Alternatives To White Subway Tile

A neutral backsplash doesn't need to be so basic

White subway tile is a kitchen design classic for a reason: It makes kitchens feel light and airy, it blends in with nearly any style, and it's generally budget friendly. But with the farmhouse-kitchen trend so intense right now, white subway tile can also forge into overplayed territory. If you want something different while still keeping with the neutral look, opt for these slightly more unusual white tile designs.

① Herringbone  

This elegant pattern can be positioned with points in a vertical or horizontal formation, and you can't go wrong with either. Marble tiles (such as Splashback Marble Mosaic Tile, $16 a square foot from Home Depot) are almost always more cost effective than large slabs of marble, which might soften the blow of not being able to afford a marble countertop.

② Fish Scale 

The curve at the bottom of each tile contrasts the straight lines you often find in a kitchen. This unexpected shape gives backsplashes an eye-catching look, even when they're plain white. Fish scale tiles are rising in popularity on Pinterest and Instagram, so you might want to jump on the train now before you see it everywhere. Like herringbone, fish scale (like the Carrara Marble Grand Fish Scale, $15 a sheet from Marble Online) is a slightly more budget-friendly way to try marble.

③ Arabesque

Just a little of this shapely tile goes a long way, especially when paired with a colorful grout (like blue) that helps define the curves. However, arabesque tiles are very bold and can get look too busy when used beyond the smaller confines of a backsplash. If you're planning on using them as a wall cover, opt for white grout, which will make the pattern subtler. Arabesque tiles are sold individually or by the sheet (try the Arabesque Lantern Beacon Matte White Porcelain Tile, $6 a sheet from The Builder Depot).

④ Hexagonal Tile

This type of tile is most associated with bathrooms, but the six-sided form has officially made its way into kitchens. Whether you go with large hexagons or smaller ones, the look is a little vintage, in a good way. Like arabesque tile, this is an option that can also benefit from a contrasting grout to further define the shape. This is also one of the most affordable shapes to buy, with options like American Olean Satinglo Tile coming in at around $6 a square foot from Lowe's.

⑤ Mini Rectangles

Playing with scale puts a unique twist on subway tile, and tinier tiles can often make a small space look a bit larger. Australian brand Artedomus's 2x1-inch tile (shown here) comes in a matte finish that also helps differentiate the look from its larger-scale siblings. Pair these tiles with a darker grout for the on-trend contrast or opt for timeless white.

Brie Dyas is a contributing writer for Tasting Table and an avid collector of your grandmother's fine china. You can find her occasionally sharing photos on Instagram at @briedyas.