Down in the Subway - the lowdown on the humble Subway tile.

Down in the Subway - the lowdown on the humble Subway tile.

One of our most popular tiles here at Baked is the subway, sometimes known as the brick-effect, tile. This tile has easily been one of the most popular tiles worldwide over the past 20 years or so, perhaps due to its clear lines, simple form, huge variety of colours and the many choices it has in layout combinations. You may be surprised to learn exactly how this incredible tile originated.
It was at the end of the 19th century when town planners and architects decided that the only way to relieve traffic congestion on the busy roads of bustling cities was to develop an underground world of tracks, trains and stations, the very first of which was the London Tube opened in 1890. London was closely followed by a Glasgow network in 1896 and then the New York Subway System In 1904 - a massive step forward in the development of city travel as we know it.

London Underground circa 1893

A gentleman waiting for his train at the Queensway Station circa 1890 

The very nature of the tube-like shape of the underground system meant that a rectangular shaped tile was needed to neatly line the curves of the inner walls a square tile just wouldn’t do – hence the 6” x 3” subway tile was born.
Their colour and highly glazed surface stemmed from the Victorian obsession with hygiene. These tiles were easy to clean they were bright and reflected safety in this new underground world. The Subway tile became very popular in other Victorian settings.

Victorian Bathroom Subway Tile

Photograph thanks to Pinterest

Over 100 years later we can achieve the same look in a contemporary setting using our Town & Country, White Glazed tiles as you see here.

Town & Country, White Glazed

Tile: Town & Country, White Glazed

Subway tiles have been used at The Grove, Narbeth they have cleverly used the subway style tile to create a beautiful backdrop to this Victorian style bathroom.

The Grove, Narbeth

The Grove, Narbeth

Nowadays the texture and colour of these wonderful subway tiles vary significantly. We can mix and match and put together a myriad of colour combinations. Designers are also beginning to experiment with different tile layouts to achieve a host of beautiful effects using the subway tile. 

#1 Kitchen subways laid in the conventional brick effect style

Town and Country White Matt

Tile: Town & Country, White matt

Here, subway tiles are used in a country house setting. Town & Country Crackle glazed tiles come in soft shades and neutrals that make for the most delicate tiled finish.

Town and Country, Olive

Tile: Town & Country, Olive and White

Cottage Kitchens

Lava Brick, Aqua

Tile: Lava Brick, Aqua

#2 Kitchen subways laid using a herringbone style 


Photograph thanks to

#3 Bathroom subways

Subway tiles laid vertically and diagonally to add a varied aesthetic appeal. The Lava Brick here is minimalist, with satin to matt glazes and the option for a pop of colour. The creative versatility of the Lava tile leaves kitchen and bathroom walls open to a traditional feeling in an urbanised space.

Tile: Lava Brick, Green

Lava Brick, Blue & White

Tile: Lava Brick, Blue & White

#3 Various layouts with this versatile tile

Subway tiles in a vertically stacked layout

Town and Country, White Glazed

Tile: Town & Country, White Glazed

Lava Brick, Pink

Tile: Lava Brick, Black

Lava Brick, Grey

Tile: Lava Brick, Grey

Subway tiles set in herringbone layout

Lava Brick, Cream

Tile: Lava Brick, Cream


Photographs thanks to

 The Reminiscent White tile is a slightly distressed, highly glazed wall tile. This plain coloured tile with its delicate texture has been laid with vertical and horizontal lines.

Reminiscent, Pearl

Tile: Reminiscent, Pearl

#4 Tile ranges at BAKED with a more decorative theme.

Embossed, Black

Tile: Embossed, Fig Black

Rustic, decorative and nostalgic, our Embossed range comes in a palette of seven fabulously muted, moody colours.

Souk, Turquoise

Tile: Souk, Turquoise

Shade variations and intentional imperfections add great character to this Moroccan-inspired range that’s perfect for making a design statement in bathrooms, kitchens and living spaces.

I think you'll agree that any area of the 21st century home can benefit from subway tiles – from kitchens and bathrooms to utility rooms, mud rooms and hallways. They can achieve period charm in an older property but can also look bang-on trend in a modern home too. They are practical, timeless and work in interiors of all descriptions.