Unique Wood, Stone, and Metal Backsplashes To Dress Up Your Kitchen

Since tile backsplashes started gaining popularity a few years back, a handful of different styles have risen to prominence – mostly subway tile (in any variety of colors), the occasional thin rectangular or square tile, and lots and lots of white marble. But these looks are a dime a dozen. If you really want your backsplash to stand out and make a statement, you need to think a little outside the box. Choosing unusual materials, textures, or colors is never a bad place to start, and today I want to take a look specifically at wood, stone, and metal tile and how they can be used to showcase your space.

Wood

Even mismatched scrap wood can make for a striking and colorful kitchen backsplash (by Garden State Tile-Philadelphia)
Even mismatched scrap wood can make for a striking and colorful kitchen backsplash (by Garden State Tile-Philadelphia)

Switching from a tile backsplash to a wood one is one of the simplest ways to make a dramatic statement. You can opt for just about any kind of wood, from simple farmhouse-style planks to something with a little more color and texture. The wood itself will be the focal point of your space, so choose one that fits the ambiance of your kitchen. For example, a bamboo backsplash is a great way to give your space a more natural feel, while a more rustic or weathered wood can make for a more cabin-like or industrial look.

Wood-look tile comes in nearly the same variety as the real deal, but comes with the added benefit of being water resistant and splinter-free (by Eric Aust Architect)
Wood-look tile comes in nearly the same variety as the real deal, but comes with the added benefit of being water resistant and splinter-free (by Eric Aust Architect)

The one main drawback of wood bascksplashes is that wood isn’t great at catching splashes. So if you’re worried about water-based messes, you might want to opt instead for wood-look tile. This is technically porcelain tile, but it’s far from the ceramic beige squares you might have seen in your grandma’s kitchen. Wood-look tile is printed with high definition images of real wood, on ceramic “planks” that are the size and shape of real wood boards. The surface is smooth and unblemished (not to mention water-resistant, easy to clean, and kitchen-safe), so you get the same protection from water as with porcelain tile, but with all the color and “texture” variety as real wood.

Stone

Unpolished stone has a rough, natural quality that will give your kitchen a heftier, more traditional look and feel than almost any other type of tile (by Charlie & Co. Design, Ltd)
Unpolished stone has a rough, natural quality that will give your kitchen a heftier, more traditional look and feel than almost any other type of tile (by Charlie & Co. Design, Ltd)

Plenty of backsplashes are made of stone, but far and away the vast majority of them are made of white marble, designed to be a slightly more sophisticated take on the iconic white subway tile. But there’s so much more stone out there to choose from. Natural, unpolished stone tile is a great option; the rugged, unfinished texture of the stone will add visual interest to your walls (especially if you have good cabinet lighting to accentuate it). Each piece will be slightly different in size, shape, color, and texture, but you can find rough-cut stone in the same easy-to-install mosaic sheets as you would a generic ceramic tile, making this an option that looks a whole lot more expensive and labor intensive than it really is.

A single, seamless piece of decorative stone can be a bit pricy, but is a great showstopper for a mid-sized backsplash (by Wolfe Rizor Interiors)
A single, seamless piece of decorative stone can be a bit pricey, but is a great showstopper for a mid-sized backsplash (by Wolfe Rizor Interiors)

If you really want a show-stopper, though, you might want to opt instead for a single, solid, seamless piece of polished stone. This will only work for relatively restricted areas – like the big open space above your range – but produces an incredibly breathtaking result. Each piece of stone (no matter what type you choose) will have natural variations in color and veining, meaning that no matter where the stone is sliced from, it’s going to create a look that’s genuinely one-of-a-kind. Granted, this is a more expensive option (and one that’s a bit more labor intensive to install), but if you love the striking look of polished stone, check with the supplier of your counter tops to see if they’re willing to provide a thin slice of any of their precious stones.

Metal

Brushed metal tile has just enough shine to catch the eye, but not so much that it overwhelms a more traditional space (by Inplace Studio)
Brushed metal tile has just enough shine to catch the eye, but not so much that it overwhelms a more traditional space (by Inplace Studio)

Maybe the most eye-catching backsplashes, though, are ones made of metal – either solid pieces or smaller tile. Solid metal backsplashes have a very industrial feel, in part because they have their origins in commercial kitchens, but smaller metal tile (whether it’s steel, brass, or copper) can work in a much wider range of spaces. Polished finishes are obviously shinier and have a more modern feel (and outright mirrored finishes can produce a pretty stunning effect in smaller doses) but brushed, satin, or antique metal tile can add a nicely antique or even rustic touch to a cottage, farmhouse, or cabin style kitchen.

If you don't like the idea of wall-to-wall metallics, metal tile can still make for a great accent, and nicely break up a more traditional arrangement (by WINN Design+Build)
If you don’t like the idea of wall-to-wall metallics, metal tile can still make for a great accent, and nicely break up a more traditional arrangement (by WINN Design+Build)

If the idea of wall-to-wall metallic surfaces seems a little overwhelming, metal tile can also make a great accent – either individual tiles used to punctuate a larger ceramic or stone backsplash, or a small over-the-range installation to draw extra attention to that spot. Industrial style ranges often have built-in steel backsplashes connecting the range and range hood, but even the most traditional setups leave quite a nice space for something a little shiny.

No matter what your sense of style, the best way to build a really stunning backsplash is to take a step back from the expected and put a little twist on tradition, and switching to a less common material isn’t a bad place to start!