While known for its classic and timeless appeal, the subway tile has experienced a dramatic renaissance this year, but not in the way DIY renovators would necessarily expect.
Subways have evolved dramatically of late, says Beaumont Tiles' product and communications specialist Rachel Gilding, and are now incorporating dynamic patterns, vibrant colours and plank tile concepts.
"New season interior design trends are challenging the white, clinical brick bond looks of the subway tile, catapulting it into a world of colour, exploring new depths in patterns and layouts," she said.
"What we are seeing is the peak of the subway trend, and with that comes a certain confidence to push boundaries and challenge the status quo of subway design.
"From herringbone, step ladder, crosshatch and stacked, the styling possibilities of the subway tile are endless, as are the style narratives they help illustrate."
Need some inspiration? Here are some different looks guaranteed to challenge the way you think about subway tiles in 2021.
Herringbone - 45 degrees and horizontal
Whether it's for a kitchen splashback or bathroom wall, a herringbone-patterned subway tile can turn your next DIY project into a prominent feature that creates depth and theatre for the overall project.
"The herringbone 45 degrees and horizontal herringbone layering styles create the illusion of movement throughout the space," said Gilding.
"My favourite choice for a coastal, country chic or contemporary look is a marble or stone subway like Nostalgia Carrara Gloss paired with our Ardex White grout."
The step ladder pattern is like the herringbone, resembling dynamic movement and direction. "This unique layering option can make any space feel bigger and is a great statement piece," said Gilding.
"The step ladder is the perfect choice for a niche space in the bathroom - particularly the shower - but would also create a dynamic and vibrant kitchen splashback."
This versatile pattern is a unique combination of horizontal and vertical stacking and is perfect for the geometrically brave!
"Though the subway tiles are simply layered at 90-degree angles, grout plays a huge role in transforming the 'crosshatch' layout into a beautiful feature or focal point," Gilding said.
"Electing for monochrome-coloured tiles in a crosshatch layout is perfect for contrasting with leathers and prints - the ultimate wanderlust vibe."
Brick Bond - 45 degree stack, vertical and horizontal
From the New York subways of the 1920s to today's modern houses, brick bonding is everywhere - it's simple and symmetrical.
"This unique way of layering captures dimension and flow, and any space can be revamped with a brick bonded subway tile," said Gilding.
"Choosing a variety of different colours or mixing your finishes like satin and gloss with a bold coloured grout is daring and fun and a perfect way to change or accentuate your style."
Gilding suggests pairing a vibrant and colourful layout with black or neutral homewares for a playful and retro style with a modern twist.
"For those with a retired fireplace, turn it into a statement by using contrasting laying styles on the facing and firebox," she said. "I like to pair brick bond in our agrestic gloss white subway with agrestic gloss grey laid horizontal in the firebox."
Stacked: vertical, vertical alternating, horizontal and horizontal alternating
For a safe and more traditional layout variation, DIYers can't go past stacked tiles.
"Stacked tiles are a popular option, particularly for first-time DIYers. While simple, they still have many styling properties," said Gilding.
"The vertically stacked layout is perfect for making ceilings feel taller, and the horizontal stack has the same principle, but with widening capabilities.
"Mix things up a little with the vertical and horizontal stacked alternating layouts, which means you offset the rows. Creating a modern look, this layout is great for full tile walls or as a statement wall in the kitchen."