Tiles & Backsplashes

Lately I’ve seen lots of bold and creative backsplashes appearing in homes, magazines and design TV shows. As a result, all of my friends are asking me about which ones I like and which ones I don’t. Many of them have new-build houses and they’d like to put a personal stamp on their kitchens by installing a custom backsplash. So, I thought I’d show you which backsplash looks I love.

First up is a kitchen by Steven Gambrel with a wall of dark and dramatic subway tile. Note how this isn’t a skinny strip of tiles around the middle of the room — the designer has carried the tile all the way up to the ceiling. The grout is also a high contrast treatment which Gambrel likes to use, often times with white tile and dark grout. 

The tried and true classic is white subway tile — this example from House Beautiful. Simple, clean and fresh, it reminds me of bistros and farmhouse kitchens and goes with everything. This is the number one, fool-proof solution and is what I’d recommend for most of my brand-new-kitchen friends. You can find affordable white subway tile at The Home Depot, Olympia Tile and most local tile stores.

And finally, bright, cheerful, patterned ceramic tile. Whether it’s crisp blue and white Delft-looking tile or something darker, more organic and almost Moorish, this is a show-stopping option. Not for the faint of heart, these patterned tiles are a bit of a commitment, but if you pair them with simple, straightforward cabinetry and counters, you can pull it off. This kitchen from Tom Scheerer is a good example of allowing the busy tile to be the star of the show. The colours are fresh and anything but heavy, and they add a ton of personality and style. I would love to try this look myself!

Now here are my favourite tile picks from some of the most fashion-forward companies around. These are mostly all pricey sources, but they will give you a good idea of what to look for at any price point.

If you’re looking for patterned ceramic tiles, try to find something that looks and feels authentic and even has the sense of age. Simple fresh colours are best, nothing too multicoloured.

If it’s stone tile you want, I would remind you to keep it simple. I wouldn’t do anything too busy or colourful in the stone itself (whites, grey, charcoal) and I might add interest through an interestingly shaped tile or pattern.

Finally, if you want something pretty, with a bit of sparkle maybe, I’d stick to cool watery tones like blues and greens. These will feel fresher longer and not look too flashy or heavy. You can get this look with glass tiles at The Home Depot and also glazed ceramic tiles. 

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Photo credits:
1. Southampton home, Steven Gambrel; tiles, Grove Brickworks by Waterworks
2. House Beautiful November 2007 issue, design by Susan Tully Interiors
3. Bahamas Veranda House, Tom Scheerer
4a. Faience Concept 1, Country Floors
4b. Chez Monet, Deco#6, Country Floors
5. Chez Monet Decos, Country Floors
6. Medina, Sahara Border, Ann Sacks Tile & Stone

7a. Signet 3cm Hexagon Mosaic, Waterworks
7b. Aqualinea 3/8” x 2” Basketweave Mosaic, Waterworks
8. Waterworks
9. Medina, 2” x 2” field in pale blue, Ann Sacks Tile & Stone