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.

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

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