Metro tiles: The well-travelled design staple that is here to stay

Metro tiles: The well-travelled design staple that is here to stay

For decades they have lined the walls of some of the world’s busiest underground corridors, providing an instantly recognisable setting for thousands of travelers every day.

And the metro tile – the small rectangular blocks that decorate stations on the London Underground and New York subway system – are still going strong more than 100 years later.

The Tilemates team at our Petts Wood store explore why this simple design is here to stay.

Going underground

With their glossy, simple design that is easy to keep clean, it is easy to see why transport pioneers decided to employ the use of the metro tile as they laid the tracks for the vast underground networks, both here and across the Atlantic.

The distinctive tiles were first revealed to Americans when the New York Subway opened in 1904 – and quickly moved into the bathrooms and kitchens of homes across the continent.

In London, the rectangular designs can be seen both inside and outside stations. In the early 1900s architect Leslie Green used oxblood-coloured tiles in his designs of some of the capital’s most historic Underground stations, which remain as colourful today as they did when they were first fitted.

It is a testament to their simplistic design that these tiles have retained their glossy look more than 100 years on.

Next stop: the kitchen

Easy to fit, easy to clean and versatile, the metro tile quickly made its way above ground and onto the walls of kitchens and bathrooms – and their enduring appeal has not dimmed.

Metro tiles have fitted seamlessly into the trends for shabby chic, upcycling, reclaimed furniture and vintage that have been enjoying a prolonged spell in the interior design limelight. For those keen to create a retro theme, the squat rectangular tiles provide instant authenticity to any design, with their recognisable shape harking back decades.

But their use is not limited to those with designs on the past. Metro tiles have proved to work well in modern settings, providing clean, crisp lines and backgrounds to build interiors around.

And they are not limited to the kitchen or bathroom. Using them to create a feature wall in a living room or hallway can provide an eye catching and distinctive centrepiece.

Anything but a whitewash

Colour is another enduring feature of the metro tile. Take a look at the walls of the Underground next time you’re down there to see the variety of shades that featured in the Victorian age – schemes that can be easily replicated at home.

Patterns also feature on many modern designs, allowing keen decorators to create ‘patchwork quilt’ style walls. And their layout is not limited to the horizontal – the tiles can be laid vertically, diagonally or in patterns to create striking designs.

For more information about metro tiles, pop into one of Tilemates five showrooms in Tunbridge Wells, Brighton, Crayford, Petts Wood and Welling.

Alongside metro tiles, we supply a range of ceramic, glass and porcelain floor and wall tiles, as well as accessories, tools, grouts, adhesives and underfloor heating kits for a professional installation. 

To find out more speak to a member of the team at your nearest showroom:

Brighton: 01273 412000

Crayford:  01322 555453

Petts Wood: 01689 878667

Tunbridge Wells: 01892 514004

Welling: 020 8303 4023

Chessington Head Office: 020 8397 6284

  • The Guild
  • TTA
  • Brighton

    Tel: 01273 412000

  • Crayford

    Tel: 01322 555453

  • Petts Wood

    Tel: 01689 878667

  • Tunbridge Wells

    Tel: 01892 514004

  • Welling

    Tel: 020 8303 4023

  • Head Office

    Tel: 020 8397 6284