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Subway tile, a brief history

Meet the older sibling to our other subway tile lines. 


Authentic subway tile is timeless, beautiful, and most importantly buildable. This tile acts as the perfect base for a redesign of any space. 

Traditionally, the pattern for subway tile is an offset grid of three by six inch pieces. This pattern got its start in the New York City Subway systems of the early 1900s. During this time period, the subway system was a relatively new invention. This new technology, while exciting, was unprecedented territory for the people of the time. 


Union Square


Subway tile  was chosen in these subway systems because it was very easy to clean and its bright white surface reflected light which made the dark tunnels feel a bit less gloomy. It was, quite literally, a light at the end of the tunnel. The subway tile’s flat surface, rectified edges, and pencil thin grout joints made for a very attractive design and was quickly adopted for use in homes and businesses.


Brownstones , Queen Anne style homes, and Bungalows were just a few of the architectural styles that embraced this aesthetic in the early 20th century. The tile was considered to be exceptionally sanitary because of the ease of cleaning and its pencil thin grout lines. These characteristics were a comfort to Victorian Americans who were notoriously germ-obsessed. 

Heritage Tile is the sole supplier to New York City for subway tile restoration.


Subway tile has experienced a very smooth transition into modern aesthetics with its sleek finish and large role in the “farmhouse chic” trend. While other interior design trends have come and gone, subway tile has maintained its sophistication and timeless quality. 


Heritage Tile’s Subway Ceramics collection includes the classic moldings, trim pieces, and ceramic accessories needed for a full tile installation. Each piece is created as a part of a comprehensive tile system that provides luxurious surfaces, sleek radius curves, pencil-thin grout lines and intricate details. 

With over 60 glaze options to choose from, Heritage tile glazes make it easy to reproduce classic Victorian-era colors. From deep and full bodied to light and translucent, these colors are carefully selected to enhance designs and reflect the timelessness of the subway tile itself. 


Whether you are looking to re-do a large area of tile or add small accents to a kitchen backsplash, you can’t go wrong with tile that has proven itself for centuries.

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