One of the most popular tiles in town and a trend that’s never really stepped off the scene since it first arrived back in the early 1900s. Metro tiles, or Subway tiles as our friends across the pond call them, were christened after the earliest incarnation of that classic white, rectangular tile that we all know and love today, which was first used on a New York subway in 1904. Soon after, their use spread like wildfire overseas and were adopted in Victorian Britain on our own underground system in London where their wipe-clean and not too costly character traits made them an instant hit. As versatile then as they are now – arguably more so today with the infinite number of colours they come in – the metro tile has come a long way from that traditional white 3 x 6 inch tile in a horizontal brick layout. Here are five of our favourite ways to get creative with a classic…
The classic brick-bond
A go-to layout for the metro tile is a brick format, which you can do vertically (which is a sure-fire way to highlight tall ceilings) or horizontally (which helps your room feel wider).
We adore the tranquil tones of the soft blue Sky Seaton tile in this attic bathroom. Inspired by a seaside town in Devon, they have a crackle glaze and a gorgeously chunky feel to them. If you prefer more of a stand-out shade then feast your eyes on our Seaton Sea Grass, rich in colour, we love to team this tile with rustic, aged chopping boards in a kitchen with copper pots and pans.
For a touch of added luxury, our Long Island Marble metro tiles add a timeless appeal to projects and work beautifully in this classic brick-bond layout.
The colour-contrasting brick-bond
Who says that you have to stick to one specific colour of metro tile when it comes to laying tiles in a brick-bond formation?
In this bathroom scheme, we love the brave use of contrasting colour line by line. Feeling daring? Mix black and white for a high octane, monochrome finish. Prefer to keep things pretty and pastel? Then put two sorbet shades together and your scheme will feel fun, refreshing but also infinitely stylish. Or do as the pictured scheme suggests and find a happy middle-ground with a colour combination that is striking yet still soothing. For a similar effect, try our crackle glazed Seaton metro tiles in High Tide and Ocean Mist or Pebble.
The simple stack
Say metro tile and chances are most people will lean towards a herringbone or brick layout. Each one beautiful, each one effective, but there’s a more straightforward route available too, and straightforward doesn’t always equal lacking in imaginative or oomph.
Stacking metro tiles – in other words, laying them directly above and to the side of one another be that vertically or horizontally – produces a clean, crisp and contemporary finish. Take our Vintage Crackle Steel Ceramic tile pictured and you can see how, in a modern city kitchen, it gives off a cool-as-a-cucumber vibe suiting trend-led stainless steel work surfaces and poured concrete floors.
Or, go back to the colour contrast school of thought and alternate the tone of your stacked metro tiles with our Colour Pop collection. This Instagrammable bathroom proves that an all-pink palette doesn’t have to result in a stereotypically ‘girly’ scheme. Go for what’s called a ‘solider course’ in bricklaying speak by alternating the colour tile by tile rather than row by row if you want things to feel especially dynamic.
The interlocking herringbone
Whether it’s parquet flooring or marble bathroom walls (say hello to our Long Island honed marble metro tiles), a herringbone layout is a guaranteed ticket to a stylish interior. Made for laying in this fashion is the rectangular metro tile, whether you go for a long and skinny one like the ceramic Dolly collection or a more classic dimension like the Vintage Crackle in Fern.
By now, you know that switching up the colours of your tiles will give you instant vibrancy (need further convincing? See our green-on-green herringbone sink scheme using Colour Pop in Bosque and Menta), but even an understated white metro tile can still be playful. The herringbone layout instantly adds movement and texture to a room, but use it as a backdrop to bring in colour and playfulness elsewhere, such as in this modern bathroom with its Elle + James concrete basin in Blush Pink.
Or what about getting experimental with grouting? The combination of white metro tile and herringbone layout is the ideal playground for colourful resin cement grouting – Blue Jeans, Mustard, Cherry are some of our most upbeat options or ease yourself in with something gentler like Peppermint or Gingerbread.
The think-outside-the-box basketweave
Herringbone isn’t the only interesting layout out there, as basketweave goes to show. A texture-rich pattern that takes its cue from the textile industry where a webbed-like effect comes from interwoven strands of yarn, of fabric or even in furniture where thin sheets of malleable timber are woven like thread, basketweave speaks of strength and solidity.
Take this geometric layout to the world of tiles and you’ll typically see two metro tiles positioned side by side in a vertical position, and then they rotate so the next two tiles are stacked horizontally, and repeat, and repeat. Basketweave tiles are rhythmic in their motions and add a completely different dimension to the once so familiar metro.
Coloured grouting works well with a basketweave layout, whether you go pale like this Seaton Salt metro tile bathroom with its light grey grout and raw-edge finish or stick to pure and simple white and let the tile colouring do the talking, cue the Seaton tile again though this time in deep sea Surf green.
Dramatise a basketweave bathroom further with chevron pile towels or a zigzag bathmat but try to not go too overboard with pattern – why would you want to distract from the glory that’s on your walls?