In 1904, the widespread use of the interlocking pattern of rectangles popularly known as “Subway Tile” first appeared throughout the tunnels of the newly opened New York City Subway system. Although the highly detailed and varied murals that lined the walls of the subway tunnels had served as travelers’ landmarks to tourists and native New Yorkers alike, it is the brick pattern of ceramic subway tiles that has been most influential on the tile decorating world. This simple yet elegant design element was originally expressed using ceramic tiles in the New York Subway, but recently the use of glass subway tiles has gained popularity. Home improvement shows on television, such as, “This Old House,” have contributed to the growing use of glass tile by highlighting their dazzling beauty. While the roots of subway tile lie in ceramic, glass is quickly becoming the material of choice.
Over the past decade there has been a transition in tastes from ceramic to glass subway tile which is driven primarily by the unique advantages of glass as a building material. Visually, glass offers a depth and clarity that is unmatched by even the most finely glazed ceramic tiles. The brilliant colors that shine through glass tiles contrast sharply with the dull, muted tones of ceramic alternatives. Secondly, glass is impervious to moisture making them an ideal material for high moisture areas such as bathrooms. Luckily for homeowners, new manufacturing techniques have made glass subway tile available as a durable surface option while enhancing its unique beauty.