Inspiration and DIY Kitchen Ideas: Pairing Retro Appliances with Subway Tile

Photo features Elevare in Sand 4 x 16 field tile on the wall.

Photo features Elevare in Sand 4 x 16 field tile on the wall.

 
 

Kitchen Ideas: Pairing Retro Appliances with Subway Tile

Old or retro-style appliances have become the new focus in kitchen design, and it's no wonder why—they tell a story. Whether you go with antique chrome appliances, or newer appliances that replicate popular styles from years past, they will give your kitchen space a unique feel. To complete the look, try adding subway tile around your retro appliances to help capture and tell their stories in a visually compelling way. Here are four kitchen ideas on how to frame old-fashioned appliances.

Go with an All-White Design

While white subway tile is often used throughout the entire kitchen, consider using it as a small accent instead. Whether you have a white refrigerator or a white range that was inherited from a relative, surrounding your appliances with more white tile is a timeless decorating technique. It's difficult to go wrong. The white magnifies the bright hue of the appliances, and by surrounding them with the same color, your appliances will seem larger and bolder than they really are.

Photo features Pecan 6 x 36 field tile.

If you want a design that's a little less stark than true white, go with a creamy shade of white instead. More than a dozen white variations are available. Tile with beige, gray, or yellow undertones also bring warmth to the kitchen.

Opt for a Monochromatic Scheme

While white is the most popular color choice for subway tile, a monochrome pink or green design can make a grand retro statement. And if bright colors sound too overwhelming for your kitchen space, try going with black or dark brown tile instead. This will create an elegant look that is reminiscent of the 1970s. You can select traditional ceramic or porcelain tile, or opt for a natural stone subway tile in a glossy, matte, or polished finish.

Pick the Right Tile Finish

Subway tile that has a glossy finish is the most popular option. However, using too much gloss in a space can be overwhelming. Try to use this finish sparingly in order to ensure that your tile doesn't fade into the background. For example, if you have a fire-engine red refrigerator with chrome parts, surround the appliance with high-gloss tile but use matte versions of the same tile throughout the rest of the room. The eye will be naturally drawn to the shiny refrigerator and its glossy tile enclosure.

If you don't want high gleam for your refrigerator area, you can opt for a more contemporary and softer finish (matte or semigloss). Subway tile also is available in glazed, semi glazed, and matte finishes; some styles have slightly textured surfaces for more visual interest, which is important to keep in mind when going with an all-white scheme. Consider beveled edges, for example. They introduce subtle texture because light bounces off them differently than flat surfaces. Artigiano's rustic edges, for instance, are perfect for adding a little texture to your kitchen ideas.

Photo features Artigiano in Italian Alps and Tremiti Sand 3x6 field tile on the backsplash.

Choose Natural Stone Subway Tile

If you're looking for a more unique subway tile to pair with your vintage-style appliances, consider natural stone. Marble, limestone, and travertine subway tile will work very well in any kitchen space, and will help to enhance your retro appliances, while still creating a timeless look. The natural veining and graininess have the perfect texture to contrast with smooth appliance surfaces.

Don't Forget about Grout Color

Another way to introduce texture to your subway tile is by choosing the right grout color. This is an especially important touch if you go with a white subway tile, or an all-white design scheme. Matching white grout with white tile is a harmonious design statement. But you can also kick your kitchen ideas up a notch by opting for a gray or beige shade of grout. This will give your tile a slightly edgier look, but will still make it a compatible accent that brings out your appliances' best features.

Consider the Layout

Arranging subway tile horizontally is a traditional look that makes any space appear wider. But instead, why not try installing it in a vertical pattern to create a striped effect that still pays homage to the original horizontal look? When arranged vertically, subway tile can make your room and any vertical appliances appear taller. Vertical subway tile is an especially good design idea for small kitchens. Try placing Rittenhouse Square tile vertically around your refrigerator and horizontally above your stove and sink backsplash. Mix it up to keep things interesting. Combining subway tile with other types of tile in different shapes and textures is another way to elevate your kitchen ideas.

Photo features Rittenhouse Square in Architectural Gray and Almond 3 x 6 field tile in a vertical brickwork pattern on the wall.

Design a Checkerboard Pattern

It's hard to go wrong with a checkerboard tile pattern next to your old or retro-style kitchen appliances. This pattern, especially in black and white, was very popular in past decades. If you go with tile that has a traditional gloss finish, you'll achieve a look that's consistent with designs from the 1930s-1960s.

Again, a little goes a long away. Pick up the cool hues of an old porcelain white range with a backsplash of matching glossy black and white tile, continuing the theme on the surrounding hearth and nearby walls. Go with one simple shade of the tile for the rest of the kitchen, so that the range gets most attention visually. Try opting for a red and black, yellow and black, or even silver and white checkerboard pattern to highlight your appliance.

Mix in Shades of Black or Silver

While pairing metal tones with silver, retro-style appliances may seem like too much, it comes down to the vibe you want to create. Silver tile walls around your retro refrigerator or stove will actually make a contemporary, almost-futuristic design statement—regardless of what color your appliances are. Limit the amount of silver you use, and consider adding contrast with subway tiles in cool tones throughout the rest of your kitchen.

Incorporating shades of black into a design certainly gives an unexpected twist to any traditional look. However, if you're afraid that pairing your black appliances with black tile could be too bold, try breaking the tile up with white grout. You can still showcase your vintage black range. Just limit the black to the area immediately surrounding the stove—the hearth, walls, and edges. Otherwise, the kitchen will feel too somber and dark. To lighten the mood, go the opposite direction for the rest of the kitchen, such as white countertops and creamy tile floors.

Whether you go for a traditional monochrome subway tile, choose a checkerboard pattern, or even go bold with a metallic subway tile to pair with your retro-style appliances, you'll be creating an unforgettable statement and an attractive place to prepare and cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner.