(Addendum: I wrote this post back in 2011 and we ALL know how popular metro / subway tiles have become since then. The hipster industrial vibe is pretty much everywhere and Pinterest is swamped with cool bars and homes which feature the look. Many cutting edge designers are moving towards patterned Moroccan syle tiles and are bored of subways. BUT, fear not, this is a classic look and will always look good. If you like it, do it, Sian x)
I was never a huge fan of subway tiles in domestic settings (we’re talking 15yrs ago, when I first started renovating houses) considering them a touch old fashioned and inner city loo like, especially when in green! However over the years my tastes have changed and since around 2010, I’ve come round to a Metro state of mind, in fact I’d even go so far as to say I’m a bit of an addict.
They’re so named after New York City’s first fully white tiled underground stations from 1904, and Tony Kelley’s Flickr image above is typical of the style. Increasingly they have been used in domestic projects, with clients appreciating that their ability to form a bridge between traditional and contemporary in a way few tiles can. In the last four or five years they’ve stormed ahead as part of the UK interior design palette for their clean lines and ability to complement a masculine or a feminine look, be cool yet understated, provide a backdrop to a prettier scheme or nail that industrial vibe.
I opened up my Jan 2011 Living Etc this morning to find this page boldly stating it’s wares, not for the faint hearted these metro tiles….
….had a bit of lunch, headed out to meet a client and guess what she mentioned as a possibility? Yup, subway tiles and from the site visit it was clear her cute Didsbury end terrace would certainly benefit from a bathroom overhaul to incorporate a clean, fresh look, with if, possible a roll top bath! I promised to send some images of our recent projects for her perusal, but then figured these would make a good blog post too, for anyone curious to see what metro tiles look like in situ.
I used white metro tiles as a narrow upstand in a white gloss and walnut kitchen a couple of years back, incorporating a chocolate brown glass feature strip:
Below we used them at a property where I was just helping out so I don’t have finished images, but you get the idea what they look like behind a roll top bath with a limestone floor:They do look fab in all the different rooms and clients of ours have stuck to tried and tested white and cream with pale grouting, but there are a multitude of options.
There are some practical considerations to bear in mind:
- They require a lovely flat surface – so no lumps and bumps! In old houses it’s often better to removed old crumbling plaster and use plasterboard to create a flat finish.
- Metro’s do use more grout that larger scale tiles so buy enough to finish the job
- You don’t have to buy new and can find vintage tiles on-line but rarely enough to tile a whole room – maybe just enough for a splashback though?
- They don’t have to be in a brick style but can be tiled on the bias or even in a herringbone effect. They can also be used vertically, though I’m not as keen on this look.
- Try white metro tiles with black grout for a very contemporary look, there’s one I did HERE
- Use a spirit or laser level PLEASE – nothing worse than wonky subway tiles 😉
There are some more subway tile room images at this wonderful US blog – http://www.thingsthatinspire.net/2010/12/subway-tile.html
And if you’ve been totally won over and now consider yourself on the road to becoming a true Metro geek, you’ll want to check this out – http://www.mic-ro.com/metro/metroart.html Who knew the underground could be sexy? 😉
Here are some more metro variations to inspire you:
Mandarin Stone design image
This is also a great visual guide to different styles
Try Topps Tiles for well priced, decent quality tiles, that’s where I usually get mine x