Travertine Tile Backsplash Ideas

A brother of limestone, travertine has rustic appeal that can work in a number of kitchen tile backsplash designs.
Travertine Tile Backsplash

Travertine Tile Backsplash

A tight shot of a travertine tile backsplash in the kitchen

Photo by: Igor Terekhov

Igor Terekhov

By: Caroline Shannon-Karasik

A neutral, warm-colored stone, travertine will lend an understated and sophisticated appeal to an elegant in any kitchen space. Acting instead as backdrop rather than the focal point of a kitchen, a backsplash made from travertine tiles is a prime choice for the homeowner who is looking for a simple finish to his or her kitchen area.

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Basket-Weave Marble Tile

To add classic pattern and timeless color to this kitchen, 12-by-12-inch sheets of mosaic marble tile featuring a black-and-white, basket-weave pattern were installed. Basket-weave tile is excellent for modern, transitional and traditional kitchens, since the pattern is graphic, and available in high- and low-contrast colors. Most marble basket-weave mosaic tiles range from $15 to $50 per square foot; however, ceramic basket-weave mosaic tile can be sourced for $10 to $20 per square foot.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Solid Penny Round Tile

Solid penny round tile is commonly found in bungalows and cottages, as well as homes built in the '30s and '40s. When a solid color is employed, both low-contrast and high-contrast looks can be achieved — depending on the color of the grout. When selecting black penny round tile for a backsplash, keep in mind that un-sanded charcoal grout works well, bringing in enough contrast and depth without overpowering. To avoid scratching the surface of polished penny round tile, always use un-sanded grout. Sanded grout is abrasive and will leave deep scratches in the surface of the tiles.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Gradient Penny Round Tile

While solid penny round tile is subtle, gradient penny round tile adds movement and energy. Characterized by several tints and shades of the same color, gradient penny round tile is excellent for achieving a layered look. Considering the tile's wide spectrum of hues, selecting a coordinating grout can be a daunting task. A rule of thumb is to extract a medium shade from the tile, rather than selecting the darkest or lightest hue. Once grouted, this color selection will create a uniform look. During installation, it's important to remember that penny round tiles are extremely difficult to cut with a wet saw, a task necessary for finishing corners and edges. Therefore, this job is best left to a professional rather than a weekend warrior.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

River-Rock Tile

Homeowners hoping to achieve a modern-rustic look are often drawn to tumbled river-rock mosaic. Characterized by its natural shape and smooth surface, river rock can add an organic aesthetic to a kitchen backsplash. Due to the large, irregular gaps between the rocks, grouting can have a significant influence on the finished look. Once grouted, the texture of the stone can be enhanced with a sealant. A high-gloss sealant will highlight the ridges and dimples of each stone, while a matte or satin sealant will add a slight sheen the stones' surface.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Hexagonal Tile

Depending on the material and color selected, a geometric backsplash of hexagonal tile can read as modern or traditional. Readily available from most home improvement stores and tile showrooms, white marble mosaic hexagonal tile adds an elegant airiness. The veining of the marble appears beautifully enhanced when paired with medium- or dark-gray cabinets. To create a grayscale effect with white marble hexagonal tile, consider dove-gray or marble-gray grout. And for a cleaner effect, use white grout.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Multicolored Glass Tile

Two of the most affordable and readily available styles of mosaic backsplash tile are 1-inch porcelain and 1-inch glass styles. Porcelain tile is opaque and comes in solid, multicolored and gradient versions. Glass, also offered in solid and multicolored versions, is likewise available in clear and translucent styles. Due to the transparency of glass mosaic tile, it's important to achieve a smooth mortar application before laying the tiles in place. If any bubbles, divots or trowel marks appear in the mortar, they should be carefully smoothed, since they will otherwise be visible through the glass once installation is complete.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Rectilinear Tile

Rectilinear tile is known for its clean, crisp grid pattern. The graphic look created by installing 12-by-12-inch sheets of glass, ceramic, porcelain, metallic or stone tile side by side and in perfect alignment is ideal for modern homes with minimalist architecture.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Metallic Tile

Metallic tile is available in a wide variety of finishes, including stainless steel, copper, brass, mercury glass and mirror. Known for its hefty price tag and specialized cleaning procedures, metallic tile works best in low-traffic kitchens. Since fingerprints can easily smudge the surface, these tiles require much more effort to keep clean than porcelain, stone or glass.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Glass and Stone Tile

Stacked stone, a popular style of tile used on fireplaces and along the walls of modern or rustic homes, has recently been reinvented for backsplash use — rebranded with the term, "stacked-stone look." The results are staggered and rectilinear in appearance, but with an easy-to-clean surface and more simplified installation. One of the most popular ways to create a stacked-stone backsplash is to combine glass and stone tiles. This method incorporates the crisp, clean look of glass and the rich textures of stones such as marble or onyx. The stacked-stone look achieved with glass and stone tiles is excellent for modern and transitional rooms, as well as the kitchens of cottages and coastal homes.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Marble Geometric Tile

Homeowners desiring lounge-like, sexy '70s style may consider a marble geometric tile for their backsplash. Known for its mix of organic, veined marble and hand-painted or metallic accents, marble geometric tile offers a high-contrast sheen, but it tends to become outdated quickly, often needing to be replaced within five years. Homeowners concerned with the shelf life of marble geometric tile may opt to use it only in small, isolated areas adjacent to the kitchen, such as a wet bar or a prep area.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Midcentury-Modern Tile

Midcentury-modern backsplash tile evokes the clean, crisp and tailored look of the '50s and '60s. Commonly used in homes across California, this style is ideal for kitchens with a streamlined, architectural aesthetic. To keep the look timeless, consider black, white and gray styles — instead of hues specific to the '50s and '60s, such as olive green, harvest gold or burnt orange.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Hammered Metallic Tile

Hammered metallic backsplash tile is ideal for achieving a modern, industrial look. Known for its "hammered" texture, this dimpled tile has a masculine and rich appearance. A common concern for homeowners is that this tile will appear overly masculine when installed along a backsplash. As a more subtle alternative, install a mix of hammered metallic and smooth metallic tiles, as well as a few composed of composite materials.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Travertine is a form of limestone, making it a porous and semi-soft material for a backsplash. This is not a problem, but it will require a coat or two of sealant to help keep mold and mildew at bay.

Travertine tiles are available in a wide variety of cream, red, gray, white and brown colors. If you are seeking a contemporary design, then you may want to consider placing the tiles in a mosaic pattern. Brick-style travertine tiles work well in a rustic kitchen, and square travertine tiles mixed with diamond-shaped tiles can work well in a Tuscan-inspired kitchen. Choose these tiles in a cream or beige color to complement this kitchen style.

If you are seeking a county look for your kitchen backsplash, then you might want to consider mixing together broken pieces of rust- and brown-colored travertine stone tiles to create a down-home backsplash. This backsplash style would work well with a kitchen island made from reclaimed barn doors or kitchen cabinetry that is faded green.

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