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How to Choose the Best Grout Colors for White Subway Tiles

How to Choose the Best Grout Colors for White Subway Tiles

If you’re into dainty white porcelain tiles, white subway tiles are a design staple cherished for their clean lines, versatility, and timeless appeal. Originally inspired by the iconic New York City subway stations, these rectangular tiles have found their way into countless kitchens, bathrooms, and living spaces worldwide.

While white subway tiles are a classic choice, their popularity can sometimes lead you to concerns about creating a unique and personalized space. That's why if you’re still in doubt whether you’d ever achieve that angelic and super cool look for your area, here’s where grout colors come in. They have the power to transform your tiles from ordinary to extraordinary.

So, if you want to know how the right grout color can accentuate your subway tiles’ shape and pattern, read along.

An all-white kitchen with white picket subway backsplash tiles and white cabinets with gold accents. The subway backsplash tiles are installed with gray grouting.An all-white kitchen with white picket subway backsplash tiles and white cabinets with gold accents. The subway backsplash tiles are installed with gray grouting.

Grout Color Selection 101

Let’s discuss the art of selecting your perfect grout color for your white subway tiles—a decision that can truly transform your living space’s look and feel. To set the stage for you, picture this scenario that illustrates the profound impact of grout on your color.

Here’s how you’ll do it. Imagine two identical bathrooms adorned with classic white subway tiles. In the first bathroom, your tiles are paired with crisp white grout, creating a clean and uniform appearance. In the second bathroom, on the other hand, your tiles are complemented by a soft grey grout.

And suddenly . . . violà! Your tiles pop with dimension and depth, adding a touch of grace and beauty to your space. Leading you now to your area’s crisp and pristine look, this simple switch in your grout color demonstrates how your thoughtful choice can elevate your space’s entire ambiance. See now the difference?

Sure enough, since we’ve established the creative potential of grout color, we’ve prepared practical considerations for selecting the right shade just for you.

Size of the Space

The size of your room plays a crucial role in your grout color selection. If you want to do it for your smaller spaces, say, your compact bathroom or your cozy kitchen, lighter grout colors—such as white or pale grey—can create for you an illusion of openness and airiness. A 2021 research shows that colors, including grout ones, “affect the behavior, performance, and mood of . . . space users.” This means that they will surely improve your perspective and overall well-being.

So, if you want to know more about its luminosity aspect, light grout even reflects more light, making your space feel brighter and more expansive.

Conversely, if you want your larger rooms to benefit from darker grout colors, like charcoal or deep grey, darker grout adds depth and definition to them, anchoring them and emphasizing the scale of your area. Sure enough, with these considerations, this approach is particularly effective for your expansive open-plan layouts or rooms with high ceilings.

Lighting Conditions

But if you want to be even more meticulous about your area’s luminosity, consider its lighting conditions when choosing a grout color. Natural light and artificial lighting can alter your grout colors’ appearance significantly.

In well-lit areas with ample natural light, your grout colors may even appear brighter and more pronounced. Conversely, in rooms with limited light or predominantly artificial lighting, your grout colors may appear darker or muted.

But if you want to ensure your consistency in color perception throughout the day, we highly recommend testing your grout samples under various lighting conditions before making your final decision. You’re sure that this will certainly help you anticipate how your grout will interact with your space’s unique lighting environment.

A traditional kitchen with a black cooktop and white subway backsplash tiles. The subways tiles have almost invisible white grouting.A traditional kitchen with a black cooktop and white subway backsplash tiles. The subways tiles have almost invisible white grouting.

Overall Aesthetic

When selecting a grout color, it’s essential to consider the overall aesthetic you want to achieve. Ask yourself: What is the predominant color palette of your room? Do you prefer a cohesive, harmonious look or a dynamic contrast?

Well, if you want a seamless, integrated appearance, opt for a grout color that complements your room’s existing color scheme. Choose even a shade that enhances your tiles’ beauty without overpowering them. On the other hand, if you’re craving for that bold statement, contrasting your grout colors can create visual interest and even highlight your tiles’ individuality.

Blending Grout

If you want to let the artist in you come out, blending grout refers to selecting a grout color that closely matches your tiles’ hue, creating that unified and cohesive surface. To be even more real, this approach is ideal for achieving that seamless look for your space, where the focus is on the texture and pattern of your tiles rather than their grout lines.

In contrast, consider this story about a tile buyer who only preferred plain white or colorless grout for his bathroom over colored ones. Not only did his living place appear bland and lifeless but its white grout tiles had even darkened or turned pinkish over time due to dirt accumulation. In short, his bathroom’s tiles didn’t even look spotless at all. 

But, if you’re into contrasting grout colors, such as using black grout with white tiles, can make a deliberate design statement out of it. This technique accentuates the geometry of your tiles, adding drama and flair to your space. A scientific finding even demonstrates that contrasting colors in general contribute to “color constancy with changes in illumination” which adds beauty and classiness to your area.          

And yet, if you don’t want to follow the norm, get into groutless tiles.

Maintenance Considerations

Finally, consider the practical aspect of your space’s maintenance when choosing your grout color. Surprisingly, light-colored grouts, while visually appealing, may require more frequent cleaning to keep them looking pristine, especially in high-traffic areas like your kitchens or entryways.

But if you desire minimal upkeep, opt for grout colors that are stain-resistant and easy to maintain. Modern grout formulations even offer you enhanced durability and stain protection, making them ideal for your busy households or commercial spaces.

By integrating now these practical considerations with your design vision, you’re confident enough to choose your grout color.

An image showing how grout lines are applied to subway tiles.An image showing how grout lines are applied to subway tiles.

Colors to Experiment with Your White Subway Tiles

White subway tiles serve as your versatile canvas for exploring a spectrum of grout colors that can enhance your area's aesthetic and style. Let's delve now into their unique impressions, design styles, and considerations associated with popular grout colors when paired with yours:

White Grout

  • Aesthetic Impression: Clean, classic, and timeless.
  • Design Styles: Ideal for traditional, minimalist, and Scandinavian aesthetics.
  • Pros and Cons: Despite being prone to dirt as mentioned earlier, white grout readily blends with your white tiles, creating a uniform and expansive look. It emphasizes the geometry of the tiles but still may require more frequent cleaning to maintain its pristine appearance noted a while ago.
  • Popular Usage: For many, white grout is a staple choice for achieving a cohesive and understated look.
White subway backsplash tiles with white groutingWhite subway backsplash tiles with white grouting

Black Grout

  • Aesthetic Impression: Bold, dramatic, and contemporary.
  • Design Styles: Complements modern, industrial, and eclectic interiors.
  • Pros and Cons: Black grout adds to your space contrast and visual interest, highlighting the shape and pattern of your white subway tiles. It's forgiving in terms of maintenance, as it conceals dirt and stains effectively unlike the white ones. However, it can overpower small spaces if not balanced with ample light. So, use it accordingly.
  • Popular Usage: Black grout is a popular choice for creating striking accents and defining tile patterns—and even candidly by mosaic art students.
White kitchen subway backsplash tiles with black grouts White kitchen subway backsplash tiles with black grouts

Grey Grout

  • Aesthetic Impression: Elegant, versatile, and sophisticated.
  • Design Styles: Suitable for transitional, farmhouse, and coastal-inspired interiors.
  • Pros and Cons: If you’re for your tiles grout’s subtle look, grey ones offer you a subtle contrast that enhances the texture of your white subway tiles without overwhelming them. Interestingly, it complements even a wide range of color palettes and is forgiving in terms of maintenance.
  • Popular Usage: Light to medium grey grout, as if it were a cementitious one, is a widely favored option for achieving a balanced and refined look.
A wall with white subway tiles with gray groutingA wall with white subway tiles with gray grouting

Brown Grout

  • Aesthetic Impression: Warm, inviting, and earthy.
  • Design Styles: Perfect for rustic, Mediterranean, and Bohemian themes.
  • Pros and Cons: Brown grout adds warmth and complements your natural materials, such as wood and stone. It's even less prone to discoloration over time but may not provide as much contrast as darker colors.
  • Popular Usage: For most homeowners and DIYers, brown grout is favored in their spaces where a cozy and organic ambiance is desired.
A bathroom wall with white subway tiles and brown groutingA bathroom wall with white subway tiles and brown grouting

Bonus Color – Cool and Warm Undertones

Understanding warm and cool undertones is essential for you in harmonizing your white subway tiles with the overall color scheme of your space. Here’s what it means:

  • Warm Undertones (e.g., yellow, orange, red): Choose white subway tiles with warm undertones, such as hints of cream or beige, to complement your warm-colored walls, cabinetry, or countertops. This creates a cohesive and inviting ambiance for your living space, particularly in your rooms with earthy color palettes.
  • Cool Undertones (e.g., blue, green, purple): Opt for white subway tiles with cool undertones, such as subtle grey or blue hues, if you want to balance cooler color schemes like blues, grays, or greens. This creates a harmonious and refreshing atmosphere, perfect for your contemporary or coastal-inspired spaces.

By considering now all these grout color options and undertones, you’re convinced to transform your white subway tile installation into a more personalized and aesthetically pleasing design statement. Additionally, we recommend that you experiment even with different combinations to discover that perfect pairing that reflects your unique touch and enhances the ambiance of your space.

Your Design Journey Begins With Otile

Choosing the best grout color for your white subway tiles is not just an opportunity to express yourself but also an avenue to create a space that reflects your unique personality and taste. So, whether you prefer classic elegance, contemporary flair, or something in between, there's always a grout color waiting to transform your tiles into something extraordinary.

That’s why at Otile, we're passionate about helping you realize your design dreams. Explore our tile collection as you experiment with grout colors. So, for more design inspiration and expert advice, visit our website to learn more and start transforming your space today.


Written by:

Ali Eftekhari 

Results-driven MBA Professional with 15+ years in the stone, slab, and tile industry.
Expert in strategy, operations, and global relations. Extensive international experience in Brazil, China, India, Turkey, Peru, and the USA.

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