5 Unique Patterns to Create With Subway Tiles

Regarding subway tile, there are endless possibilities for layout and style. Changing the pattern can make your space feel subtle and calm or eye-catching and unique.


One of the most popular and timeless subway tile patterns is herringbone. It earned its name from its use when the subway system opened in 1904. White 3″ x6″ field tiles were used to create a clean look for the subterranean transit tunnels, and this “herringbone” pattern was soon replicated in bathrooms throughout America.

Herringbone works well with almost any color subway tile. While classic white remains popular, darker hues are particularly striking when installed in this pattern. Dark blues, moody greens, and even subtle grays can make a statement when installed as a herringbone backsplash.

The herringbone pattern can be easily created using any rectangular subway tile layout. For instance, herringbone can be created with brick-format subway tiles that meet close together to create a dense staggered geometric pattern or by using longer plank-format tiles for a more directional diagonal look. However, when installing herringbone with larger plank-format tiles, it’s important to use equal divisions between tiles so that the pattern doesn’t begin to lean. This can happen quickly if the widths of the tiles are not proportional.

Basket Weave

Subway tile is one of the most durable trends in modern design, and it continues to grow in popularity. It is one of the most versatile tile materials for various aesthetics, and it can be laid in many ways to create a unique look in any space.

Although subway tile traditionally refers to a white 3 x 6 glazed ceramic wall tile, today, it can be used to describe any tile that is twice as long as it is wide – creating a woven grid pattern. Less common than herringbone, basketweave is a great way to add depth to a room and works well with dark grout.

A variation of the classic English bond pattern, angled subway tiles are perfect for adding a bold touch to any space. This layout is simple to install and creates a unique brick-looking style that can be used in large spaces like shower walls. It also looks beautiful when paired with a vibrant color or natural stone for an industrial-inspired look. Always use sanded grout to ensure a strong bond when using angled tiles.

Vertical Alternating

Traditional stacked subway tile is a simple and classic look. It’s easy to install, works well in various styles, and can make your room feel bigger by drawing the eye upwards. If you want a more modern take on this classic pattern, try alternating your tiles horizontally and vertically to create a diagonal offset look. This unique design is perfect for laundry rooms and bathrooms.

Another popular tiling style is the herringbone pattern, which creates a more striking effect than the classic stacked look. Herringbone has V-shaped rows that alternate atop each other, creating a striking geometric pattern that catches your guests’ attention.

Another herringbone variation that’s perfect for a kitchen backsplash is the basket weave. This pattern is a bit more challenging to install than the herringbone, but it’s worth the effort for its stunning visual appeal. The basket weave features a mix of horizontal and diagonal rows resembling a herring fish’s basket for a truly eye-catching look. This design is also great for drawing the eye around a kitchen and helping to highlight your favorite appliances or accent details.

Horizontal Alternating

Subway tile has been around for over a century, but it can still look fresh and modern. In addition to classic horizontal stacking, many unique patterns add interest and drama.

For a modern twist on subway tile, try alternating rows of horizontal and vertical tiles to create a basket weave pattern that resembles the interlocking lines of a herringbone or brick bond pattern. This subtle yet textured look is ideal for kitchen backsplashes and bathroom walls.

To add even more texture to a room, pair a woven subway tile pattern with a cove base to create an upscale accent wall that’s also easy to clean. A cove base is prevalent in bathrooms to create a smooth transition between the floor and wall for easy cleaning, while a chair rail or bullnose cap is the perfect finishing touch to any tiled space. Try adding a thin strip of a complementary color that travels across the cove base to draw the eye and enhance the effect of your chosen pattern. This style can be especially striking when paired with marble herringbone.

Stacked Vertical

Take the subway tile trend with a stacked vertical composition to the next level. This minimalist layout showcases same-sized tiles aligned straight atop one another to form a clean geometric finish ideal for contemporary and transitional kitchen and bathroom designs.

This style is perfect for small spaces as it helps to visually widen the space by creating an illusion of height. This stacked vertical layout pairs nicely with glazed tiles and neutral grout colors for a sleek and modern finish.

The versatility of subway tiles makes them an excellent choice for a range of unique patterns that add visual interest to your kitchen or bathroom. Try a traditional herringbone pattern to evoke a classic elegance, or experiment with the stacked vertical configuration to add more of a contemporary flair to your design. These unique variations are sure to inspire your next kitchen or bathroom remodel.