How to Use Colorful Subway Tile to Upgrade Your Home

Subway tile has been a popular choice for kitchen and bathroom walls for over a century. The classic white 3-inch by 6-inch rectangular tiles bring a clean, sleek look. But subway tiles don’t have to be plain white. Vibrantly colored subway tiles can add an energetic, modern vibe to your space.

What is Subway Tile?

Subway tile refers to the rectangular ceramic tiles first used to line New York City subway stations in the early 1900s. The tiles were chosen for their practicality – easy to clean and install.

The classic subway tile is 3 inches by 6 inches and has a slight beveled edge. The tiles are glazed for durability and moisture resistance. While white remains the most popular color, subway tiles now come in a vast array of colors, finishes, and sizes.

Using colorful subway tile is an easy, budget-friendly way to make a big statement. The repetitive linear pattern gives a sense of rhythm and movement. Bold colors or interesting patterns can transform the look and feel of a room.

Benefits of Using Colorful Subway Tile

Here are some of the benefits of using vibrantly colored subway tile in your home:

  • Visual Impact: Colorful tiles make a bold statement and can completely change the look of a space. They add energy and modern style.
  • Easy to Install: Subway tiles are installed in a basic grid pattern, making them a DIY-friendly option. No special skills needed.
  • Budget Friendly: Subway tiles tend to be very affordable, especially when using lower-cost ceramic or porcelain. Even designer tiles are cheaper than many other materials.
  • Endless Design Options: Subway tiles now come in every color imaginable, as well as fun patterns like chevron and herringbone. Mix and match colors for custom designs.
  • Moisture Resistant: The ceramic or porcelain material is impervious to water, making it ideal for kitchens and bathrooms. The grouted joints are water-tight.
  • Easy Maintenance: Subway tile requires little maintenance beyond occasional re-grouting. The smooth surface resists stains and is easy to clean.

Where to Use Colorful Subway Tiles

Some of the most popular places to install colorful subway tile are:

Kitchen Backsplashes

A backsplash protects the wall behind a stove or sink from splashes and stains. Home chefs choosing colorful subway tile backsplashes can match existing cabinets and countertops or make the backsplash a contrasting focal point. The repetitive linear pattern works well in the small space.

Bathroom Walls

Full floor-to-ceiling subway tile bathroom walls are a perfect canvas for bold colors or prints like graphic black-and-white. Colorful subway tiles paired with white fixtures and accessories keep the look from becoming overwhelming.

Showers and Tub Surrounds

Like bathroom walls, shower enclosures and tub surrounds provide ample room to get creative with colored subway tile designs. Pair different colors on each wall or create patterns and borders. The tiles’ water resistance makes them practical.

Fireplace Surrounds

Use subway tiles to frame out a fireplace for a clean, modern look. Contrast the tiles with the wall color or match them to existing kitchen or bathroom tiles for cohesion.

Kitchen Floors

While not as common as walls, you can install subway tile on the floor. Use smaller grout lines for safety. Mosaic sheets make installation faster. Match or contrast with cabinetry.

Laundry Rooms

Often forgotten spaces, laundry rooms deserve some color! Bright subway tiles keep things energized in a small, windowless laundry room. Use durable porcelain for floors.

Popular Colorful Subway Tile Design Ideas

Here are some fun ways to use colorful subway tiles:

All-Over Color

Covering all walls in a single vibrant color makes a bold statement. Try emerald green, sapphire blue, or citrus orange. Don’t forget the ceiling!

Contrasting Colors

Pair contrasting colors on opposite walls or in bands along the wall. Blue and yellow are complementary on the color wheel while navy and white have a nautical vibe.

Vintage Blues and Greens

Muted soft teals, seafoams, and pale greens have a restful spa-like feel. Pair with white for a vintage 1920s aesthetic.

Minimalist Black and White

For contemporary style, combine white tiles with black grout or pair black and white tiles. Continue the color pairing with faucets and accessories.

Moroccan Tiles

Recreate Moroccan architectural details with navy blue and white tiles or terra cotta. Use mosaics or intricately patterned tiles.

Herringbone Pattern

The zigzag herringbone layout prevents the eye from visually scanning down the wall. Use two contrasting colors or alternate matte and shiny.

Geometric Patterns

Make a geometric focal wall with triangles, diamonds, octagons, or hexagons. Use mosaic sheets for easier installation.

Metallic Tiles

Shimmering gold, silver, and copper glossy tiles add glam and reflect light. Accent with metallic fixtures and accessories.

Bright Mix and Match

Why choose one color when you can have them all? Create an eclectic look by mixing up different vivid hues. Include some prints.

Choosing Your Color Palette

With so many color possibilities, it helps to narrow down your selections. Follow these tips when selecting subway tile colors:

  • Match existing elements like cabinets, countertops, or flooring so the colors feel cohesive.
  • Complement the room’s purpose – energizing reds for a home gym, ocean blues for a spa bathroom.
  • Consider the light. North-facing rooms may need light colors to brighten. Soft green tiles suit natural light.
  • Use a color wheel to identify complementary hues like orange and blue or triadic colors equally spaced like red, yellow, blue.
  • Look at paint swatches to find colors you’re drawn to. Translate to tile.
  • Gather inspiration from photos, fabric swatches, or items around your home.
  • Order samples to see how colors look on the wall before fully committing.

Trust your instincts and choose colors that make you happy!

Where to Buy Colorful Subway Tiles

You can find colorful subway tiles at these retailers:

  • Big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes stock affordable solid colored and patterned subway tiles from brands like MSI and Merola Tile. Order samples.
  • Tile specialty stores offer a wider selection of brands, colors, patterns, finishes, and customization options. Check ratings and reviews.
  • Online direct through tile brands like Clé Tile, Fireclay Tile, and Heath Ceramics. Order samples first.
  • Etsy sellers for handmade, unique, vintage and artisan tiles. Great source for patterns and prints.
  • Tile liquidators for discounted overstock and clearance tiles. Inspect thoroughly for damage or defects.
  • Salvage yards and antique shops for reclaimed vintage tiles with character. Supplies are limited.

How Much Does Colorful Subway Tile Cost?

Subway tile is very budget friendly, with prices starting around $5 per square foot. Handmade artisan or mosaic tiles run $15-30 per square foot. exact costs depend on:

  • Tile material: Ceramic, porcelain, or glass
  • Color and pattern: Solid colors are most affordable. Intricate details and multi-colors add cost.
  • Finish: Glossy or matte glaze
  • Tile size and shape: Smaller mosaics take more time to install
  • Custom designs: Handmade, specialty shapes or patterns are pricier
  • Shipping: Order extra to account for broken tiles. Shop local to avoid shipping.
  • Installation: Diy is cheapest. Hiring a pro adds labor costs.
  • Other supplies: Mortar, grout, sealer, tools

Even designer tiles end up being less expensive than many other backsplash materials like natural stone or metal when you account for the entire installation.

How to Install Colorful Subway Tile

Installing subway tile is a DIY-friendly project. Follow these steps:

Gather Supplies

  • Tile, plus 10% extra
  • Mortar and grout
  • Notched trowel
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutter
  • Grout sealer

Prepare the Surface

  • Clean and dry the walls
  • Remove existing wall coverings
  • Fix any damage to walls
  • Apply waterproofing if needed

Plan Tile Layout

  • Find the center point and level a ledger board
  • Determine layout pattern and starting point

Apply Mortar

  • Mix mortar to a stiff consistency
  • Spread evenly using notched trowel
  • Only cover sections you can tile before mortar dries

Set the Tiles

  • Place a tile against the ledger board and press into mortar
  • Twist tile slightly as you set into place
  • Use spacers between tiles for consistent grout lines

Cut Tiles if Needed

  • Measure and mark tiles to be cut
  • Use a tile cutter for straight cuts
  • Use a tile nipper for L-cuts and U-cuts

Let Mortar Cure

  • Allow mortar to fully cure for 24-48 hours
  • Don’t grout or walk on tiles before they cure

Grout the Tiles

  • Mix and apply grout using a rubber grout float
  • Push into joints and clean excess grout
  • Clean tiles before grout dries using a sponge

Seal the Grout

  • Allow grout to fully cure for 72 hours
  • Apply grout sealer according to manufacturer directions

Enjoy Your New Tile!

  • Be patient and wait 1-2 weeks for grout to fully cure before using
  • Avoid harsh cleaners or abrasives on the tiles

A weekend is enough time for most DIYers to tackle a small backsplash. Build in extra time if tiling a whole room.

Colorful Subway Tile Ideas

To inspire your own colorful subway tile projects, here are some gorgeous and unique design ideas:

Turquoise blue subway tile kitchen backsplash with brass accents

This turquoise blue glass subway tile backsplash contrasts nicely with the brass fixtures.

Glass penny tiles in copper, blue, green, black and white form stripes

Vintage-inspired glass penny round tiles arranged in colorful stripes make a bold statement.

Bathroom with navy blue floor-to-ceiling tiled walls

Going floor-to-ceiling with saturated navy blue tile gives this bathroom a spa-like vibe.

White kitchen backsplash mixes blue and green geometric 3D tiles

3D geometric tiles add fantastic texture and dimension in this fresh color combination.

White and gray patterned Moroccan-style backsplash tiles

For a subtle pattern, these Moroccan-inspired tiles use contrasting size grout lines.

Shades of green hexagon mosaic tiles arranged in stripes

Interlocking hexagon mosaics form bold stripes in bathroom, using only greens.

Frequently Asked Questions About Colorful Subway Tile

Before you choose your colors, check out these common FAQs:

How durable is colored subway tile?

Subway tile is very durable and resistant to chips, cracks, stains, heat and water. Use porcelain or ceramic instead of glass if concerned.

How do you clean colored subway tiles?

Use a gentle pH-neutral cleaner and soft sponge or microfiber cloth. Avoid abrasive cleaners or pads. Re-seal grout periodically.

Can you use subway tile outdoors?
Select subway tiles rated for exterior use, like frost-proof porcelain. Special installation and grouting is required.

Do you need to seal subway tile?

Unglazed tiles don’t require sealant. Sealing the grout is recommended to resist staining and cracking.

How do you cut subway tiles?

Use a wet tile saw for specialty shapes. For straight cuts, score the tile with a cutter then snap over a dowel. A scoring tool and grinder works for porcelain.

Should subway tile go all the way to the ceiling?

Full floor-to-ceiling installation looks great and is easier to keep clean. An accent wall or 4-foot backsplash is popular too.

What color grout looks best with colored subway tile?
White or gray matches most colors. For a contrast, select a dark grout with light tile or vice-versa. Ask the tile seller for recommendations.

Give Your Home a Colorful Subway Tile Makeover

If you’re ready to transform the look of your kitchen, bathroom or other space with vibrant subway tile, this guide will help you choose colors, find tiles and install them successfully.

The classic rectangular shape comes in an endless array of stunning colors and patterns just waiting to give your walls a fresh, lively look.

So tear out that dated wallpaper or neutral backsplash and take a chance with color. Subway tiles are an easy, low-commitment way to infuse any room with cheerful, energizing hues that reflect your unique personal style.