5 Alternatives To Subway Tile That Make It Better

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Did you know a kid back in the day who was nice looking, got good grades, and just generally agreeable and polite to everyone they met? That’s what subway tile is. Sure, a bit vanilla at times, but always classic, fresh, likable, and plays well with others- so what’s not to love?

Almost every bathroom in our home has SOME sort of subway tile in it, because it has staying power, and because we built in 2017- the height of subway tile in my opinion. 

How about some alternatives to subway tile? We don’t all want the exact same home after all. Here are some ideas for a slight twist – alternatives – for the classic subway tile.

Alternatives To Subway Tile

1. Beveled Subway Tile

Beveled subway tile is a plain subway tile with a 3-D bevel that brings dimension to something otherwise plain. The price is pennies more- perhaps the biggest bang for your buck!

I considered all types of tile for my kitchen (I fell in love with this) but with all that square footage to cover, I kept coming back to beveled white subway tile. The price was right and I knew as trends/tastes changed this would keep us happy.

Here is my kitchen with beveled subway tile.

beveled white subway tile in a kitchen

No regrets, even in 2020 as I update this post. I am so glad we didn’t go with plain subway tile – I would likely have regretted that decision! The bevel makes it pop just enough!

You Can Tour My Kitchen HERE

2. Handmade Subway Tile

I first saw handmade subway tile used in Emily Henderson’s kitchen and I might have gasped out loud. It has this wavy movement to it; it is truly jaw dropping.

Emily used the Weathered White Zellige from Cle Tile. It is not cheap; would be great in a small space for a big impact. This is my favorite for alternatives for subway tile!

handmade subway tile in a green and white kitchen


square subway tile in a kitchen

From Cle Tile’s Instagram

square subway tile in a kitchen


Looking for a cheaper alternative? Check Wayfair and Home Depot – HD sells a handmade subway tile I find intriguing. The reviews are great and the price is a happy medium!

3. Place Your Subway Tile in An Untraditional Manner

“Staggered” is what the traditional layout of subway tile is called. How about…

Horizontal Stacking:

modern stacked subway tile in a bathroom


Vertical Stacking (looks the most dramatic in spaces where the tile goes up to the ceiling, as opposed to say, under cabinetry in a kitchen):

stacked subway tile in a bathroom


a white and black modern bathroom


Herringbone Pattern: We did a herringbone switcheroo in our master shower, seen below! Hung up to the ceiling (which I recommend doing, it’s not that much more money for a bigger impact) it’s a nice way to mix it up. The extra cuts in the tile will add to the cost (anything custom that creates more work like this does), but it still was cost effective since we were choosing a subway tile.

herringbone subway tile is an alternative

close up of herringbone subway tile in a shower

a white shower

We also went with a herringbone pattern behind the bar of our own home, seen below. It’s such a small space – just enough for something different. The herringbone tile doesn’t have a huge impact, but it didn’t feel boring.

a wet bar with a drink fridge

Tour our navy dining room here!

brass and white bathroom


I LOVE the crosshatch, possibly my favorite remix! If your subway tile sits in a traditional stagger in one part of the room, that doesn’t mean you can’t make it pop elsewhere in the room- as long as the spaces are separate. Consider using subway tile in a traditional layout in the shower, and lay it out crosshatch behind the sink, like Caitlin Wilson!

4. Switch Up The Size!

Try a 3×9 or a 3×12 sized tile, instead of the often used 3×6 tile.

extra long subway tile in a white kitchen


tiny subway tile a kitchen is an alternative to standard size


an alternative to subway tile  is longer subway tile


5. Glass Subway Tile

Talk about a good alternative! This glass subway tile looks so beachy and fresh to me. I am all about this! If you love coastal decor I would recommend you consider using glass subway tile.

glass subway tile in a kitchen

I didn’t end up going with glass subway tile, but I took a photo of this glass tile focal wall to my tile design meeting. This shower speaks to me!

glass tile is an alternative to subway tile


You might also be interested in:

Our Blue and White Kitchen

white subway tile in a kitchen

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