on its head for a contemporary look

This article originally appeared on Homes to Love Australia. 

Photography by: Derek Swalwell, James Henry, Armelle Habib, Lyden Foss /


Home experts are just a click away