8 Tips to Design a Subway Tile Backsplash
For over a century, homeowners have chosen subway tile for their kitchens because the smooth surfaces and thin grout lines make it easy to clean. Couple that with stain resistant glazes and you’ve got the perfect solution for any kitchen mess. To help you decide what is best for your space, we’ve put together some tips on how to choose the right subway tile for your kitchen backsplash.
Subway tile isn't just rectangular! A combination of flat hex and dome hex subway tile in gloss white creates a modern and attractive backsplash.
The color of your kitchen backsplash tile will make a big impact on your space, so take some time to consider which glaze you’ll choose. If you want your backsplash to blend into your kitchen, go for a neutral glaze that complements the rest of the room. Neutral colors, like white or cream, offer a sense of cleanliness, which is often desired in a kitchen. They are also a great option if you are planning on selling your home, since buyers will want something that can complement any design preference.
If you want your backsplash to stand out, choose a colorful glaze. If you aren’t ready to commit to too much color, consider tiling your backsplash in a neutral color that is different from the rest of your kitchen. Alternatively think about using a neutral field with colorful trim or accent tiles.
Colorful subway tile can make a beautiful backsplash around a kitchen. Recreate this look with our 3" x 6" tile in Celadon.
Gloss, satin and crackle glazes all have their own unique style and will influence the appearance of your backsplash in different ways. Gloss glazes offer a visually smooth surface that will reflect the light while satin glazes are matte and will reduce reflection. Crackle glazes offer a more vintage style and give a visual element of texture even though the tiles maintain a smooth surface. Keep an eye on the lighting of the backsplash, particularly if it is under cabinets, as this will be key to showing off whatever finish you choose.
Subway tile comes in a variety of shapes, each of which adds its own character to a space. From the traditional 3”x6” subway tile to a mid-century domed hex, the shape of tile you choose will set a tone for your room. If you are looking for a more classic design, we suggest opting for a 3”x6” tile or one of our square options. Many designers looking for a slightly different take on the classic design will use a 6" x 9" tile as a larger alternative or a 2"x6" tile which allows for more rows of tile to be installed in smaller under-cabinet spaces. For something more modern, consider using a blend of flat hex and domed hex tiles.
Left: 6"x9" subway tile in Avalon looks lovely in this farmhouse kitchen | Right: Photo detail
The pattern you choose for your tile makes a big impact on how your installation will look, and there are many to choose from. The classic subway tile pattern is a 3”x6” field tile with off-set grout joints that make a brick pattern, but many modern installations line up the grout joints to create a stacked appearance or use a herringbone pattern. Below are our recommended subway tile patterns, all of which add a timeless character to your design.
How high to take your tile will depend on what you want to achieve with your backsplash. If you want something more functional, or don’t want the backsplash to dominate the room, bring your tile up to a natural stopping point, like the bottom of your cabinets. If you want the tile to be the focal point of your kitchen, then reach for the ceiling!
Consider Your Kitchen
Your backsplash should complement the rest of your kitchen, so consider the style of your countertops, floors and appliances. If your cabinets and sinks are more rustic in style, then you will want a glaze and shape that reflects that aesthetic as well. Alternatively, if your kitchen is more modern and sleek, you’ll want that to be shown through your tile choice. If you’re unsure what to choose, we recommend selecting a more neutral glaze color and a classic 3”x6” subway tile.
Left: Gloss white 3" x 6" subway tile in a vertical pattern perfectly matches an industrial space | Right: Photo detail
Choosing the right grout is a vital part of your kitchen backsplash design. Although often overlooked, your grout selection is just as important as your tile selection. Traditionally, subway tile was grouted with a light grey grout. This resulted in less staining and discoloration of the grout, which is always important when the potential for kitchen messes is high. Alternatively, consider using a contrasting grout color to make the tile in your backsplash stand out. Looking for something less dramatic? Try closely matching your grout to your tile color. This is also a great way to make smaller spaces look bigger.
Remember the Trim
In many instances, a backsplash can be enhanced by cap mouldings and other trim pieces to give it a more finished look. Whether you are adding this to the top of your backsplash, or hope to turn corners around cabinets, you should make sure that all the trim pieces you need are available in the glaze you choose. At Subway Ceramics we offer all our trim pieces in all our glazes, so you’ll always have what you need to make your backsplash look its best.
Have you recently tiled your kitchen backsplash? We’d love to hear your tips in the comments below.
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