Subway Tile Alternative Everyone Knows About But Me

Dear Laurel,

A few months ago you featured the most beautiful kitchen belonging to the interior designer, Natasha Habermann. (I think she lives fairly close to you?)


Timeless kitchen - Natasha Habermann - Smeg range - Farrow and Ball Purbeck Stone paint color - subway tile substitute

Kitchen by interior designer, Natasha Habermann


Ever since, I’ve been obsessed with that tile. Do you know what it is and where to get it? And, anything else about it, that I should know about?


Like, will I have to forgo pedicures for the rest of my life in order to afford it?


And, if I do this tile, is it so on trend that I’ll hate myself in ten years? I really don’t want to fall prey to yet another lame decorating trend.

I hope that you can do a blog post about this tile and tell it to us straight!


Tilley Zellige




Thank you so much Tilley who is someone I made up. ;] And, Zellige is the name of this subway tile alternative.


But, before I go on with a discussion about Zellige tiles,


I just want to thank everyone who took the time to write me such sweet notes regarding my mom. I can’t tell you how much each one means to me. There are about a dozen or so in there, that I did not respond to. If yours is one of those, it’s in no way personal;  I read them all. I had just hit a wall at that time.

Right now, there’s nothing new to report. But, that could change at any time.


Okay, let’s get back to this subway tile alternative called Zellige.


First of all,  I also didn’t know what it was called either, until I began to research it. And, then I found out the embarrassing truth.

EVERY interior design blogger in the entire cyberverse has already written about it. Yes, every one but me. How sad is that. Well, better late than never! And, like I always say, I’m learnin’ along with the rest of you.

Second, I love it too!


Third, yes, it’s wildly popular. Does that mean that if you do Zellige that it could one day become tired and dated, say like “Tuscan” design?


Not a chance! And, here’s why.

Under no circumstances could we compare this to Tuscan design, because so-called Tuscan has absolutely nothing to do with Tuscany! That is, authentic Tuscan design.


And, Zellige (pronouced Zell eej) has been around since at least the year 700AD.


That gives me a lot of confidence that although a trend, it’s a product that has stood the test of time!





What is Zellige Tile?


Zellige is a Moroccan tile that’s been handcrafted from natural clay found near the city of Fez, Morocco.

The luminous glaze coating is made of liquid-colored glass. After it is applied, the tiles are baked under very high temperatures. The colors in the glass glaze come for minerals such as zinc, mercury, copper, gold, etc.

The tiles are exceedingly durable and are stain, scratch, fade and slip resistant. And, they are easy to clean making them suited for any area of a building, inside and out.


And, while it could be a substitute for the common (but wonderful) subway tile, Zellige tiles comes in all different shapes and sizes, including rectangular shapes used for subway tile.


via @maritjonna on instagram - subway tile alternative - Zellige tiles

via @maritjonna on instagram – subway tile alternative – Zellige tiles


However, the most common shape is a square, usually 4″ x 4″. Yep. Just the same as your ol’ common bath tile.


Twig Hutchinson Bathroom - via The Grace tales Forum

Twig Hutchinson Bathroom – via The Grace tales Forum


 Twig Hutchinson - bathroom tile brass taps - faucets

Twig Hutchinson – @minford_journal via instagram bathroom tile brass taps – faucets

This Zellige is particularly pitted and rustic. But, not all of it is.


via @cletile on instagram design @houseofnomaddesign - photo - @laurasumrak

via @cletile on instagram design @houseofnomaddesign – photo – @laurasumrak

Cle Tile says that their Zellige does not require grouting. However, they do recommend that if it’s being used in kitchens and bathrooms, to use grout. In other words, do whatever you like, but don’t go crying to them if you have a leak.


zellige_tile_country - Design by Zio and Sons

Cle Tile – Weathered White Zellige for sale here!

Design by Zio and Sons

Awesome website!


kitchen-weathered white-4X4 cle terracotta tile - via remodelista - subway tile substitute

via Remodelista and an excellent post about the pros and cons of using Zellige tiles


zellige tile - lacanche range - oh my - photo - Sal Taylor Kydd - via Architectural Digest - subway tile substitute

zellige tile – lacanche range – photo – Sal Taylor Kydd – via Architectural Digest


Man, how sick is that!!! (“sick” means magnificent in case you don’t know) ;]

This is the work of Tara Mangini and Percy Bright, owners of the Jersey Icecream Co. Very cool house in the link. Please follow them on instagram.


Kismet House - Beautiful kitchen remodel - Cle Tile - cafe-appliance-range

Kismet House – Beautiful kitchen remodel

Cle Tile – cafe-appliance-range

You might recall that I saw this lovely range at KBIS last February.


Zellige tiles - Emily-Henderson_Modern-English-Cottage_Tudor_Master_Bathroom

Style By Emily Henderson

rectangular Zellige tiles – in a subway tile pattern


Ash NYC via first dibs - zellige hand-made tile bathroom - green pedestal sink - subway tile substitute

Ash NYC via first dibs – zellige hand-made tile bathroom. How cool is that sink!


@myhomeorg on instagram Zellige - subway tile substitute


Original source unknown but a similar tile at Riad Tile


All of the faucets in these beautiful bathrooms are reminding me of the fabulous sale going on at Pottery Barn. Everything on the site is on sale. I don’t know when it’s ending. There’s even a little discount on their cool faucets. And, they never go on sale!


And, PB also a similar mirror on sale right now!

pottery barn - stella-powder-room-mirror

Stella Powder Room Mirror


vanity - towels - faucet - love - from Pottery Barn


Their other items on sale are at least 20% or more off. You can see more favorites on the bed & Bath hot sales page

Also, please check out the main hot sales page. Lots of new things to see this week.


For more bathroom inspiration, please check out these posts:


whether or not it’s a good idea to do brass in the bathroom.

gorgeous bathroom vanities, sinks, faucets, mirrors, etc.

how to get the cool high-end bathroom for a lot less

an epiphany about a bathroom remodel (sort of)

finding bathroom storage for a small difficult bathroom

a disturbing bathroom renovation trend (an oldie but goodie!)

a beautiful bathroom renovation I almost didn’t get any photos of!

My favorite sources for a chic affordable medicine cabinet

And, this post about kitchen backsplashes


Closing thoughts about Zellige tiles.


Yes, they are expensive. How expensive? It depends on the source.
But, be careful, because there are some fake Zellige tiles. So, get samples first.

Real Zellige is rustic and wildly imperfect. Each tile is unique. So, if you’re the every hair in place type, this product might not be to your liking. Again, please get samples or go to see the tile in person, first before ordering.


Is it a mistake to do this as a substitute tile alternative?


I don’t think so. Not at all! However, like everything else, it is only one element in the room. But, it’s one that has its own quiet beauty. So, I think the most successful rooms using it have either a somewhat modern or retro vibe. Or, at least a young-trad look.

So, over-all, if the tile is in your budget and suits the look of your kitchen, bath or other location requiring tile, then I’d go for it.




Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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