In England, subways are sometimes called “metro” tiles.
For over 100 years now, white glazed rectangular tiles have been in continual use in kitchens. Washable and fire-resistant, tiled walls were a fixture during the late 19th Century when a working kitchen also featured a large range, a long table, deep “pot-size” sink, and larder or storage shelves. That aesthetic provided the inspiration for this modernized ground-floor cookery in the home of a prominent London antiques dealer. Here, all the walls are tiled – floor to ceiling — only the ceiling and trim are painted. Tile also is used on the sides of an island inset with two tiers of natural wood drawers that match the top. Set with dark grout, the white tile warms up yet provides a utilitarian edginess and elemental quality that reflects the era of the house. A beautiful staggered stone floor is pointed up by khaki-color paint on the pantry and entrance way doors. And too, there is a white Aga cooker holding forth in a large tile niche, plus a chair and tall pantry cupboard nearby.
On a wall between two doors, and directly across from the island, An antique wood étagère serves as open storage for bowls and canister in lieu of cabinet that would have impinged on space in the aisle. This is an opportunity to see the scale of these subways, which I estimate to be 4 x 8-inches. That scale for the tile is especially well matched to the room and gives all the surfaces a substantial look.
Looking across toward doors leading up to the garden, there’s a glimpse of a huge, deep double-bowl pot sink fitted with two sets of raised Victorian-style pillar taps. Looking closely, there is no cabinet below. This fireclay beauty rests rests on twp tiled piers, leaving open space below. In contrast to elaborate and highly fitted kitchens with great walls of cabinets this one gives off an easy simplicity that seems thoroughly modern while still embodying the spirit of another time.