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Bigger Is (Sometimes) Better: The Forever Classic Subway Tile Has A New Look


NY SubwayA Brief History of Subway Tile

Long recognized for its durability and ease of care, ceramic tile was a natural choice for the walls of the New York Subway system which opened in 1904. The shiny white tile was selected for its durability and stain resistance, and the light color and high gloss made it a good choice to brighten the dark, subterranean spaces. This underground transit system can be credited with helping to popularize the use of these tiles in subways around the world. The material’s clean lines, enduring nature, and low maintenance requirements allowed it to emerge from the underground tunnels into our bathrooms and kitchens, where it has remained a popular surfacing choice for over a hundred years.

The Subway Tile Resurgence

Freestyle Subway Tiles in Purple
A fresh take on subway tile: Freestyle Bright and Decoria by GIO in 5″ x 7″

Though subway tiles have been a staple of kitchen and bath design for decades, with the traditional brick-patterned 3″ x  6″ white rectangles being a perennial go-to, the tiles have seen a huge resurgence in popularity in the first decade of the 21st century. But as with many classics, it’s often the twist we place on “expected” materials that gives the designs longevity. We now see subway tiles in every color imaginable, often with contrasting grout, and we’re no longer obligated to arrange them in a traditional brick (offset) pattern–herringbone, crosshatch and even straight-set are just a few of the ways designers have been adding interest and dimension to subway tile installations.

The Latest Spin: Big Is In!

Retro 4" x 16" subway tile by GIO
Big is in: Retro subway tile by GIO in 4″ x 16″

The latest spin that’s keeping subway tile on-trend is the larger format. These oversized tiles, as large as 4″ x 16″, transcend the ordinary and add subtle drama to any space. Long and linear subway tiles can visually expand the size of a room and as an added bonus, fewer grout joints mean less maintenance. If you’re looking to add an interesting twist to any design, go BIG!


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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