Tuesday, September 1

Why In Design: Why I love Subway Tile With Black Grout in Kitchens

Anthony D'Argenzio's NYC kitchen renovation
showing dark grout with subway tile, Lonny magazine

While Demolishing 
A New York City Kitchen,
Musings About My Fascination With  
White Subway Tile and Dark Grout!
Years ago, I was invited for lunch at a friend's newly restored downtown Manhattan home.  She hosted the fete on a narrow farmhouse table in her new kitchen.  She lived in a cozy brick pre-war apartment on a tree lined street in Greenwich Village.  Like many New York City kitchens, it was small but by our warped urban standards it was a dream kitchen.  Firstly, it had an eat-in nook, and New Yorkers know that immediately takes it to another level.  Secondly, it was chock-filled with new accouterments giving a vintage feel and working well aesthetically with the home's historic roots -- a farmhouse sink, a wood island top holding a little patina, some open cabinetry, creamy marble counter tops and floor-to-ceiling white subway tile applied with dark grout. Since then I have been enamored with the utilitarian yet stylish look of white subway tile finished in a dark grout, and when slathering the entire kitchen from floor to ceiling, I swoon. With all the newfangled choices for back splash options today, white subway tile is thought by some to be bland, but I love it. 
 a classic beauty featured in Elle Decor magazine,
floor-to-ceiling subway tile.

Using subway tile in a kitchen is practical (note to real cooks - it is easy to clean and the dark grout doesn't show any cooking/oil stains).    I also love it because it's inexpensive, wears well over time and gives a classic look that works with many aesthetics.  With the recent resurgence  in popularity of laying it with dark grey grout, I am seeing it everywhere!  To me, it's just as appropriate in a summer beach cottage as an urban oasis. Good news though, and unlike other design styles, I don't see subway tile's popularity waning anytime soon. 

white subway tile in a kitchen is like the 
fashion world's version of a 
classic black dress 

subway tile NYC 1900s
photo via google

History Note:
In the early 1900s it was believed the first "subway tile" was created for urban subway station walls, and was applied in a brick-like horizontal pattern for practical purposes. The ticket office at the then City Hall in NYC's subway station utilized this tile throughout the walls and even the ceiling.  The tile was created for its durability, and the white color is the most durable.

The home market adopted this aesthetic and it has stayed in favor since then.  I particularly like it paired with dark grout since it highlights the pattern of the horizontal laid tile and frames it out nicely giving a contrast to the appliances and counter top.  When the grey grout and white tile is combined with dark grey slate floors, it can look quite stylish although I must admit my very first choice for a kitchen floor is wood.  The give and take of the natural wood floor allows the cook to stand for long periods of time without the harshness of tile or marble on their feet, and God forbid if a plate or glass is dropped, wood can be more forgiving.  But, often times a wood floor is not an option and tile is easy to clean, withstands temperatures and water and is quite popular.  

This week I am in the throes of a small New York City kitchen demolition then a renovation including new floor, back splash tile, counter tops, cabinetry, lighting and painting.  Please stay tuned for before and after photos to show the progress and share our sources.  One thing is for certain --  we will have white subway tile with dark grey grout as our back splash!

Happy Nesting
XO Tamara
photo credit bhg.com via Kitchens I Adore

above kitchen has brick-laid subway tile with charcoal grout and matches the regal commercial-grade stainless-steel Wolf stove.
a clean aesthetic in this IKEA kitchen renovation, 
a former 1907 Pennsylvania schoolhouse featured in Countryliving