Travertine Backsplashes

Browse ideas for travertine backsplashes, and get ready to install an elegant and durable backsplash in your kitchen.


A tight shot of a travertine tile backsplash in the kitchen

Photo by: Igor Terekhov

Igor Terekhov

Travertine backsplashes can offer attractive, durable and elegant options for homeowners looking to install a new kitchen or refurbish an existing one.

Travertine is a form of limestone, most often created by mineral deposits from hot springs. Generally available in tan, cream or white/beige colors, it's been used in construction and architecture for centuries, and it appears in many modern homes in various forms. Travertine offers an attractive, long-lasting and low-maintenance backsplash option; however, depending on the scope of your backsplash plans, it can be an expensive material to incorporate into your kitchen design.

High-End Kitchen Countertop Choices

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Two Countertops Are Better Than One

In this sunshiny blue-and-white kitchen, a mix of materials helps break up the large expanse of the central island and to define its multiple functions. For the prep zone, designer Kathleen Walsh chose Vermont White Quartzite while watershed-finished walnut warms up the breakfast bar area.

Boomerang-Style Kitchen, New-Age Countertop

To give this warm, woodsy kitchen an energetic mid-century modern vibe, designer Magued Barsoum chose custom-colored cast concrete for the swoop of island countertop. Backsplash tiles in a similar turquoise tone create the perfect backdrop for a collection of richly hued ceramics.

Black + White = A Timeless Classic

Sometimes a remodel is less about updating the look of a space than it is about a return to architectural roots. Such was the case with the kitchen of an Arts & Crafts home that, until recently, had been subject to a completely out-of-character turn of post-modern design. Starting from scratch, designer Kirsten Marshall set about giving it a new-old look. "The kitchen is designed to feel as if it was a part of the original house," she says. Topping the island — a dual-function prep and dining area for a family of five — is Statuario Marble with a dramatic 3" mitered straight edge. The perimeter counters are Caesarstone's Raven quartz, with a 1/2" mitered straight edge.

Photo By: Jeremy Kohm;

Precious Stones

When a family of seven decided to update their kitchen, the homeowner's one requirement was that the new space feature Cosentino's Concetto surfacing, an innovative (and dramatic) material made from semi-precious stones. Designer Karen Kassen highlighted the eye-catching product by restricting it to a curving breakfast bar and using a pure-white quartz on the remaining surfaces.

Brazilian Blue Stone

In the course of adding a two-story addition to a landmarked Brooklyn townhouse, architect Ben Herzog, working in conjunction with interior designer Elizabeth Cooke-King, added a large, light-filled kitchen to the home. As a fitting focal point for this dramatic space, the design team chose beautiful Azul Macauba, a blue stone from Brazil, to top the Shaker-style white cabinets.

Concrete: Endlessly Customizable

It may be surprising to see a formerly industrial material in a high-end kitchen, but concrete is covering counters in some of the most costly kitchens around. The material's adaptability is a big part of its popularity. "Cast concrete is a truly handmade product that can be customized in a variety of ways and represents a design collaboration between the builder and the client," says designer Jayme Guokas. Here, rich surface variation and an integrated drainboard create the custom look.

Marble: An Edgy Choice

Kitchen designers often suggest marble, but clients are wary of the upkeep. "Marble can be a controversial choice," says designer Meredith Heron. "I assure my clients that Rome was, in fact, built out of marble — most of which is still standing today." But, she notes, the clients who choose to go with marble in their kitchens must be open to embracing the patina and character that will emerge with their stone over time. "Here, we used Nero Marquina, a black marble, because the homeowners were too nervous to put white marble on the island. Even this variety is very prone to water spots and acid etching, so if you have the slightest hint of OCD, I don't recommend it." To complement the classic stone, Heron specified a double ogee edge.

Natural Simplicity

Designed to emphasize the natural beauty of its vineyard setting, this kitchen shows its architects' dedication to using materials that are not only beautiful and durable, but that make a low ecological impact. The kitchen countertops are Red Ironbark timber with a clear sealant and waterfall edges. "We sourced this material, along with the wood flooring, from the demolition of an old bridge. It's Australia's densest timber — extremely durable and full of character," says the architect, Mihaly Slocombe.

A Contemporary Spin On Neutral

In this large kitchen, the equally large "aircraft carrier of an island" (as the builder describes it) features double sinks and polished Breccia Paradiso marble with a mitered 4" thickness. The bold marble stands out in part thanks to the simplicity of the rest of the materials in the space: cabinets with a dark, mocha stain, a painted glass backsplash and limestone flooring. Design by Tongue & Groove Custom Builder.

Form Meets Function

"This dramatic design takes its inspiration from the past but retains the best of the present," says architect Wayne Visbeen. To lend structure in the long space, he created a dual-level island, with cooking functions clustered on one level on the inside and a raised breakfast bar on the outside. Topping the dining bar with richly veined white marble not only differentiates the various uses of the space but creates a bold visual impact.

Your first task after deciding on a travertine backsplash will be to determine how much material you'll need to cover. Many homeowners install a backsplash that covers only a portion of the walls between the countertops and cabinets in their kitchen, while others may choose a more dramatic approach that covers the entire wall. Whichever approach you prefer, determine the amount of travertine you'll need by measuring the area you want to cover, then calculating the square footage.

When you've got the measurement in hand, it's time to decide on the style of travertine that's right for your kitchen. In terms of colors, travertine is most commonly available in light hues like beige, tan and cream. Textures vary, from smooth to slightly more rough-hewn; for a backsplash, most homeowners choose a smooth style, to ensure that the backsplash will easily wipe clean. Various patterns are available as well, since travertine exhibits a wide range of unique patterns developed by nature and enhanced by modern production techniques.

Once you've settled on a style direction, it's time to source the travertine and any other construction materials you'll need for the installation of your new backsplash. You'll find plenty of options at most home improvement or tile specialty stores, and there's as much travertine as you can bear to browse online. When you've landed on the right outlet for the materials, it's time to install your travertine backsplash—but you have one more decision to make: whether to install the backsplash yourself, or hire a professional to install it for you.

If you've got considerable home improvement skills, installing a travertine backsplash likely won't be too much of a challenge (in particular if the travertine has already been cut to your measurement specifications, meaning all you'll need to concern yourself with is securing it to the walls). Conversely, if you haven't installed a backsplash before, need to cut and size the material, or just aren't particularly handy, you'll probably want to enlist the services of a pro for the installation; it will cost more, but your chances of a botched job or one that takes significantly longer than you anticipated will be significantly reduced.

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