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30 Twists on a Subway Tile Backsplash

Both old-school and perpetually on-trend, subway tile backsplashes are here to stay. Which take on the treatment best suits your kitchen’s personality? Read on for our favorite, designer-approved riffs on this classic look.

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Photo: Robert Peterson, Rustic White

How Will Subway Tile Spice Up Your Kitchen?

Realtors, builders and designers alike report that our relationship with subway tile is a love affair for the ages. Nearly 120 years after their creation by George Lewis Heins and Christopher Grant LaFarge and their debut in the New York City subway system, these 3x6-inch beauties feel fresh and functional in residential spaces all over the world. Making a match that will last in your space is all about balancing palette, finish, arrangement and scale — and we have 30 brilliant recipes to inspire you to do just that.

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Photo: Pinnacle Estate Properties, a member of Luxury Portfolio International . From: Pinnacle Estate Properties.

Use Medium Blue to Transition Between Hues

This Southern California kitchen channels crisp coastal chic with ease, thanks to its gleaming white walls and cabinets, driftwood-inspired flooring and rich blue island. The subway tiles’ smoke-blue glaze is a tonal half-step between that island and the far brighter hues of the rest of the room — and they perform the neat trick of integrating those contrasting tones as the eye moves into the kitchen.

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Photo: Stacy Zarin Goldberg. From: Zoe Feldman Design.

Complement Cabinets With Gradient Tiles

This luxurious butler’s pantry is all about the moody, solid coastal blue that carries across its walls and upper and lower cabinets, then develops into a gorgeously mottled, counter-to-ceiling backsplash with hand-glazed gradient tiles. These sophisticated subway tiles both add dimension to the space’s oceanic tones and contribute a bit of opulence that pairs beautifully with the brass pendant and cabinet hardware.

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Photo: Jenn Feldman Designs. From: Jenn Feldman Designs .

Add Interest With a Herringbone Pattern

This storm-blue kitchen delivers even deeper dimensionality with a hand-glazed subway tile backsplash arranged in an intricate herringbone pattern that is even more classic than the tiles that comprise it. (By the way — herringbone patterns date back to ancient Egypt!) For just a hint of pattern in a monochromatic arrangement like this one, reach for tone-on-tone grout that creates minimal contrast with your tile of choice.

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