What do you do when faced with an environment with next to no natural light, yet one which will be used by thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people every day and which needs to be kept religiously clean? What do you use on the walls of such an environment that can satisfy the demands created by such an environment?
To find the answer, we need to go back over a hundred years in time to New York, and in particular the use of the ‘subway tile’ on the City Hall ticket office for the New York subway. Thereafter the American subway tile was used throughout their subway system. Its exceptionally durable surface was easy to keep clean. Its bevelled edges made it safe from snagging and avoided the problem of ‘raised edges’. The super-high gloss finished reflected light beautifully.
Measuring six inches vertically and three inches horizontally, the tiles were laid lengthways in a ‘brick bond’ pattern as you would lay bricks, and for the subway an additional design of tile, the more architectural Guastavino tile was used, especially on archways and ceilings. The subway tile soon made its way across the Atlantic and it was in the 1920s that it first came to prominence in Europe in the construction of the Metro, Paris’ alternative to the New York subway, and became a virtually iconic emblem of the Art Nouveau period of that period of time, particularly with the introduction of the even more effective glass metro tile.
While becoming wholly associated with public spaces, the tiles also became synonymous with premises such as butchers and fishmongers, as well as in hospitals – basically anywhere that was required to be kept spotlessly clean, both from an aesthetic as well as hygienic perspective. Designers also began to use the tile in a multitude of colours in residential situations, including kitchens and bathrooms, as well as toilets, but its strong association with public spaces held its popularity back.
Over time the flat 6” x 6” ceramic tile became all the rage in domestic environments and proved a great success in producing something that was easy to keep clean, though its lack of durability proved a problem time and time again. Eventually it began to dawn on designers and housebuilders that the ultimate tile had already been produced and that its ‘retro’ look would fit well with contemporary society. With stunning glass finishes and more vibrant colours, the metro tile has come back with a bang and is likely to remain more popular than ever before for many years to come.
Sometimes, try as we might and despite all the advancements in modern technology, the best ideas have already been turned into reality and quite simply, apart from very minor tweaks, can’t be improved on. That is where we are at with the metro tile today, with the glass metro tile proving more popular than ever. And for an even more contemporary twist, today you can get tile grout in any colour you want so don’t be afraid to mix and match to create absolutely stunning effects.
To see more on glass metro tiles, why not have a look at the range we have here at Too Jazzy, or give us a call and arrange for some samples to be sent out?