Countertop for White Subway Tile Backsplash- Classic Beauty


A white subway tile backsplash paired with the right countertop can create a timeless and classic look for any kitchen. White subway tiles are a popular backsplash choice that have been used for over a century, bringing a clean and elegant aesthetic. When combined with a countertop in a complementary material and color, the result is a sophisticated, yet understated kitchen design. This article will explore the beauty of a white subway tile backsplash, the best countertop options to pair with it, and tips for achieving this iconic, classic kitchen style.

Overview of White Subway Tile Backsplashes

White subway tiles first became popular in New York City subway stations in the early 1900s. Their classic rectangular shape and bright white color created a clean, sleek look for the stations. By the 1930s and 1940s, subway tiles had expanded beyond utilitarian public spaces and into kitchen and bathroom design as an affordable, stylish backsplash option.

Some key features of white subway tile backsplashes:

  • Rectangular shape and standard dimensions, usually 3×6 inch or 4×8 inch.
  • Made from glazed ceramic or porcelain for an impervious, wipe-clean surface.
  • Bright white color creates a fresh, open aesthetic.
  • Classic and timeless design suits both traditional and contemporary kitchens.
  • Budget-friendly option available for $5-$15 per square foot.
  • Easy for DIY installation in a straight or staggered brick pattern.
  • Durable and water-resistant surface that withstands daily wear.
  • Wide grout lines (1/8-1/4 inch) add visual interest and dimension.

The simplicity of white subway tiles creates a palette that works with any style. From vintage farmhouse to modern and industrial, a white subway tile backsplash brings a clean, crisp touch. Their color matches any decor, making them highly versatile. Read on to learn how to choose the perfect countertop to pair with this backsplash style.

Countertop Options for White Subway Tile Backsplashes

Choosing the right countertop is key to getting the classic subway tile look. Countertops should complement the tiles without competing. The most popular options include:

Marble Countertops

Marble countertops are a top choice with white subway tiles. The soft veining and light grey undertones of white marble varieties like Carrara harmonize beautifully. A marble countertop adds subtle elegance without overpowering the backsplash.


  • Similar bright white tones enhance the crisp, clean aesthetic.
  • Elegant veining adds visual interest and dimension.
  • Luxurious material creates an upscale ambiance.
  • Cool surface lends contrast next to the subway tiles.


  • On the pricier side, starting around $80 per square foot installed.
  • Requires resealing to prevent stains and etching.
  • Can scratch, stain, or etch when exposed to acids.

Quartz Countertops

For a lower maintenance option than marble, quartz counters come in clean white hues that work perfectly with white subway tiles. The small flecks of color add subtle visual texture. Quartz resists staining, etching, and scratching better than marble.


  • Durable, non-porous surface needs little maintenance.
  • Affordable option starting at $50 per square foot installed.
  • Easy to clean and keep looking like new.
  • Neutral white tones match subway tiles.
  • Withstands daily wear better than marble.


  • Lacks the natural beauty and variation of real stone.
  • Colors and patterns are more uniform than marble.
  • Cannot achieve the ultra-white colors of Carrara marble.

Butcher Block Countertops

Butcher block offers warmth and texture next to the sleek subway tiles. Opt for a light-colored wood species like maple. Oil or seal regularly to protect from stains and moisture damage.


  • Warm, natural material provides contrast to cool tiles.
  • Light maple or cherry stains coordinate with white.
  • Brings a rustic, farmhouse vibe.
  • Budget-friendly option starting around $30 per square foot.


  • Requires diligent sealing and oiling.
  • Easily stained and damaged by moisture if not sealed properly.
  • Not as durable as stone or quartz alternatives.

Laminate Countertops

Affordable laminate counters come in a diverse range of white and off-white shades. Their seamless appearance complements subway tiles nicely. Choose a matte finish to avoid clashes.


  • Budget option costing $10-$30 per square foot installed.
  • Easy DIY installation to save on labor costs.
  • Matte options echo soft subway tile finish.
  • Scratch and scorch resistant surface.


  • Prone to chipping on the edges if impacted.
  • Not as durable or heat resistant as real stone.
  • Seams may be visible on larger countertops.

Design Tips for White Subway Tile Backsplashes

Follow these tips when designing a kitchen with white subway tiles:

Choose the right grout color

Stick with white or light grey grout. Avoid any bold grout colors that could clash with the tiles. White grout highlights the rectangular shape of the tiles. Light grey adds subtle contrast and dimension.

Carry tile to the ceiling

Take the subway tiles from counter to cabinet for a seamless look. Avoid ending the tiles halfway up the wall. Going to the ceiling makes the space feel larger.

Consider smaller tiles over range

Use a smaller subway tile size like 2×4 inch behind the range. This helps protect the tiles from staining or damage. The smaller scale also provides a focal point.

Include an accent strip

Add a contrasting row of mini tiles, marble, or glass every 5-10 rows. This accent line brings visual interest without detracting from the classic subway tiles.

Pair with flooring that contrasts

Since white subway tiles keep the backsplash light, go bold with the floors. Dark wood or patterned tile flooring complements without competing.

Soften edges with trim

Frame subway tiles with trim or edging along the countertop and ceiling line. Wood, metal, or stone trim finishes the look nicely.

Go easy on upper cabinets

Keep upper cabinets light or neutral-toned rather than dark woods. Glass-front cabinets maintain an open, airy aesthetic.

Use lighting strategically

Install undercabinet lighting and pendant lights above islands or sinks to create focal points against the subway tile backsplash.

Keep grout lines minimal

Thinner 1/8-inch grout lines preserve the clean, graphic look subway tiles are known for. Avoid wider grout that may dominate the backsplash.

Maintaining White Subway Tile Backsplashes

White subway tiles are easy to preserve by following these care tips:

  • Seal grout annually to prevent staining and discoloration. Use a penetrating grout sealer for water-repellency.
  • Clean tiles regularly with mild soap and water using a soft sponge. Avoid harsh cleansers that can dull or etch tile glaze.
  • Immediately wipe up spills and messes on the backsplash to prevent stains setting into the grout.
  • Use a squeegee to wipe water off tiles after cleaning to prevent soap scum buildup.
  • Re-caulk trim edges if mildew begins growing in crevices or caulk looks grimy.
  • Check for any cracked, chipped, or missing grout. Regrout those areas to keep walls looking pristine.
  • Use natural cleaners like baking soda or vinegar to scrub more stubborn dirt and residue without damaging tiles or grout.

With proper care, a white subway tile backsplash can retain its beauty for decades to come. The tiles’ durable and impervious glaze repels moisture and stains when maintained properly. Keep grout clean and tiles sealed to avoid discoloration or damage.

FAQ About White Subway Tile Backsplashes

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about white subway tile backsplashes:

What color grout looks best with white subway tiles?

White and light grey grout match well without dominating the look. Dark grout competes too much with white tiles. Keep grout light for a clean finish.

Do white subway tile backsplashes go out of style?

Subway tiles remain highly popular and classic. Their simple, rectangular shape gives them staying power through changing trends. Feel free to enjoy them for years without going out of style.

Should subway tiles go all the way to the ceiling?

Yes, extend subway tiles from counter to ceiling rather than stopping mid-wall. This creates a seamless, built-in look that appears more polished and finished.

What type of trim or edges work well with subway tiles?

Metal, wood, marble, and stone trim all complement subway tiles nicely. Match the edge material to your countertop for a cohesive look. Keep edges simple.

What subway tile size should I use?

The two most common sizes are 3×6 inch and 4×8 inch. 3×6 inch has a more traditional feel. Use 4×8 inch for a more modern, streamlined look or smaller 2×4 inch behind ranges.

How is subway tile different from other ceramic tiles?

Subway tile has an elongated rectangular shape. The tiles are generally smaller and come in brighter white hues than other ceramic wall tiles. Their unique beveled edges also identify them.

What countertop looks most classic with subway tiles?

Marble countertops pair particularly well, especially white Carrara marble. The soft grey veining and white color suit subway tiles perfectly for an elegant, timeless kitchen.


A white subway tile backsplash and coordinating countertop create a kitchen with enduring, uncomplicated style. The classic rectangular white tiles offer clean, sleek lines that work in any design. Countertops like marble, quartz, laminate, or butcher block complement subway tiles when chosen in light, neutral hues. Pair them with contrasting wood floors and minimalist cabinets to allow the backsplash to take center stage. With proper sealing and cleaning, white subway tiles will maintain their beauty for many years as a backsplash built to stand the test of time. Their versatile, vintage appeal wins favor with designers and homeowners looking for sophistication without pretense. Achieve this iconic look by selecting subway tiles and counters in harmonizing tones and materials for a balanced, thoughtful palette.