Black trim for a white subway tile bathroom — The Gut Bathroom Renovation Chronicles continue

black trim tile for white subway tile from home depot

Completing the spur-of-the-moment, gut renovation of my mom’s bathroom meant that I had to buy everything off-the-shelf… or, I could not order anything that would take more than a few days to deliver. The subway tile for the wall and the hex tile for the floor were in-stock items at Louisville Tile. But I knew I wanted some black liner tiles — I think they are called splash strips (?) — to bring some black-and-white action to the walls.

black tirm tile for subway tile

My first idea was simply to use plain black liner strips, and top everything with a 2″x6″ bullnose. I knew I could get these basics from the big box home renovation stores. I first went to Lowe’s, and sure enough, these pieces were there, quite inexpensive. I then boogied over to Home Depot. Staring at their inspiration boards way up high above the tile, I noticed they were pairing a decorative white subway tile — kind of a vine motif — with a white rope trim. It looked nice. What if I used the black rope trim instead? The photo above: Imagine me, a Tuesday night around 8:30 p.m. at the Home Depot, laying out tiles all over the floor. I think it looks pretty darn good!

universal ceramic decorative subway tile

The price was also great: the decorative white subway tiles were about $2.50 each, the rope trim tiles were about $1. These tiles are both from Universal Ceramic. The decorative white UC subway tile is not the same shade of white as the AO subway tile — but as I write this, I am watching the tile installation under way in the bathroom, and I think: The two different whites looks fine, especially as they are separated by the rope tile. To be sure, though, this “will the whites clash?” question was a serious source of anguish and agony at one point. But, the good news is that I did not have the time to agonize very long. I made a decision. The next morning, I changed the decision. By that afternoon, I went back to my original decision and pulled that credit card out to buy all the tile required. I will have to write my “agony and ecstasy post” at the summary of this series. Also: A post addressing that agonizing question: “Do all my whites in the bathroom have to match?”

design concept for a 1940s black and white bathrom

I took the tile home — “home” was Aunt Mary Anne’s that week. I showed it to her. She also loved it. And we stayed up until midnight making drawings and talking about how to use the trim tiles. My drawing from the day and the evening’s work is above. Pretty pretty pretty. Tomorrow: We go shopping for a vanity and a countertop. What will the Retro Decorating Gods deliver unto us, on an April Wednesday, in Elizabethtown, Kentucky? We cannot come home empty handed.


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  1. Trina says

    Pam – your tile selection looks great! Can’t wait to see the final pics.

    I am in the process of working on my tile layout for my bath and have a question. I see the height that you will run the accent tile in the tub/shower area and on the walls. Will you have the accent tiles on the walls at the end of the tub area? Will it some how tie in with the walls by running vertically or will the two accent strips be horizontal only? I hope that makes sense. I have anguished over this, so your timing as always seems to be just right!


    • pam kueber says

      Trina, as the story continues, you’ll see the final result… One thing I can recommend: Talk to the tile designer in the place where you are going to buy your tile, they have lots of good ideas.

  2. says

    I think the black tile are called pinstripes. At least, that’s what the people at the tile place where I bought mine called them. Although mine are plain – so maybe that makes mine pinstrips and yours splash strips.

  3. Elaine says

    I love the look, and it is indeed timely as we face a new bathroom project. I have a question about the decorative trim where you have it going around the wall. It jumps from below the mirror around the wall and over the sink and toilet to a mid-mirror height in the shower. Did you consider keeping it the same level all the way around the bathroom? We have that in our master bath and love the look.

  4. Ann-Marie Meyers says

    I had never heard of those pinstripes before. Gives me something else to keep in mind when I get the chance to redo my downstairs bathroom.
    I think your mom’s is going to be great.

  5. says

    The contrast is great. I’d like it even better with a plain tile between the two runs of black, but that’s just me: simple, simple, simple. Black and white is such a classic and now I’m even more anxious to see the result!!!! (You’ve got us glued to our screens!)

  6. retrosandie says

    Wow Pam-it looks like it really starting to gel. Love the tiles you’ve picked. Can’t wait to see what’s next….. 🙂

  7. Andrea says

    Such perfect timing as we face a similar remodel in our 50s bathroom for a similar reason (grout, tub, all shot). Tub-to-tile-shower planned. However we are retaining as many of our original turquoise tiles as possible—they’re all over the room as well as in the tub (soon to be shower) surround, and I love them. Planning to incorporate black into the new area (with an almost-identical turquoise tile or perhaps one slightly deeper—couldn’t believe I found both options!).
    Like the “not quite matched whites,” I am hoping my “not quite matched” turquoise will not be noticed too much when separated by black tiles in an as-yet-to-be-determined layout. (We have an original black tile floor and I need to repeat that color somewhere, so this is an opportunity to do so).
    I am DYING to see your mom’s new bathroom, and plan to steal as many ideas as possible for my own!

  8. CindyD says

    I love it! Your mom’s bathroom going to be beautiful! I don’t think you should fret over your different shades of white. It reminds me of when I discovered that, though wallpaper and ‘matching’ fabric never really matches, they look beautiful in combination in the room. No worries! Keep going! We’re dying for the reveal!

  9. Martha says

    You could also come to Lexington to the Habitat Restore on Southland Drive!!!
    Sometimes they have great stuff!
    Happy Shopping in the Bluegrass!

  10. says

    Starting to plan my next project: the main bath reno in our 1949 bungalow! It will be a full-out reno (replacing all fixtures) so will be scouring your blog for tips! Keep writing on this topic!! LOL!

  11. Jim C says


    Every mother should have a daughter like you! Everything looks great and I’m sure your mother will enjoy her bathroom for years to come.

  12. California Kathy says

    I especially like your using products from the big box stores. Both because they are just about everywhere and because the prices are so economical. And you just can’t go wrong with black and white tile in a bathroom!

  13. Jkaye says

    Can’t wait to see the finished bathroom. I bet the different whites will be OK. By the way, my son was born at Hardin Memorial Hospital in E-town, back in ’85. On Groundhog Day!

  14. gsciencechick says

    I love it! If we ever gut our main bath, I would love to go in this direction. B&W are always so classic. Fortunately, our contractor friend/neighbor is an awesome tiler.

  15. Jennifer Stiller says

    Hey there, Pam, I love this blog! Thanks for all the great posts, pics, and advice.

    I just did a bathroom in my mid-century home with some vintage pencil liner tiles, and I love it! Turns out I have a bunch leftover (long story) and I wondered if there’s anywhere appropriate on your blog to try to sell them. They are beautiful, if I do say so. Thanks!

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