Mixing Materials: Subway Tiles and Contemporary Bathroom Design


Subway tiles represent a classic backsplash option suitable for both traditional and contemporary bathrooms. By thoughtfully combining subway tiles with contemporary materials, textures, and colors, you can create a stylish, contemporary bathroom design. Read on for tips on successfully blending timeless subway tiles with more modern elements for an updated, yet cohesive look.

Choose Subway Tiles in Modern Colors/Finishes

Subway tiles come in a range of colors and finishes beyond basic white gloss. Select darker hues such as charcoal gray, black, or navy blue for a more modern and dramatic aesthetic. Matte finishes provide a more muted, sophisticated look than high-shine gloss tiles.

Create a contemporary style by stacking horizontal rectangles in alternating colors. Use bolder colors as accents mixed with neutrals sparingly. Modern subway tile options help prevent a dated appearance.

Exploring Tile Options in Depth

There are many modern subway tile sizes, shapes, colors, and materials to choose from:

  • Sizes: Standard 3×6″ but also elongated 4×12″ or skinny 2×4″ sizes for contemporary appeal
  • Shapes: Rectangular, square, chevron, hexagonal, fish scale, octagonal, circular
  • Colors: Dark hues like navy, charcoal, black, muted grays, bold jewel tones, eclectic color blocking
  • Materials: Matte ceramic, glass for shiny finish, porcelain for durability, mesh-backed for floating effect, recycled glass tile for sustainability
  • Textures: Smooth, glossy, cracked, beveled edges, etched patterns
  • Finishes: Matte, high-shine gloss, a mix of both

Given the limitless options available, choose subway tiles in bolder colors, unconventional shapes, and modern textures/finishes to avoid a traditional appearance.

Creative Layout and Pattern Ideas

The subway tile Bathroom makes a huge impact on the overall aesthetic. You can create modern designs by stacking tiles vertically in offset rows rather than going with straight horizontal lines. Geometric or abstract patterns like herringbone, chevron, and overlapping circles provide visual interest. Using irregular grout line thickness adds further interest.

The goal is to balance sleek minimalism with some bold tile patterns judiciously placed. You can make staggered shapes that continue seamlessly across both walls and floors for a cohesive look. Defining specific zones like shower niches with creative tile formations can become a focal point.

Tying patterns into other existing features like recessed shelves and windows makes the design feel integrated. Finally, combining complementary large-scale statement patterns with more basic gridded subway tile areas provides contrast.

Thoughtful Design Considerations

Various factors ensure the seamless flow of your contemporary bathroom remodel. Select floor tiles that complement the colors and design aesthetic of the wall tiles. In a small bathroom, vertical stripes or lighter wall tile colors can make the space feel larger. Limit super dark dramatic tiles to just one accent wall or zone instead of covering the entire space.

Splurge on adding some trendy statement tiles mixed in with more basic white subway tiles to balance the budget. Define distinct tile zones purposefully, like shelving nooks, shower floors, and behind sinks. Always consider long-term use and easy maintenance when selecting tile types and grout for durability.

Contrast with Modern Wall Paint Colors

Don’t simply match subway tiles to the wall color. Contrast modern wall colors like bold blues, grays, or greens with bright white tiles for contemporary pop. The paint color enhances the tile pattern, while glossy white tiles elegantly complement more neutral wall colors. Modern color pairings prevent an old-fashioned vibe.

Combine with Modern Materials

Mixing subway tiles with contemporary materials like metallic finishes, natural stone, or recycled glass mosaics adds interest. Consider using penny round metal tiles to make a modern statement, or experiment with marble or stone slab inserts within subway patterns. Accent with environmentally-conscious recycled tiles. Blend subway tiles with unconventional mixes of materials for an eclectic style. However, avoid overusing different types of tiles.

Use Modern Grout Colors

Grout color impacts the look dramatically. Contrast white tiles with gray, black, navy, or charcoal grout in modern hues. Or go bold with brighter grout colors like cobalt blue. Varied grout lines – thick and thin – boost modern appeal. Crisp, straight grout lines maintain a contemporary feel. Update grout lines along with tile colors.

Create Modern Geometric Shapes/Patterns

Low-profile horizontal rows of subway tiles convey traditional ambiance. Create elongated diamonds, stacked rectangles, and overlapping circles for geometric interest. Try herringbone and chevron patterns. Horizontal stripes of varying tile heights add a modern dimensional style. Extend these shapes into both walls and floors to achieve contemporary cohesion.

Incorporate Contemporary Accessories

Artisan vessel sinks, modern faucets, unique mirrors, and bathroom lighting add contemporary flare. Floating wood shelving and unexpected tile insets as niche accents provide an updated style. Check that fixtures coordinate aesthetically with the tiles. Well-chosen accessories modernize spaces.

Installation and Maintenance Tips

Proper installation and care preserve the finish:

  • Prepare surfaces – clean, repair, waterproof, and seal substrate as needed
  • Use tile spacers for consistent grout line spacing
  • Follow directions for tile and grout set times before sealing grout
  • Clean tiles gently with pH-neutral cleaner and microfiber cloth
  • Re-seal grout annually; re-grout if needed over time
  • Handle glass, porcelain, and recycled tiles per their requirements
  • Hire a pro installer if working around tricky angles, and fixtures or for large-scale tile work

Key Takeaways

  • Select subway tiles in darker sophisticated hues and matte finishes for modern appeal.
  • Contrast tiles with bold contemporary wall colors instead of matching.
  • Mix in contemporary accents like penny tiles, marble, and glass for an eclectic style.
  • Use gray, black, navy, or bright-colored grout instead of plain white.
  • Create elongated shapes, and asymmetric patterns instead of basic grids.
  • Incorporate modern accessories like statement sinks, taps, and lighting.
  • Thoughtfully blending materials and colors allows subway tiles to work in contemporary bathrooms.


How do subway tiles work in contemporary bathrooms?

Using bolder colors, modern materials as accents, and unique patterns/layouts blends subway tiles seamlessly with more contemporary aesthetics. They provide balance to sleek, modern elements.

What are some examples of contemporary materials to mix with subways?

Metallic penny tiles, marble slab insets, glass mosaics, recycled tiles, natural stone, and porcelain tiles with unique textures. Use as accents.

How should wall color be coordinated?

Contrast modern bold paint colors with bright white tiles, or balance colorful tiles with neutral hues. Complementary or contrasting colors prevent dated looks.

What grout colors look most modern?

Charcoal, gray, black, navy, or bold brights like cobalt blue update traditional white grout. Consistent straight lines maintain a contemporary vibe.

What tile shapes/patterns achieve a modern subway look?

Herringbone, chevron, stacked diagonals, elongated diamonds, circles, varying tile heights. Avoid straightforward brick layouts.