10 Ways To Use Subway Tile That Aren't Boring AF

I still love subway tile. Sue me. I know there are people out there that are so over it but I'm not one of them. It's neutral. It's inexpensive. It's timeless. What's not to love? I know it is all the rage to use cement tile, mosaic tiles and colored tiles and I'm down with that, too. But, there comes a time and place that you might want to use subway, whether it's to tone down a room a bit to balance out busy tile or you might simply like to have that classic subway look. Maybe you want to use subway tile for its nice price tag. That doesn't mean it has to be boring. Let's look at some bathrooms to see how subway can save the day.

Click any of the photos shown below to see more about that room.

1. Disappearing Act

Why not start this subway tile list with why I use it so I can't see it! Yeah it's like that. This might seem boring but actually it's PERFECT in helping the other tile STAND OUT. For instance, in the bathroom below, you can see the arabesque tile on the accent wall. You may not even be able to tell that the shower faucet wall has subway tile. THAT IS THE ENTIRE POINT. I wanted the back wall of this tiny bathroom to stand out. Had I used that arabesque tile in the whole shower, it would have been quite overwhelming. Now, your eye goes straight to the back of the room making it feel larger, while the subway tile sits back and keeps that wall from getting in the way. To make sure the subway pattern didn't compete with the focus tile, I used white grout so it would all fade away. This is also a good with cement tile and busy mosaics.

2. Go Vertical

Subway tile doesn't have to be laid in the classic brick pattern. I've tried every pattern known to man in my renovations. Here is one where I did a vertical subway pattern with a 4" x 10" subway tile. The larger tile and the vertical spin makes this bathroom just a little different. 

3. Vertical In A Brick Pattern 

Want a modern spin but like the traditional look of subway tile? Turn it vertical and do a brick pattern on its long ends. For some reason vertical just feels modern. Pair it with a modern shower head and curtain. 

Pro Tip: When describing how you want your tile laid to contractor, be sure to draw it out on paper or on the wall! As you can see with this example and the one before it that we can call them both "vertical brick" but they are two different patterns! Don't assume they can read your mind.

4. Herringbone VERSION ONE

In the next kitchen we wanted to have a fun pattern but not get too crazy. There is a bold accent wall in the adjoining dining area, so we needed to stay a little low key. We chose to lay the subway tile in a herringbone pattern. To be sure the pattern stood out, we used a darker charcoal grout.

5. Herringbone VERSION TWO

While this isn't your classic white subway tile, here is another herringbone pattern example that could be done with subway tile.

Pro Tip: Again be sure you draw out how you want the herringbone pattern to go. I don't even know what this is called but I showed up to the house and this is how it had been installed. What I really wanted was a W pattern but I didn't draw it out. I thought W was enough words. It was not. I still like this way, too though! So, you can now see there is a third herringbone pattern which would be where it looks like W's or M's.

6. Modern Stack

Go ultra modern with this vertically stacked version. To make sure any subway tile pattern stands out, use a darker grout color.

7. Stick With The Classic 

Sometimes you just want that regular ole brick subway pattern! The master bath in this home got a wow-ing shiplap shower, so I felt like I needed to tone it down a little here as well as stick to a tight budget. So, instead of blowing my budget, I decided to stick with the classic but punch up the wow factor somewhere else. THE CEILING. The fun doesn't have to be all tile related. If on a tight budget, find your focal point outside of tile.

8. Go Casual

Using a more unusual subway tile can help add texture to your room. This tile from Floor & Decor adds texture to the walls without being too busy and taking away from the fun wallpaper accent. The tile has a wavy, wonky edge to it that gives it a more boho-relaxed vibe.

9. Go Formal

On the flip side of the casual tile, choose to go more traditional with a beveled tile. A bevel tile adds texture to your wall and an air of classic formality. I choose to let the bevel do the talking, not the grout. Keep the grout white to enhance that 3D effect.

10. Random AF

You could just throw them up there and they land where they land. That said this was not random. Ok it is but it isn't. My tile installer spent much much time laying these out on the floor so we had just the right look. I used this ombre pattern to represent the nearby mountains here in Phoenix. I used different colors to achieve an ombre look, but you can use just plain ole white tiles if you like. You could use a bunch of different colors. Break all the rules. It's your shower, dude

I know this is not an exhaustive list so I will be working diligently to tile more bathrooms and kitchens so I can post about them. :) Get with me if you need help designing yours! Maybe you'll make the next list!

 
 

Design Services Now Open!

I'm baaaaacccckkkkk! I've finally caught up on finishing my properties, design projects and some relaxation. So, I'm opening my design services back up to everyone! I'm considering this a re-launch of sorts. I've updated my services page to better explain the optons. I've also posted about each service explaining the entire process. "Design" is such a general term sometimes and I wanted to make it easier to understand what exactly you'll get when working with me from start to finish. Click through below to learn more. 

If you're ready and raring to go, click here to start the design questionnaire.

I look forward to working with you!

FlippinWendy Design Therapy: How It Works

Let's talk about Design Therapy. Design Therapy is a consultation service I offer for those needing a VERY budget friendly solution to their design woes. I have plenty of clients that are willing to make most of the design decisions and material hunting on their own, but just want some pointers before they start tearing things up. Most have so many ideas they just want help them narrow down all of the options. So, I offer a one hour consultation I call Design Therapy where we talk about the following:

  • Floor plan solutions
  • Color schemes
  • Tile selections
  • What not to do
  • Outside the box ideas
  • How to fix particularly perplexing situations
  • Where to find materials
  • Anything renovation and design related

Design Therapy is similar to eDesign services in that we start the same way. Both services begin with you sending me information about your project, the deliverable is where they differ. Design Therapy is verbal, over the phone or in-person (in the Phoenix area). You'll send me some information and then we'll discuss solutions.

Let's talk about the process and how it works.

The Process

The example we will use is a client we had in Cincinnati, Ohio. Remember, we are in Phoenix. We never once stepped foot in their house. 

Let's begin. For your Design Therapy session, we only need three things! Those are...

1. Fill Out Questionnaire

The first step is to fill out our questionnaire. From this questionnaire we'll be able to have a good feel for your project and what to prepare ourselves for. If we need more information we'll reach out to you for that, but do your best to give us ALL the info upfront. We'll also ask for a link to your Pinterest board if you have one. If not or if you have trouble with figuring out the linking, don't worry about it. We'll get it later.

Once you submit this questionnaire, we'll email you back with a list of things we'll need from you before we chat. 


Phoenix residents: Design Therapy is the same for you, however since I will see your space in person, you are off the hook for #2 & #3!


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2. Send Photos + Video

You'll need to send us photos from every angle of the space in question. Make sure you are standing as far back in each corner of the room as you can. Try to get at least 2 walls in the photo. If you have to stand in a closet or doorway to get a wide angled shot of the room, do it. Whatever it takes! Sacrifice yourself for the sake of design! JK don't do that. Get as much of the room as you can. We also very much appreciate video tours! It helps us get our bearings plus we love your color commentary. Below are examples of before photos from our Cincinnati eDesign client. These photos are shot vertically. The space is small and capturing it all was tough for our client. If possible, we prefer horizontal shots. 

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3. Send a Sketch

If relevant to your project, send a sketch of the current floor plan. The example to the right sent to us by our client is awesome, yet above and beyond what we need. While the details are excellent, a simple hand drawn sketch works just as well. Click on it to see the details.

  1. Start by drawing the outline of the room. It doesn't have to be perfect or to scale. If you want to get fancy, break out that ruler from 3rd grade and use it to make straight lines
  2. Add wall dimensions. Be sure to include dimensions and distances of objects, too. For instance, note the width of a window and its distance from the nearest wall.
  3. Put notes on the side for consideration. Include things like "ductwork here", "window height is 48", 18" from the floor" and "ceiling height is 96". You don't need to be any more accurate than down to a quarter of an inch.

The more detail you provide, the more accurate we can be in our Design Therapy Session. Don't worry about it being a perfect drawing. Below is a sketch I did to start a client's kitchen renovation. You can see it is as imperfect as it gets. I forgot to mention in this drawing where the plumbing was, but I remember. I've been there. I haven't been to your house, though. Point those sorts of things out.

That's it! Once you have sent these three items you'll just need to make your payment and therapy can begin!

Therapy Session Begins

Once we've received everything from you, we'll meet over the phone. The session will loosely follow this plan:

  1. Intro: For the first few minutes you'll give me the grand tour into what we are tackling. I will have already reviewed the information you have sent but it is always good to start from the beginning. You'll tell me your woes and wishes for the space. Usually I can get to know you a little bit more before diving into the design.
  2. Dig Deeper: I'll dig a little deeper asking you some questions so I can put together a plan in my head.
  3. Spew time: Design ideas coming at you. Floor plan ideas, colors, materials, etc...we'll talk ideas until something settles in. 
  4. Review: We will have discussed a ton of stuff at this point so we'll review what we finally decided.

Again, this is a very loose plan. Most importantly we will be discussing whatever it is you want. So, if you want to tell me about your powder room and then switch to the backsplash in your kitchen, so be it. 

What You'll Receive

Design Therapy is mostly verbal. During our session I'll take notes of anything I want to send you for further clarification and will via email afterward. With Design Therapy no physical design plan will be delivered. If after our discussion you decide you would prefer to receive a formal plan via eDesign, you can let me know at that time. That said, Design Therapy is not my attempt to sell you on eDesign. I'll give you everything I've got during our discussion. If you want an estimate for eDesign, I'll send it your way. The cost of your Design Therapy session would be deducted from the eDesign cost. (learn more about eDesign here)

If Design Therapy sounds up your alley, feel free to get started with the first step!

* If you want help but you don't know which service you want, that's cool. It all starts with the design questionnaire. Just choose "not sure" in the drop down box when filling out the form.


FlippinWendy eDesign: How It Works

Have you seen the word eDesign and thought WTF is that anyway? Today I'm letting you in on the whole process. eDesign is a custom design done for a client not in the same location as the designer. The designer never physically steps foot into the client's home. All work is done remotely and the items that go into the design can be purchased easily by the client either locally or online. You may wonder why someone would hire a designer who never steps foot in the space but there are many reasons why. First off the designer can get a very good idea of the space from photos and video. Secondly, if the client identifies with a designers aesthetic and personality, then they will likely be happy with the end result. Thirdly, eDesign is a great way to get top notch design but at budget friendly prices.

Of course hiring a designer who is not in your town may be a little unnerving. To alleviate concerns, I wanted to share with you the design process and answer the most common question that comes up about our services, "What exactly will I get?" 

Side Note: To be clear, I specifically create renovation eDesigns. So, if you're looking for curtains and a new sofa, not going to find it here. Not my bag. I may dabble, but my talents are best focused toward tearing things up and putting them back together.  Now, if you're wanting a new fireplace surround and to open a wall between your kitchen and your living room, now we're talking.

How Does It Work?

We're going to walk you through the entire process step by step. The example we will use is an eDesigns we did for a client in Cincinnati, Ohio. Remember, we are in Phoenix. We never once stepped foot in their house.

Let's begin. To redesign your space, we only need a few things! Those are...

1. Fill Out Questionnaire

The first step is to fill out our questionnaire. From this questionnaire we'll be able to price out your project and send you an estimate. If we need more information we'll reach out to you for that, but do your best to give us ALL the info upfront. There can be a lot steps in this process if we don't keep a tight grip on information flow. So, do your best to spew everything into the questionnaire from the start. We'll also ask for a link to your Pinterest Board(s) so have them ready. If you struggle with this or don't have one, no worries. We'll figure it out later.

 


Phoenix residents: eDesign is the same for you, however, since I will see your space in person, you are off the hook for #2 & #3!


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2. Send Photos + Video

We'll ask you to send us photos from every angle. Make sure you are standing as far back in each corner of the room as you can. Try to get at least 2 walls in the photo. If you have to stand in a closet or doorway to get a wide angled shot of the room, do it. Whatever it takes! Sacrifice yourself for the sake of design! JK don't do that. Just get as much of the room as you can. We also very much appreciate video tours! It helps us get our bearings plus we love your color commentary. Below are examples of before photos from our Cincinnati eDesign client. These photos are shot vertically. The space is small and capturing it all was tough for our client. If possible, we prefer horizontal shots. 

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3. Send a Sketch

We'll need a sketch of the current floor plan. The example to the right sent to us by our client is awesome, yet above and beyond what we need. While the details are excellent, a simple hand drawn sketch works just as well. Click on it to see the details.

  1. Start by drawing the outline of the room. It doesn't have to be perfect or to scale. If you want to get fancy, break out that ruler from 3rd grade and use it to make straight lines
  2. Add wall dimensions. Be sure to include dimensions and distances of objects, too. For instance, note the width of a window and its distance from the nearest wall.
  3. Put notes on the side for consideration. Include things like "ductwork here", "window height is 48", 18" from the floor" and "ceiling height is 96". You don't need to be any more accurate than down to a quarter of an inch.

The more detail you provide, the more accurate we can be in our design. Don't worry about it being a perfect drawing. Below is a sketch I did to start a client's kitchen renovation. You can see it is as imperfect as it gets. I forgot to mention in this drawing where the plumbing was, but I remember. I've been there. I haven't been to your house, though. Point those sorts of things out.


NOW THE FUN BEGINS

Once we've received everything from you, we'll get with you about costs on the project. When you're ready to move forward, we'll schedule an hour of your time to discuss your space. You'll tell us everything about it that makes you want to hurl and how you wish it looked and functioned. We'll come up with a good game plan over the phone so that the first draft of your design is as close as we can get to what you want. We don't want to waste any time stabbing at things in the dark. Having this conversation saves us from many revisions.

After we have our discussion, we'll get to work putting together your dream space! 

What You'll Receive

Your final eDesign package will include the following: 

1. Design Board

Design Board for FlippinWendy eDesign

The design board will be a snapshot of those items or ideas to be used in your space all side by side. We use this to show you how each item will work together in your room. Items included may be: 

  1. Paint colors
  2. Lighting
  3. Plumbing Fixtures
  4. Hardware
  5. Tile choices and patterns
  6. Appliances
  7. Decor and staging ideas to help pull the look together
  8. Inspiration photos

Again, it might be the items listed above.  Each design board varies depending on the client and their needs. Here is a look at a design board I did for a  flipping client recently. You can see an inspiration photo was included in this design board version as well as staging notes.

Design Board for eDesign

Design Schematic

The next thing included will be a design schematic for your space. This will show the general layout and conceptual design layout of the project including scale and placement of objects. Sometimes a sketch is provided for more detail. Present these to your contractor (or engineer/architect depending on the scope of the project) as a design guide.

*** This is NOT a set in stone plan to follow. We get about 95% of the way there, but since we are not in your space and are not architects, we cannot give you a concrete plan. We have 11 years of experience doing renovations, yet we still always defer to specific professionals to check and double check dimensions. It will be up to them to take their own measurements and decide if and where tweaks need to be made. A good contractor and/or cabinet installer will always take their own measurements. They should never rely solely on your or my measurements. 

Shopping List

The third thing you'll receive is a shopping list for everything you'll need to put into the room. The example to the right shows just a portion of the spreadsheet sent to our Cincinnati client. The full spreadsheet includes the following:

  1. Item
  2. Where to buy it + link if available
  3. Description of the item
  4. SKU
  5. Quantity Needed
  6. Price
  7. Total
  8. Total with Tax

The shopping list includes finish materials aka the items that need design attention. For example, we include the tile and grout needed, but do not include building materials such as mortar or backer board needed to install the tie. When getting a price from your contractor, you can give them this list to include in the bid or ask them to price out building materials and labor only. The latter route is our preferred way. We like to watch for things to go on sale and buy them ourselves. Buying things on your own will require you to spend the time acquiring each item and having somewhere to store it. Decide which way is best for your situation.

Revisions

Once you receive the full eDesign, design board + layout + shopping list, there will be an allowance for up to 2 more revisions. If more revisions are needed after that, we'll invoice at an hourly rate for the additional changes needed. This is why getting it very close the first time is so important. After revisions are complete, final payment is due.

Next...RENOVATE

You're set to go! You'll hand the design over to a contractor to begin.* Often times the contractors will tape these to the wall so they have them at their disposal. It makes it super easy to communicate which way the tile should run, how something should look once installed and a good idea of the desired outcome. But we're not done with you yet!

Checking In

With your eDesign you will receive up to 3 communications during your renovation.* We'll set up a phone call or FaceTime chat to walk through your progress and go over any hiccups you may have run into. During demo something often comes up that may change the design. No worries! We'll figure out a solution. We generally figure on speaking with you sometime during demo, in the middle of renovation and towards the end when final finishes are going in. It's up to you to schedule these phone meetings as you need them. You are welcome to have your contractor in on the call if they have questions or need clarification.

* We do not project manage renovations or take calls directly from contractors. During your calls you may certainly ask our opinion about the process and if something is "normal", however we are not responsible for coordinating or managing the contractor or tradesmen on the job. 

Changes

If something comes up during your renovation that requires changes not originally foreseen and can't be handled verbally during your call, we'll invoice for those changes at an hourly rate which we will discuss before we start the design.

AFter photo of kitchen eDesign

The End

In the end you'll have a professionally designed space and the after photos to prove it! The best part of all of this is making your before and after photo collage! Obviously. If you like, we can help you find a professional photographer to come capture your space. It truly is the icing on the cake! if you're up to it we'd love to feature your newly renovated space on our website and social media accounts! We love sharing.

If eDesign sounds up your alley, feel free to get started with the first step! Pop quiz: do you remember the first step?


Note To Self: 10 Steps To Handle The Haters

I hear that once you have haters, you're doing something right. I've been getting a taste of that lately, so I'm 100% positive I'm becoming sort of a big deal. Mahogany and leather bound books, y'all (please tell me you can feel the sarcasm oozing). I've seen comments stating that my designs are carbon copy HGTV. (Is that a compliment?) I've also seen "no personality....dull and lifeless" as a description of the kitchen above at one of my recent renovations. Whether the negative feedback is accurate or not, is not really the point. It's what do I do with this information? WELL, I'll tell you. Below are step by step instructions for myself on how to think my way through the hater-ade. Tweak as you feel necessary for your own haters.

1. Decide if this person's opinion is constructive criticism or just bullying. This is sometimes difficult to judge but my rule of thumb is if they are being blunt and rude, then their comments are automatically null and void. If they seem to be making an effort to be kind, yet state where improvements can be made, then perhaps they are on to something. 

2. Pay attention to where the haters are coming from. If they are commenting on my page or social media accounts, then it's likely they are or have been a fan of my work sometime in the past. They found me somehow. They must have liked something. I'll take note of their comment and move on. If it is a photo of mine that someone else has shared or that I promoted/advertised on social media, I give bad feedback or bullying very little merit. I'm now once removed. They don't know me. Maybe the commenter is not even a fan of modern design. Maybe they don't understand that certain houses require certain design details. That's ok. I can't help them understand.

3. Remember that design is subjective. Not everyone will like what I like. That's fine. If someone showed me a huge traditional kitchen, I probably wouldn't like it and would say so if asked. That doesn't mean it wasn't done well. Just not my cup of tea. There's no way of knowing a person's tastes unless they come right out and tell you.

4. Repeat my mission. Push the envelope, try new things and set myself apart from the "others". This is very important. If I'm going to be different, I'm going to get different responses. Maybe even....GOD FORBID....negative responses. Some may not understand why I don't like to put upper cabinets in many of my homes (am I the only one that gets a dented skull from open cabinet doors?) or why I won't design a typical "yuppy farmhouse" style Arcadia home. It's been done. My mission is to create new designs, not carbon copies. Not even of HGTV. Truth be told....I don't even have cable and only recently borrowed a TV so we could watch Olympic gymnastics.

5. Remember that armchair bulliers are regular people. They're sitting at home or bored in their office throwing out thoughtless comments to faceless accounts. They aren't thinking or caring about the person behind the Dwelling Studio brand. In fact, they probably don't know it's just little ole me!

6. Know that I can, do and will make mistakes. My designs might miss the mark in places sometimes. That's ok. Every house is a new blank canvas. I learn from each house and apply those lessons to future homes.

7. Tell myself, "At least I'm out there trying." Most people aren't brave enough to flip houses. If I had a dollar for every person who told me they wanted to flip houses but never did, I'd have all the monies in the world to flip EVEN MORE HOUSES and make even MORE BOLD CHOICES and DESIGN MAGIC (or mistakes). I'm out there plugging away making design decisions. Countless design decisions. My brain hurts sometimes. 

8. Remember that I'm a house flipper and stager, not an interior designer. There's a huge difference. I'm designing for an imaginary person, not a known client. I straddle the line between pushing the envelope and pleasing a small portion of the public shopping in that neighborhood, on that date, with X amount of dollars. Shoot that just scared me and I've been doing this for a while. 

9. Remind myself of the tight budget and timeline. While some might drop $60,000 on their kitchen, I'm spending that on an ENTIRE house. When I stage my homes, I buy everything myself. I like to do it and I think it makes the house look more custom. I don't always have time or money to go get another bed (plus bedding, pillows, mattress) and I almost never have the patience and money for curtains. I work with what I've got. People see one of my rooms, they say, "Hmm, curtains would've been better." Well, no shit. Please buy them and install them. Thank you.

10. Move on from the haters. They aren't worth my time.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this over the years. Too much time. I've let the fear of what others might think or say about my work (aka me) creep into my head and slow me down. I can't say it won't slow me down again in the future, I'm human. But it won't stop me.

No one can. 

NO ONE. 

Wah ah ah ah ah! :)