8 Subway Tile Patterns for a Fresh Twist on the Classic Material

Learn the different variations of subway tile patterns to find the layout that best suits your personality.

Subway tile is a timeless and versatile material that meshes well with all sorts of decorating styles. Named for the white tiles covering New York subway stations, subway tile is a go-to choice for kitchen backsplashes, bathroom walls, shower surrounds, and more.

In general, the glazed ceramic tiles are white and measure twice as wide as they are tall, but subway tile is readily available in a variety of sizes and materials. This type of tile creates a clean, classic look that blends well with a wide range of decorating styles, including modern, traditional, farmhouse, and cottage aesthetics. The overall effect can hinge on how you arrange and install the subway tile. Learn the various subway tile patterns, including classic running bond, herringbone, and basket weave, to select a stylish backsplash for your home.

white subway tile with grey cabinets
Michael Partenio

1. Classic Running Bond

Tile treatments rendered in a classic running bond pattern, which takes its cue from conventional brickwork, add floor-to-ceiling appeal in kitchens and bathrooms alike. This pattern is simple to lay out and requires fewer complicated tile cuts than other patterns. With running bond subway tile, the joints are offset and centered in the middle of all adjoining tiles. This symmetrical layout presents a crisp, cohesive look that sets a serene stage for busy areas like kitchens.

For wall-spanning applications, choose large individual white subway tiles (found in 3x6-inch, 4x8-inch, and 6x12-inch forms), and use white or light grout to prevent the tiled walls from appearing too fussy. A contrasting grout color, such as black, will make each tile stand out, which adds eye-catching texture but often works best in small applications.

white vertical subway tiles
Christina Wedge

2. Vertical Running Bond

Subway tiles installed vertically create the illusion of taller walls and higher ceilings. When they're installed in a running bond pattern (rows offset by half of a tile) and accented with dark gray or black grout, subway tiles make a dramatic and unexpected statement. In this walk-in shower, the slate floors supply a weighty anchor for the airier subway tile walls.

herringbone pattern white subway tiles
Emily Followill

3. 45-Degree Herringbone Pattern

Herringbone subway tile consists of tiles set on 45-degree angles with their joints offset, hitting the centers of adjoining tiles. The resulting subway tile pattern evokes the fish scales for which it was named (it's also sometimes called a chevron pattern). Thanks to the pattern's prominent peaks and valleys, the tile treatment draws the eye up, down, and around a room's perimeter. This subway tile backsplash was finished with gray grout, which picks up on the room's stainless-steel fixtures and defines each tile shape.

double basket weave tile
Adam Albright

4. Double Basket Weave

The double basket-weave layout offers a modern take on an old favorite when it's crafted from white subway tile and forgoes the colored tiles that are often included to emphasize the look. Comprised of pairs of vertical tiles framed by pairs of horizontal tiles, this subway tile pattern is easy to plan and install. Because it employs a readily available tile size and shape, it's also a cost-effective way to fashion high-impact walls. Narrow spaces between these tiles are filled with dark grout to subtly define the dimensional pattern.

90 degree herringbone pattern
Adam Albright

5. 90-Degree Herringbone Pattern

Due to their unfussy stair-stepped appearance, herringbone subway tile patterns offer the perfect backdrop for traditional-style or vintage-inspired kitchens and bathrooms. In this design, subway tiles are set perpendicular to each other to create 90-degree angles. Striking in its simplicity, this 90-degree herringbone pattern can mirror a bathroom or kitchen's straight lines, while bringing a sense of movement that softens a room's hard surfaces. Opt for a grout similar in color to the tiles to create a low-contrast canvas that allows other features to be highlighted.

black white kitchen modern minimalist butcher block counter range
Edmund Barr

6. Horizontal Stacked Bond

The stacked bond pattern is one of the easiest subway tile treatments to install. It showcases same-size tiles that are aligned in evenly stacked rows. The minimalist pattern gives rooms an unexpectedly contemporary edge and an orderly look that perfectly suits transitional and modern designs. White subway tile backsplashes laid in this pattern step back to allow a kitchen's best-looking fixtures to advance into view.

gray bathroom with white tile
Adam Albright

7. Vertical Stacked Bond

Turn subway tiles vertically to construct an unconventional composition. Here, smaller rectangular tiles marshaled in tidy rows align in a vertical stacked bond pattern for a fresh and modern bathroom backsplash. A line of trim tiles runs horizontally across the top to cleanly finish off the subway tile pattern.

teal kitchen cabinets
Marty Baldwin

8. Stacked Running Bond

A unique variation of the horizontal stacked bond pattern, this high-gloss backsplash mixes in colored subway tiles to create a striped effect, heightening interest and making the room appear taller. Because this pattern uses white and colored tiles of a similar size, some vertical tiles will require cutting to ensure they properly align with the height of adjacent horizontal tiles. The grout color on this kitchen backsplash both showcases the white tiles and complements the gray-blue tiles.

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