Kitchen Backsplash: Penny Tile!

It took months and months, but I finally decided on a tile for our kitchen backsplash.  And once the decision was at last made, I pulled the trigger and we got it done.

I was initially inspired both by John and Sherry’s penny tile, but it was really this image found through Pinterest that sealed the deal:I adore penny tile, but was worried that in our mid-century mod house it would read too cottagey, and I wanted to avoid that.  But seeing the image above, I got a really modern, clean vibe and thought it would be great in our kitchen.  Which worked out, because until it was installed, I didn’t realize that you can actually see it from nearly every door and pass-by opening in the entire main floor.  Which could have been a complete disaster if this didn’t work out, so: whew!

We had some lovely Lithuanians come over and installed the tile for us, because as deeply as I believe in DIY, I don’t for a second believe that you’re obligated to DIY everything–and that sometimes, the peace of mind of having a couple of professionals do it while you work on your needle-turn applique blocks is worth every penny you’re spending.

This is what greeted them when they arrived Saturday morning:

If you recall, the entire kitchen was country blue, with wallpaper and dark, dark brown cabinets.  The cabinets are 60% of the way to completion (don’t judge me), and the new counters are, of course, amazing.  But the backsplash wasn’t even primed (why waste the paint?) and the wallpaper is soooo not my color palette.  And it stared at us every morning and evening.  I had almost gotten to the point where I didn’t quite see it anymore–almost.

So the real pressure for me wasn’t even really the aesthetics of the thing, it was functionality: behind the faucet and behind the stove, we were getting water and grease spots on the drywall, and that could only last a short period of time before it started to cause serious issues.  And when you’ve already done un-sexy renovations because of problems you didn’t foresee and that didn’t turn up on any of the inspections (new furnace, lead paint, new windows, mold, rodents, spiders), you really don’t want to create problems for yourself.  So we were very motivated to get the tile in pretty much the instant we knew what we wanted.  Which mostly amounted to my husband saying, “Please, honey, just pick something.”

We had two workers, an older man and a younger dude, both speaking flowing and exotic Lithuanian the whole time and taking smoke breaks every 8 minutes.  They were seriously awesome–such nice fellas.  Here’s the older gentleman applying the thinset to begin installing the bullnose.

Because we chose penny tile, which comes on sheets, we needed to also have some end tiles to make it all water-proof.  The end tiles, called bullnose, come in a variety of styles, but I wanted something nearly invisible.  I brought home some 2″ x 6″ pieces in hopes that they’d be able to cut them down to around 1/2″ or 3/4″–the same size as the pennies–so that we wouldn’t notice it hardly at all.  They totally did that, and I love the look.  It might be nice if this were a single piece of long bullnose, but I don’t think it comes in 18″ lengths, and I’m happy with the result–the skinny is so in right now.

This is the left side of the kitchen after the first sheets are installed, but before the grout.  I chose a super light silvery grey grout that picks up the veining in the marble counters, and I loooove it–even more after it dried, because it was just a teensy bit too dark when it was still wet.  I’ll be taking Belinda’s advice from the original Pinterest image and sealing it suuuper well, since I can already tell we’ll need to do that.

But I’m not going to show it to you yet.  Because I really, really want to get those doors on and do a Grand Reveal, or I won’t be able to live with myself.  I’m shooting for next week, but feel free to pressure me.  Plus, we already have houseguests coming in both June and July, so I’d better make it pretty for you all before I have to make it pretty in person!  Cross your fingers!

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  • Melissa
    May 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    I LOVE penny tile! I can’t wait for the big reveal!!!

  • Leslie
    May 8, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Oh, Deborah, I looooooove the penny tile, so much more than any of the glass tile, and I really like glass tile, but this just looks so much better even. Wow. Amazing. This is so much fresher and more original than subway or glass, yet very understated at the same time. Great job, really great job.

  • Sparrow
    May 9, 2012 at 7:17 am

    That tile looks lovely! Fantastic choice. I can’t wait to see the finished result!

  • Heather
    May 10, 2012 at 9:05 am

    I love the penny tile! So cute! However, I have a caution for you about your marble counters. I live in the land of marble counter tops (Portugal), and my husband and I have learned the hard way that lemon juice and vinegar will leave a nasty spot. It just takes a little drop, or setting down a utensil with either liquid on it and the next day you’ll see a very sad mark on your lovely counter. Cuidado!

  • Kerri
    May 12, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Love it! Nice work (to both you for picking it out, and to the lovely Lithuanians :)).

  • Rachel at Stitched in Color
    May 13, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Where have I been? I’d never even noticed penny tile. LOVE it!