Then & Now: Evolution of the Metro Tile

This post is sponsored by Decobella

If you think that the metro tile trend is riding huge popularity now, it has actually been around for over a century, with its predecessor more commonly known as the subway tile. It is arguable whether this trend really went away to make a comeback, or in our view it is simply ‘The Evolution of the Metro Tile’.

The once basic white, beveled edged tile has evolved into a iconic pieces available in a rainbow of colors, with an array of finishes and edgings, in a host of oblong sizes. The versatility of Metro tiles is another consideration, nowadays there are options suitable for use of interior and exterior transformations on both walls and floors. Decobella is one of the first companies in South Africa to bring these new, multi-application tiles into the country.

Decobella metro tiles - Le Lacche render bianco

Current Trends

2020 is the year of unique patterns and unconventional widths when it comes to tiling. With more color options and sizes available in the metro tile selection it is no surprise that their popularity is on the rise. Whether you use a single color, multiple colors in a pattern or at random, contrasting or matching grout, a brick-like pattern or herringbone layout – your home will be your playground when making use of Decobella‘s new range of Metro tiles.

Decobella metro tiles - Le Lacche salvia

Where it all began

The first 3″ x 6″ (75mm x 150mm) rectangular Subway tiles were installed by designers George C. Heins and Christopher Grant La Farge, back in 1904 in the first New York subway station. These white, brick-shaped glossy tiles with their beveled edges provided the perfect coverage for the walls in the underground subways as they were able to brighten these subterranean areas and proved easy to clean. After their use in the US subways they made their way to the French metros. State owned buildings, including hospitals started installing subway tiles – they were stain resistant, easy to clean and light-reflective. Because of these favorable properties the use of subway tiles spilled over into the the everyday kitchens and bathrooms and became a timeless trend.

Decobella Oblong Achimia BLue Is

Pattern Power

According to metro tiles are here to stay, but they are taking on a new layout for 2020. Using them in a variety of basket-weave layouts, 45-degree herringbone and vertical patterns will make a room feel modern and fresh.

Trending is also the move to make use of multiple color of the metro tiles inside an interesting pattern layout to create a focal wall or backsplash. Essentially using your tiles to create a unique piece of art.

Decobella Le Lacche curcuma

Not just a backsplash

Traditionally subway tiles were only used on walls, whether a full wall application or splash backs, however, Pinterest has shown a surge in using subway tiles on bathroom floors. The smaller version of this much loved tile in particular can create a retro style in a bathroom paired with the perfect accessories. The use of more grout on a floor using smaller tiles allows for more grip, providing both style and safety, particularly useful in showers for instance.

Whilst Decobella introduced their metro tile range with a 75 x 300mm tile, a size that remains the most popular in SA today, they have also introducing smaller sizes to speak to these ‘tiny trend’.

  • Both the Le Lacche’s and Oxyd’s ranges are suitable for wall and floor use and come sized 61 x 370mm.
  • The Hamptons is a 65 x 130mm subway tile with a reverse bevel.
  • The Village selection boasts rich colours in an irregular edge metro flat version also sized 65 x 130mm.

Decobella Village silver mist 6.5x13

Bigger bathroom often require bigger tiles, so if you are in love with the subway trend having an range of sizes available to choose from provides the luxury of creating the same vision on a larger scale.

When it comes to the Modern (or not so modern) metro tile – Using one or multiple variations of these tiles can create a current, contemporary look with a timeless appeal.

To view the full range of tiles that Decobella has on offer visit you can also view their merchants in your area here.

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Karen Kelly is the founder and editor of She is a creative at heart and passionate about all things DIY. Learn more about her here and connect with her on social media on the links below.


  1. Liezel Glaubitz

    Oooo my… so much exquisite inspiration!

    • Kari

      Thank you, I am sooo in love with metros

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