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From Underground to Urban Chic: Gio Looks at the Evolution of Subway Tiles

Subway tiles have a storied past that dates back to the early 20th century, originally crafted for the iconic New York City subway stations in 1904. Subway designers chose these tiles for their bright, reflective surfaces, which helped to illuminate the underground spaces with their limited light. The original subway tiles were characterized by their rectangular shape, typically measuring 3 inches by 6 inches, and their glossy white finish.

The new tile design was a hit, not just for its functionality but also for its clean and timeless aesthetic. Subway tiles quickly made the transition from public spaces into private homes, becoming a popular choice for bathrooms and kitchens due to their durability and ease of cleaning.

Today, subway tiles have evolved far beyond their classic white ceramic origins. Modern variations play with color, size, texture, and layout. Traditional glossy white tiles are now joined by options in matte and luminous glazes, as well as glass, metal, and even wood-looks. Sizes range widely, offering smaller and larger formats encouraging creative installations like herringbone, vertical stacking, and basket weave patterns.

Color is another area where subway tiles have seen significant innovation. No longer limited to white, these tiles are available in a broad spectrum of hues, from soft pastels to bold, saturated colors. This expansion in choices allows interior designers and homeowners to use subway tiles to complement a neutral palette or make a vibrant statement.

Texture and dimension have also come into play, with modern subway tiles featuring  3D, crackled, beveled, textured brick, or handcrafted-look surfaces, adding depth and character to spaces. Such textures can introduce an artisanal feel, bridging the gap between classic appeal and contemporary design.

While subway tiles have evolved to offer fresh, exciting possibilities for modern interiors, they still retain their beloved status for the simplicity and functionality that made them a staple over a century ago. Tile designers continue to put new twists on the “expected,” allowing subway tile to not only endure but to remain at the forefront of tile design. The latest on-trend colors, unique finishes, unconventional installation patterns, and dimensional designs are some of the modern iterations that are keeping this classic so current. This evolution not only showcases the enduring appeal of subway tiles but also highlights their versatility in adapting to current trends and preferences, making them a timeless choice for both residential and commercial interior design.

GIO offers a wide range of modern subway tile styles. Here’s a look at some of the newest additions to our subway tile lineup.

Shades

Handmade and highly refined effects of shimmery glass, glimmer, and vibrant color create these sophisticated “shades of subway” in our Shades wall tile collection.

GIO Shades, Light Verde 3 x10 Field Tile (Wall) and Coccio, Light Grey Field Tile (Floor)
GIO Shades, Light Verde 3 x10 Field Tile (Wall) and Coccio, Light Grey Field Tile (Floor)

Nuance

Nuance subway tile offers a beautiful and bold brick style in both matte and glossy finishes. It is perfect for mixing to create a look that feels almost textured or patterned because of how the glossy tiles play with light when juxtaposed with the matte tiles. The zellige artisanal effect of the tiles gives them a handmade look, offering character and depth to spaces.

GIO Nuance wall tile, Verde 2x6 Matte Field Tile
GIO Nuance wall tile, Verde 2×6 Matte Field Tile

Colorplay

Our Colorplay subway tile collection color body, unglazed tile offered in all the necessary neutrals, every workhorse size, and polished or matte finish–absolutely durable and enduring for demanding commercial environments.

GIO Colorplay, Crema 2 x 10 Bright Field Tile
GIO Colorplay, Crema 2 x 10 Bright Field Tile

Brick_Roma

Brick_Roma subway tile is a unique, elongated expression of Roman history. The line is available in five shimmery, hip hues in a slender 2’x18′ size.

GIO Brick_Roma, Light Grey 2x18 Field Tile brick
GIO Brick_Roma, Light Grey 2×18 Field Tile brick

Brick_Cotta

Another cool brick look, our Brick_Cotta subway tile is a replica of the handmade Cotto Bricks, also known as London Stock Brick. The  subway line is a linear 3″x10″, available in six rich, earthen hues.

GIO Brick_Cotto, Verde 3x10 Field Tile
GIO Brick_Cotto, Verde 3×10 Field Tile

 

Chroma

Chroma subway tile collection has it all, with a trio of finishes (glossy, matte, and fluted) in a veritable rainbow of modern hues, classically designed in a handmade artisan style.

GIO Chroma, Taupe 3x8 Glossy and Matte Field Tile

Antico

Modern style & shape meets old-world aesthetics in our Antico subway collection. The handcrafted look lines is five-color subway stunner.

GIO Antico, Bianco 2.5x10 Field Tile
GIO Antico, Bianco 2.5×10 Field Tile

Check out all of GIO’s Subway-style tile collections here.

Subway Tiles

GIO is your gateway to beautifully designed, strategically selected collections of floor and wall tile sure to fit your demanding specification requirements and unique style. We look forward to working with you!

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