Subway tile backsplash – via Pinterest
Every time I see a badly installed Encaustic tile or just too much pattern, even if it’s not badly designed, I get further validation (in my mind) that my job on this blog, is to direct you towards the most classic, simple, solid tile which is often subway tile. Period.
And just in case you’re rolling your eyes (Hey, I can see you :), I’m talking about white or cream tile that leaves you with options down the road for changing other colours.
I’m not married to subway tile, I just prefer it over most patterns because of the classic nature of it. But hey, white or cream in any pattern, is still way better than blotchy and busy patterns that date super fast.
Anything that commits you to one particular colour scheme forever, starts to scream trendy and far from a timeless look.
The other day, I received this email from one of my lovely readers:
I just discovered your blog. . . wish I had found it before renovating our new old fixer upper! We spent a fortune on renovations to a 35 yr old run down house and a year and a half later I’m regretting almost all of the design choices our designer pushed us into making. I realized much too late in the process that the designer had a totally different vision for our house than we did.
So long story short, one of the biggest mistakes we made was choosing a very expensive square floral marble kitchen backsplash. What I really wanted was white subway to go with the white cabinet uppers and carerra looking quartz counters. The designer told us she would never let us put something so generic as subway tile. What a mistake it was to listen to that advice!
As soon as the first square of busy floral marble went up I knew it was wrong.
Our contractor told us that ripping it out would be a nightmare and that our only solution would be to possibly find a very thin glass tile to install over it.
Im desperate to find a better solution. I even thought about panelling over it with shiplap, but how do you have wood behind a stove top?
Ugh… have you encountered this dilemma with your clients? Is there an easy fix? I tried to find an answer on your blog but didn’t see anything specific to our problem.
Here is my response:
Okay so here’s the thing. First, your contractor is likely not interested in the job if he is calling it a ‘nightmare’. I spoke to my good friend Jan Romanuk who is a kitchen and bath designer and she said she manages the removal of tile often and it shouldn’t cost you more than $1,000 even if you do have some drywall repair.
When my sister Elizabeth took out her ‘then trendy tuscan dark travertine tile’ and replaced it with the ‘cheapest tile there is’ according to her contractor, it cost $750 for the tiles and labour.
So my recommendation is that you find someone else to do it.
And it should be white subway tile, definitely not shiplap.
Here are my do’s and don’ts for using patterned tile:
DO Keep your patterned tile paired with a solid surface.
Image via HGTV
The ‘one pattern quota’ in hard finishes applies here just like it does in most interiors. Once you have chosen your patterned tile floor, countertop or backsplash, the rest should be solid.
It’s rare that I see an installation with two patterns where I think “That works!”
And occasionally it does, but if you have personally, NOT seen it installed, I would rather you go safe and follow my advice which is solid with pattern, period. The end.
In this kitchen above. The backsplash is the most important feature and the countertop is solid. As it should be.
Overall, the colours do work in my readers kitchen, the tile relates to the charcoal island. And the ‘veins’ in the quartz are curvy so they do work with the flower tile but it does make the overall look busier.
Which leads me to my next point:
DO Keep your hard finishes quiet.
Everyone, and I mean everyone seems to be madly in love with all these widely available patterns but, think about it? As fabulous as they seem now, how much will you love them after you’ve been staring at them for 3, 5, 7 or 10 years?
And will the next homeowner be just as in love with your very PERSONAL choice?
Most likely it will be installed wrong, maybe you chose something too big or too small so the scale looks off, or you combined them with the wrong colours, because most of the time, that’s how it goes.
DON’T go crazy with your new tile crush
One of my True Colour Experts recently posted some pictures of a kitchen and great room to get some input from other TCE’s on colours and options. She had clients who were having trouble selling their house and the wife thought it was the carpet in the adjoining great room.
It was NOT the carpet, but the TILE.
At the time of the installation, husband was so in love with the earthy and (now unfortunately dated) tuscan tile, he had the tile guy cover the sides of the island with it, even adding it to the archway that led from the kitchen to the entry of the home.
The wife finally had to put a stop to the tile shenanigans.
And after all that, now, they are painting out all the wood around the tile including the cabinets in order to make the interior more fresh and appealing to buyers.
DO introduce patterned tile in a boring and bland commercial interior
A lot of the Encaustic tile is LARGE SCALE. Great for large spaces like a commercial interior. Not so great in your small laundry room, for example.
I saw this installation in a hallway to the bathrooms in an outdoor mall in Corte Madera, California and loved it! Everything else around it is simple and solid. The pale taupe surround tile doesn’t relate to the floor, but it’s light enough that it doesn’t look bad.
The penny tile is debatable but it least it reads solid. What do y’all think?
DON’T get seduced by tile thats too colourful. Choose black and white or grey so you still have decorating options down the road.
The tile in the above example leaves you stuck with orange forever. This is fine in a commercial interior where we’re not decorating, but how long will you love this orange in your kitchen or laundry room?
via Lark & Linen
This tile is too busy to my eye, but at least it’s the only strong pattern in this kitchen unless you count the ceiling but at least it’s white. And the pattern in the ceiling does cleverly repeat the pattern in the floor.
Also it’s black and white, giving you options for changing colours.
Here’s another pattern that’s beautifully done with a classic subway tile. Lots of interest here.
DON’T go for a statement or get stuck on stylish
When I was sourcing all these images for this post, I kept reading headlines that said “Make a statement”. “Get this tile for the most stylish kitchen ever”. But no one tells you IF and WHEN you might be making a mistake.
Wondering if Encaustic tile works for YOUR style of home? Read this post first.
Bottom line, here’s my mantra for choosing tile. If you have two options in front of you and there’s one you would call SAFE and the other one you’d consider to be A RISK. Go for the SAFE option.
Trust me, you’ll be happy you did.
Fabulous statements and stylish interiors are created with styling. It’s much easier to change out a pattern in drapery or carpet than tile.
Say it with me again! SAFE IS WAY BETTER THAN RISKY. Way more of my clients cried when they chose the risky option.
If you have a question for my Ask Maria column, email me here.