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A complete style guide of arrangements for Subway and Candlestick Tiles

April 04, 2019 1 Comment

City Hall Subway Station, New York

Image via history.com

In 1904, New York City planners were getting ready to open the first subway stations in the city. Worried that customers would be fearful in dark, underground spaces, they asked architects George C. Heins and Christopher Grant La Farge for a design solution, and the bright, white, glossy 3" X 6" subway tile was born. Today, the beautiful, clean subway tile look is ubiquitous and holds its own in almost any design style.

Often the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a subway tile is a white 3" X 6" in a classic horizontal arrangement. It's a timeless look, but if you'd like to push the design envelope a bit further, we've also included a few other arrangement and colour options that you might want to consider.  


A timeless and beautiful tile arrangement, the classic pattern is created by overlapping your tiles by half their length. The arrangement works really well paired with bold design elements like patterned tiles because it doesn't try to steal the show, but still offers a rich, durable texture to your wall. 

Another option for the classic arrangement is to lay the tiles against a contrasting grout – either a light tile with dark grout, or the opposite. Keep in mind that this creates a busier look, but can be great for spaces where the rest of the design elements are a bit more muted.

Dipped Pink    Horizontal c
Dipped White in Classic Tile Arrangement Diagonal classic
Dipped Lagoon
Vertical classic


Herringbone continues to be one of the most popular arrangements in both floor and wall tile layouts. The zig-zag pattern is a modern and stunning visual effect. It also creates interest to the space and can help guide the eye. To reinforce vertical lines in kitchens with a high ceiling, a classic herringbone layout for the kitchen backsplash can work really well. For smaller kitchens with less vertical wallspace, a horizontal herringbone could help accentuate the breadth of the space.

Images via Domino (left) and decocrush (right)

Dipped Smoky GreyClassic
Dipped Smoky GreyHorizontal
Dipped Smoky Grey 45 degree


Stack tiling is easy on the eyes with its clean lines. The tiles are simply aligned with each other and placed in repetitive grids. It’s a great arrangement for minimalist interior spaces and those with prominent rectilinear forms. A particular favourite of ours is a vertically stacked arrangement using an elongated subway tile, such as our Candlestick, which can give a beautiful effect similar to long-panel Wainscotting. 

Images via Equipe Ceramicas

Candlestick Collection Horizontal Stack
Dipped Lagoon  Vertical Stack

Basket Weave

Geometric or Basket Weave style bears resemblance to a woven basket at a 90-degree angle. The effect is created by laying the subway tiles in groups that create square blocks. The number of tiles in a block depends on the ratio of the length to the width of the tiles. For a standard 3” X 6” tile, you’d need two tiles laid side-by-side to create a square, since the tile is twice as long as it is wide. For an elongated subway like our 10” X 2” Candlestick, five tiles would create your square. The weave is achieved by placing the next square block at a 90 degree rotation, and repeating the pattern across the wall.

Image via Caitlin Wilson

Dipped White Matte
Dipped Smoky Grey

Step Ladder

Very similar to the 45 degree Herringbone, this arrangement is possible when the ratio of the length to width of the tile is exactly 2:1. Two rectangular subway tiles are attached to form an ‘L’ shape first, and then overlapped with other 'L's to create a moving ladder effect – definitely a great way to elevate a space!

Image by Leena Torres via decoratoo

Dipped Lagoon in Step Ladder Arrangement

English Bond

English bond is a row-by-row alternation of two different sizes of subway tiles. You can also just use a single size of tile and cut it to use in your shorter-length rows. The classic English bond pattern keeps the shorter tile at approximately half the width of the longer ones, but we believe it can entirely be up to your creativity!

Images via Susie Novak Interiors (left) and domino (right)

Candlestick White and Subway White in English Bond

Here are a couple more...

The following two tile arrangements require additional cutting than the ones presented so far, but we didn’t want to exclude them as they have a lot of design potential.

Windmill Tile Arrangement

Windmill: Sometimes also known as a pinwheel, this beautiful arrangement is achieved by laying four rectangular tiles revolving around one square-cut tile. We’ve seen quite a few arrangements of this using different colours of centre and outer tiles, but you can also use the same coloured tile throughout for a sleek, subtle, and modern look.

Cobblestone Tile Arrangement

Cobblestone: An intricate arrangement, this pattern is reminiscent of a herringbone with several half sized square tiles placed in between each 'L' shape. Since it’s a more complex arrangement on its own you may want to use grout colour that's the same shade or colour variation as the tile. This beautiful style works particularly well in more traditional settings.

Of course to achieve the looks described above, the first step is to pick out your subway tiles! 
Here at TilesInspired, we have three beautiful options on hand in our Subway, Candlestick and Dipped lines -- and coming soon, our Manhattan matte finish 10" X 2.5" tiles.

Our 3" X 6" Subway collection is both clean and timeless with its straight shapes and smooth yet reflective surface. Today, this look is widely used by professionals working in both commercial and residential interior design. The simplicity of these tiles is perfect for toning down bolder design elements in a modern setting.


Our 10" X 2" Candlestick tile collection is a beautiful elongated subway tile option. Its slim shape and handmade look makes it stand out among rectangular tiles, and its soft, rich glazed body brings depth to any installation. Some of the latest interior designs are showcasing these types of tiles in both herringbone and vertically stacked arrangements.

The Dipped tile collection is the perfect balance between our Candlesticks and Subway lines. It has the traditional size and shape in 3” X “6”, but also shares the texture, handmade look and soft edge of our Candlestick. Currently stocked in 5 colours, Dipped is available to import-to-order in more than 30 colours!

If there is one thing to remember from this blog, it’s that the subway tile is anything but boring. Between size, texture, shape, colour, grout choice, and of course, arrangement, your design possibilities to create something unique to your vision is almost limitless. We hope this post has helped you along your design journey, and we can’t wait to see the one-of-a-kind spaces you create!

        by Dylan and Rebecca Vokey

Ready to pick out the right tile for your space?


1 Response


November 23, 2020

Great designs and colors for wall tiles. Definitely worth noting. I see this type is good for the kitchen area. It really stands out when I look at the pictures. I should instruct our wall tiler in Vaucluse to apply this concept in our next project. Thank you for this wonderful tips.

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