Thursday, April 7, 2011

subway tiles and their origins

What a gorgeous marble subway tile.
Look's great in this kitchen. I'm converted from white to marble for our splashback i think, how could i not with an image like this?
Looking at Subway tiles recently, i decided to seek out some in their first habitat ... in the city that conceived the whole idea of this tile. New York baby!

Back in 1901 Heins and LaFarge Architects were employed to design the New York City subway system and in turn came up with the  subway tile. They started laying in 1901 with the subway opening on the 27th October 1904 for business. They used various colours and structural design to create unique patterns and signage for all of the stations.

The famous City Hall Subway Station pictured above is so amazing. Over time various companies have been employed on the upkeep of these tiles and they still stand today at an age of more than 100 years.
 This is from 72nd Street

Many of the subway station signage and decorative works are done with mosaic tiles as you can see above. Certain stations depending on their locations have motifs representing the station. Whilst the majority of the work on the subways was completed prior to 1904, over the years more modern additions of subway art has emerged like this simplistic one below
Whilst the overall design of the subway system both architectually and decoratively was the work of Heins and LaFarge, a young architect by the name of Squire Vickers was heavily responsible for many of  the mosaic motif designs.
Historically subway tiles were made of painted and fired ceramic, these days they are more enhanced for longer lasting durability, but whether 1904 or 2011, they are still a hardy and aesthetically versatile tile. I never tire of looking at them.

Have a great Friday and even better weekend.


  1. Subway tiles are on my list for our new kitchen and bathroom... one day!
    Fascinating post, and I look forward to seeing these tiles in real life one day...
    Yes two one days... positive affirmations and putting it out there. Ha!

  2. We love subways tiles and have used them in the past two houses we've renovated. We are also using them in this current reno. I'd really like to find some light blue/teal ones for behind the oven in the kitchen. Any ideas.???

    1. Hi There, I tried to leave a comment on your blog but my computer flipped out ... So, I see that you live in Brisbane. I was recently at 'Tile Mob' which is at Mitchelton. They have a great range of subway tiles in various colours. Not cheap but gorgeous. Some of them are hand cut so will look fabulous in the kitchen. I was looking at a marble (for our splash back) and they had a very pale grey, but i am fairly sure i saw a blue of some descript. Check it out.

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  4. Wow! really it a good post thanking for sharing that.

    Posted by brucewilliam | Mosaic Tiles Brisbane

  5. Truly delightful and most attractive post with best of information provided on subway tiles. Pictures prove it all and the use wit proper installations can enhance the look and feel of the house. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful post.

    Outdoor tiling

  6. It is very nice to consder tiles that is used in the bathroom.