How To Design Subway Tile Backsplash Patterns and Layouts

Subway Tile Patterns For Kitchens and Bathrooms

Tips On Designing a Subway Tile Backsplash 

A subway tile backsplash for a kitchen and bathroom does not have to be a horizontal grid. Learn some of the patterns and layout options we use when designing a backsplash for our West Alabama home remodeling clients. 

When it comes to finish work in a kitchen or bathroom remodel, one element that can become a focal point for your design is the backsplash and tile work. One of the most common choices many designers use in these rooms is 3” x 6” subway tile. 

Subway tile is the “white t-shirt” of interior design. Subway tile is a timeless, well-loved and classic material for a reason. These tiles come in a variety of colors, are easy to work with, and are versatile enough to add a visual focal point in the kitchen, and stand-up to the harsh, moist environment in the bathroom. 

One drawback is that a standard offset design/pattern can get boring fast. That's not to say that creating an offset pattern for example with bright white subway tile and dark gray or black grout, can't look stunning. With some creative choices for a pattern, pairing different materials, and grout color, you can create a unique, inspiring look with this classic material!

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Exciting Patterns For Your Subway Tile Backsplash

Subway tile is a fresh, inexpensive and classic look for various areas throughout your home. Mixing up patterns throughout your home is a fun way to add a big dose of personality to an ordinary white subway tiled space. Here are some great options for creating a truly unique look!

Crosshatch Subway Tile Pattern

Crosshatch (or Basket Weave Pattern)

Sometimes making a small tweak to your layout is all it takes to build a luxurious looking texture with a standard tile like 3”x6” subway tile. A crosshatch or basket-weave pattern consists of laying your tile in alternating two-by-two grids. It's a simple twist that can create a subtle visual element.

Stack Bond Subway Tile Pattern

Stack Bond

If you're looking for clean lines, consider laying your tile in a stacked bond pattern. It's a fresh, modern look that's super clean and simple. Basically, rather than offsetting the seams of your tile, you stack them so that the seams line up on either end of the tile, creating a stacked look. It's a simple pattern that can open up your design to adding other elements of interest, for example, texture, brass fixtures in the bathroom, or pops of color. 

Traditional Herringbone Subway Tile Pattern

Traditional Herringbone

Herringbone and its variations are some of the prettiest subway tile patterns. The offer a very European look that is stylish, yet simple. Using a dark grout with a herringbone pattern can really draw out the design and make it pop. It's a very mid-century look that's perfect in any environment from a contemporary bathroom, to a transitional kitchen. Along with traditional herringbone, there are other variations like straight herringbone or diagonal herringbone that also can add an extra dimension to your space.

Vertical Subway Tile Pattern

Vertical Patterns

Stacking subway tiles vertically, whether in a vertically stacked bond, or a vertical offset bond offers another take. It's a great option if you're looking for a modern style backsplash in a laundry room or bathroom. Vertically stacking draws the eye upwards and can give the impression of increased ceiling height.

Offset Subway Tile Pattern


The offset pattern is the most traditional pattern for subway tile. It's also probably the safest choice if you're flipping a house, or remodeling with a future sale in mind. It's also the most classic and least noticeable if you want a neutral element in your space to let other focal points emerge. Variations like diagonal offset can add interest to an area without visually overpowering the space.

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Patterns are one element of subway design that can add interest. Here are some other considerations to think about when planning your subway tile design.

Some Other Subway Tile Design Choices 

While pattern alone can be a great way to add interest with this classic material, other considerations can play a role in making your design really pop! Think about color and color combinations. Subway tile is available in a wide range of colors from white and black, to reds greens, pink, blue, even mirrored finishes. Combining colored tiles with colored grout, or even a simple white tile with, for example, a turquoise grout can add definition to your design. Here are a few interesting options.

  • Adding interest with a border design can also add interest and break up a subway tile layout. Creating a border on a white subway tile wall by using black “penny” tile can add an interesting design element.

  • Using a dark grout to draw out the lines in a herringbone pattern can add an ultra-chic modern look to an otherwise classic, and traditional design.

  • Using a “playful” color like a bright red or turquoise green grout on the kitchen backsplash can incorporate a whimsical element to your design. And create an interesting visual focal point.

  • Create a stunning look for the bathroom by covering every nook and cranny with subway tile. Too much of a good thing doesn't apply when it comes to subway tile in the bathroom.

  • Use a daring finish to create interest. For example, creating a mirrored subway tile backsplash over the wet bar in your family room, or installing beveled pink subway tile in the kids' bathroom.

  • Try using a “live edge” in your installation. A live-edge herringbone backsplash can make a design statement!

When it comes to designing a subway tile backsplash or tiling your bathroom, subway tile is a versatile, functional material that offers homeowners a fantastic range of options when you consider pattern, color, and texture. Your designer can help you to create a subway tile backsplash, or tiled bathroom that goes beyond the classic look, to make a unique statement about your personal style and creative vision!

View A Few Of Our Kitchen and Bathroom Projects Using Subway Tile

If you're planning a kitchen or bathroom remodeling project, and you live in the greater Tuscaloosa, Alabama area, give the expert design team at Toulmin Cabinetry & Design a call at (205) 366-0807. Let us help you to create your dream home!