Anyone tired of their white subway tile backsplash yet?

ginadJuly 27, 2010

Just wondering? I see a lot of white cabinets with white subways on this site (but I have never seen one in person.) I think the look is fresh and clean, but also a little, dare I say, "boring." I like the look very much myself. I also see it a lot on the food network cooking shows (Ina, Giada, Sandra Lee.) I am stressing about chosing just the right tile/color/finish white subway. I am a little afraid I may tire of it because it is so plain. So, I am taking a straw poll of all white subway tile folks. How do you feel about them now that the kitchen is completed. Any photos would be great, especially would like to know if you did anything special above the stove area for some added interest. Thanks!


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I have a 1913 home, so for many like me subway tiles (along with creamy cabinets and soapstone counters) is not only a classic look but one that fits the period look of the house. My bathrooms also reflect the period with subway tile, pedestal sinks, hex floor tile, etc. Plus, you can dress up and change out such a "neutral" look any way you want with wall paint, colorful pottery, window dressing, rugs, etc. Personally, since I don't want to have to re-do a kitchen every ten years or so I like a "timeless" look. Backsplash tile of various types can look very dated very quickly. . .

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 12:05PM
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I just posted a question about subway tiles over on the bathroom forum. I am mainly wondering why subway tiles are considered "classic" and square tiles are considered "dated." They both have been used for centuries.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 12:10PM
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Good point ncamy! I currently have white square tiles in my master bath and I HATE them. They look dated, just like you said. I have tried painting the bathroom a beautiful light blue with plush towels to give it a spa feel, but the tiles are just not feeling it! I agree that the subway tiles are perfect for a true farmhouse or in a classic turn of the century kitchen or kitchen in an older home, because they "belong" there. But should we all be doing the subway tiles? Don't get me wrong, I think they look great, but will they be the white square tiles of the 1980's-90's?
More importantly, do the folks that have them, still think they were the right choice? Or do you think you will tire of them soon?

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 12:30PM
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Circus Peanut

If I didn't have an old house I would probably not have gone for subway tiles, because I think they will not age well in other contexts (or at least look not 'fresh' as you say, having been featured so often in the design world these past 5 years). That said, mine are a non-fashionable color (plain glossy yellow ceramic) so it's a warmer feel than the stark Victorian white. Two years and counting, & I still love them unnaturally. :-)

But I don't think they will ever be a mistake.

On the square tiles, which are indeed also a classic, could it possibly be the surface (are they matte, glossy, bevelled?) or the size of the square that makes them feel more dated?

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 12:49PM
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I hope I'm not tired of it already.....we haven't even grouted yet! I went with a mix of sizes and laid the different sizes in different directions. Hopefully that will help me feel like the look stays updated for a LONG time! I don't think DH(who installed the counter to ceiling backsplash) would be too happy taking it down anytime soon.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 1:32PM
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Just got ours done about a month ago. Not boring at all. Super classy looking and I got them at Lowes (American Olean) so also super cheap! A BREEZE to clean up. Believe me, I am the kind of woman who wears pink and orange together, mixes prints and has affection for hairbows (and not in the Fascinating Womanhood kind of way). But I love it!

I have other points of interest around my kitchen but see my wall of white as an anchor of calm. Kind of like a little black dress that can be dressed up or down depending on the accessories.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 2:23PM
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Gina, check out this pic, too. It is white tile with white grout but installed stacked. See how the yellow pottery in the niche really adds interest? Of course, that $40,000 range doesn't hurt either ;)

On my blog I have a whole collection of white subway tile pics, but you can do a Google Image search and see that people really do use it as a background, often, for some interesting design ideas.

Good luck! Honestly, it is one of the most plebeian things in my kitchen...and those are the things it turns out that I love the most.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 2:30PM
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Not tired of mine, but I also didn't do them entirely plain. I added a liner -- or 3 liners to be more accurate. I have also like subway tile since I was young.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 2:34PM
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1. When will you be posting your comleted pics? I can't WAIT to see your kitchen. (Or did I miss it somehow?)

2. Please post a link to your blog; our tastes seem very similar and I'm sure your blog would be a goldmine of ideas for me.

Gina: I personally find subway tile much more interesting with a darker grout, like so:

The trick here is to space the tiles very close together and use a medium-to-dark gray grout, not black, which would be too stark a contrast.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 3:06PM
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Oops...meant to add that to space them this close together and get this sort of look, they need to be very flat and regular on the edges. Not sure if that fits what you've picked out.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 4:15PM
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I love mine and have not gotten tired (Two years and counting). (They're in the bathrooms and I will probably use them in the kitchen as well). The powder room has biscuit colored crackle subways with brown grout (wood doors and trims, green marble floor). The master bath is pure white 4x8 subways on all walls to within about 8 inches of the ceiling, with a cornice molding set at this level. The room is all white with Carrara floors, washstand, tub surround, thresholds. Works well in this 1927 house. The bathroom is my favorite room! I worried about subways being a trend and they are, but they are also a good fit with the age and style of the house. The little back bathroom which still has original tiles (white squares) doesn't look that different, from a styling perspective, from the new new master bath.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 4:33PM
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Still love mine, but it's only been about 9 months, and they are bigger than normal (6x8). I also have dark grout. Maybe all that helps...

1 Like    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 5:11PM
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segbrown- I love that yours are bigger than the standard 3x6. Also, you say that you have dark grout, is it grey? I can't really tell, but it does make it more interesting. Are your tiles glossy or matte. I don't know if I would like the darker grout with glossy tile.
I am thinking about doing the glossy absolute black counters, so I probably should use a matte tile.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 6:02PM
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I am doing a white kitchen (maple cab)w/ wh. arabesque tile backsplash in a brand new custom home. I had white cab.before w/no regrets.We went round and round w/glaze/cherry/and everything in between but in the end we love them!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 7:52PM
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ginad, they are glossy, but not terribly so. And the grout is gray, Pewter I think.

Also, our uppers are a few inches higher than "normal," I think they are 23" above the counter. So that's one thing to think about when considering the larger tiles.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 11:10PM
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Segbrown, I love your black farmhouse sink. What color is you counter? Is it granite?

dazzlingdiamond - Are arabesque tiles the new thing? I have seen a few of them posted on this site?

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 11:07AM
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Things come and things go.
I used square tiles (4x4) for my bathrooms 10 years ago. They are both neutral soft creamy yellowish colors with handmade accent tiles. They look "dated" because NO one uses square tiles now. Slate and marble 12x12 tiles in baths from 10 years ago also look very dated now. We all did/do things that were "in" at the time...

However, my bathrooms still look "nice" to me because of the colors I have chosen and the style of the bathrooms that I have chosen work together very nicely.

Who knows how long subway tiles will be "in". But eventually, they too will be dated. That is the nature of fashion and trend. If you like it because you simply like them, then you should use them. If you are not certain about the look, then you should do something else that really speaks to you.

I personally find them a tad busy to brick pattern of lines. I feel the same way about tex tiles.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 12:16PM
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Seg's sink and counters are soapstone ;)

Chana--Thanks! I will post *finished kitchen* pics soon. I finally got everything all cleaned up yesterday and now waiting for husband to change out the awful yellowish cfl's to a middle spectrum light. Oh, and now I have to clean up from all of yesterday's ravioli making ;)

My blog is

Take care!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 1:58PM
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I think it's a matter of what you like, but I don't know that anyone can predict how long these will appear "classic" and not "dated". I first noticed them in the 80s in Country Living magazine spreads on renovations of older homes and loved the look then. I have never grown tired of it. I ended up only doing a small backsplash behind my stove with them but will use them elsewhere on a larger scale (bathroom). That's over 20 years of liking the look of something. I'm not sure anything else endured in my tastes that long! But that's just one opinion from a person who is NOT trendy or knowledgeable about these things.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 3:58PM
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I know it can be an expense, but the backsplash is one of the easiest things to change. So, in a few years from now if you get tired of the tiles, change them! Don't feel that you are stuck for the life of the kitchen.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 5:42PM
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Here's the thing: if it looks right in the rest of your house it's not going to look dated. Context is everything. Walking into a white-cabinet, white-subway-tiled, soapstone-countered kitchen in a brand new house can look dated any minute now if it is jarring from the rest of the house. Walking into that same kitchen in a 1915 frame farmhouse will not have the same effect. Do the kitchen that matches the personal style of your furnishings (if it is newer) or is appropriate for your house (if it is historic).

    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 6:32PM
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i wish I could answer

    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 7:02PM
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My house is transitional..Kind of Horchow meets Pottery Barn? IMO rooms don't need to match but I do carry an element to each room...I saw Beekeepers wife's tile and fell in love.They are expensive but I budgeted them in and cut back in other areas.I personally think they have a clean,classic,look w/out being boring.I chose a blk.chandelier and ebony stained floors.Go w/your heart!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 10:43AM
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I had the subway tiles in my bath and shower and actually got so tired of it after about 6 years I had it riped out and a more natural stone tile installed.. The grout lines where white and also sealed but we still could not keep them clean. My experience was very bad after a little while it looked dirty unless cleaned everyday.... I see so many people using and it does look very good when new but after a while I spent more time cleaning it then the rest of the house. I'm glad I made the switch to a more of a natural stone tile.
Good luck

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 12:36PM
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hi ginad...

I happen to catch a bit of the movie "Moonstruck" last night, with Cher and Nicolas Cage. It must be a 20 year old film or so... Anyway, the kitchen had white subway tiles. I think it's a pretty classic look.

My sister remodeled her kitchen a few months before me, and her tile guy "friend" talked her out of them. She regrets that, even though her backsplash came out very nice and compliments her kitchen.

If you really like the look then I doubt that you will regret the choice. I will throw in a picture of mine, as mine are slightly different than the uniform white. I didn't do anything fancy over the stove. I was afraid it would get tiring. I figure I can put something decorative if I need to jazz it up.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 1:24PM
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I did an "almost" white subway backsplash three years ago. Honed marble with faint gray veins. Still love them and if I get sick of my kitchen, I can always change out the paint color, rugs and/or window treatments.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 2:52PM
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oh, i have this question, too! i just saw the uber cheap 3x6 white subways at lowes and am tempted to go with them. not quite the off-white color i had picked out in a smaller size, but much much cheaper, and hopefully the same effect (to blend in w/ the white/gray countertops and not stand out). good to see pictures of different colored grouts! i would have only thought to use white.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 2:06AM
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We have just started a kitchen renovation in a 1910 house and are using cream-colored Pratt & Larson 3x6 subway tiles, lots of them, and glossy! The counters and cabinetry are very matte (soapstone and vertical grain fir) as is the floor (cork) and so we think the glossy tiles will look good with a fireclay sink and enameled range. We, too, plan to use grey grout. I can understand your concern about subway tiles being ubiquitous, but I never get tired of seeing them in the right context -- consider how pretty the posted pictures are in this thread! And when I looked through the fabulous, no-holds-barred Pratt & Larson catalog, I admit that the photograph that most delighted me was the simplest treatment of a bathroom wall: creamy subway tile with grey grout.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 9:35AM
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Thanks for posting this question. For several years now I have wanted white subway tiles in my kitchen. Now that I am at the point of actually remodeling the space, I was offended when it was brought up that subway tiles might be so popular that it's possible I'd tire of them before too long. I rejected the idea for a long time. And by rejected, I mean that it made me really mad. Anyway, I'm now starting to think that there might be some truth to this (for me, anyway) and am glad that I am able to be honest with myself about this new change in direction, even though I still love the look of subway tiles in a kitchen.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 2:48AM
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