Tile used as kitchen backsplash

Design by Pamela Hope Designs

When most people think of tile, thoughts of traditional kitchen and bathroom floors emerge. However, I love exploring creative uses of tile that are both beautiful and functional for my clients. This post begins with a more familiar use of tile that is executed well and then shares more unique, clever uses of tile. I’ll also share some of the benefits of the placement, which can be more than just gorgeous aesthetics.

decorative tile in Pamela O'Brien's pantry

Design by Pamela Hope Designs

The backsplash is now a common use of tile. With tile’s durability, it protects kitchen and bathroom walls from splashes and adds more finesse to the overall appearance. Over the years, tile use as a backsplash has literally grown up the wall. While we used to see backsplashes only cover a small area starting at the counter’s edge and growing upward a few inches, tile is now covering large segments of the wall if not the entirety. As shown in the example above, two decorative tiles from Daltile are used as the backdrop to the stove, providing added protection to the wall in the background but also serving as a nice focal point in this spacious kitchen. Cooking splashes are easy to wipe clean on this tile arrangement. With a monochromatic look, the visual interest lies in the woven pattern in the center with the second tile framing it. It’s such a classy look.

Moving a bit from the kitchen, I really like using decorative tile in the pantry. While many won’t necessarily see it, this tile in my own pantry brings a smile to my face. I originally saw this tile while working with a client at Architectural Design Resources and it was in a pretty brown and cream combination. A few months later, while doing a little online research, it popped up in this groovy deep marine blue and I was SOLD! It’s actually a 17-inch tile that is scored to look like four terracotta tiles. We used a terracotta-colored grout so you can’t tell that the tiles aren’t individually set, but the larger format made installation quick and easy. What’s not to love?

tile at Bravery Wine Bar

Photo Courtesy of Bravery Wine Bar

I’ve also seen this tile used in larger scale at Bravery Wine Bar, a hip Houston restaurant, but I like using the big star pattern in a smaller area of my home. I find that the pantry is one of those often overlooked areas that’s used frequently. Why not decorate it with a little pizzazz too? For those fortunate to have a pantry with room to stage dishes when entertaining, the backsplash may get a bit more visibility but more importantly it contributes to the overall feel of your cooking and entertaining space. I find that tile is an easy way to add a pop of color and energy and I like doing that in unexpected areas. Depending on your style and budget, the costs could range from little to extravagant. Who doesn’t like options?

Another example of tile used as a backsplash in a pantry is at a client’s home that we recently photographed. The busy family of four cooks at home a lot to address food allergies that multiple family members have. With a lot going on in the kitchen, it’s easy to step into the pantry to fix a cup of coffee or grab a snack after school. The beautiful blue tile from Tile Bar helps give the pantry a finished look, ensuring it does not feel like an afterthought. It really looks striking against the white counters and cabinetry. The blue also ties into other blues in the kitchen and nearby half bath to give a seamless feel throughout the house. I’m really pleased with how this turned out – and best of all, my clients are too!

backsplash tile in the pantry

Design by Pamela Hope Designs

tile on stair risers

Photo Courtesy: Ideahouse12

Do you dread cleaning the risers on your stairs? Consider using tile to protect that area from scratches and scuffs as well as to add a decorative touch. Here’s a bold example of mixed tile on the stair risers that I love. While the patterns are bold, keeping the tile to black and white with the handrail also being black ties everything together. This type of treatment could also be a nice visual if your stairs are part of an entry way.

Tile can also be used to create a feature wall whether you decide to decorate an entire wall with tile or just a portion. Instead of using the more traditional paint and wallpaper, this accent wall of tile is quite eye-catching. Taking a decidedly unique approach, the tile was set on a diagonal and lighting was added behind it for impact, although I imagine even without the lighting this installation makes a great impression. With the room’s high ceilings and tall windows, this feature wall grabs all the attention. Since there’s not a lot of the tile used, you could splurge with a more expensive tile selection and still keep the budget within range. Plus, using a higher end tile typically means you won’t see the same tile used in many other places.

tile used for a feature wall

Photo Courtesy: LookBoxLiving

Next, we look at a larger scale use of tile. Wee Studio’s used tile to create an accent wall that almost is floor to ceiling. The modern vibe of the room is echoed by this artistic display of over-sized, black and white tiles. It’s also interesting that the room relies on the selected tiles for a sense of texture. It’s easy to see that this accent wall infuses the room with plenty of energy too.

large accent wall of tile

Photo Courtesy: I.D.I.D. & Wee Studio


Upclose view of tile on kitchen island base

Photo Courtesy of Coffee Paint Repeat & Home Depot

Perhaps my favorite application of tile when it comes to practicality is at the base of a kitchen island. If your home has little feet that often kick while youngsters sit at the kitchen counter, tile is a neat way to keep the under counter area looking sharp. Yes, this is another over-looked area but it’s also one that’s hard to keep clean. In addition to the benefit of easier maintenance, the right tile can take a kitchen island that’s understated and transform it into the focal point of the kitchen. While you don’t have to use the same tile on the island base as you have on your backsplash, you definitely want to coordinate the two. Here are a few examples of how tile can be used beautifully on the kitchen island base.

Which areas in your home could be updated with a new tile application? Do you have a more practical need or a more artistic opportunity? Perhaps you have both. If you’d like an interior designer’s help on your next project, contact us for creative ideas that make your home customized to you.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like reading “Incorporating Micromosaic Tiles” on our blog.


Patterned tile on kitchen island base

Photo Courtesy: Becki Owens

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