Travertine Backsplash

Beth Asaff
Travertine backsplash

If you want to add some rustic depth and interest to your kitchen design, a travertine backsplash is the perfect touch. Travertine is a naturally rustic looking material available in a wide range of colors, sizes and patterns; adding some travertine to your kitchen can make a big impact on your kitchen's look.

What Is Travertine?

Travertine tiles are formed from a natural stone, similar in chemical makeup to limestone. It is formed of calcite deep inside hot springs. The water vapor leaving the sedimentary stone as it forms produces pockets of air inside the stone. When the travertine is quarried and cut into blocks, slabs and tiles, these holes remain behind, giving the stone a rustic look.

Types of Travertine Finishes

While travertine is naturally rustic, the stone can be found in three finishes; honed, polished and tumbled.

Honed Travertine

Honed travertine has epoxy resins that fill up the holes. The stone is then ground to a smooth, flat finish with a square, chiseled edge. Honed travertine backsplashes are perfect for transitional kitchen designs.

Polished Travertine

Not all travertines can be polished; some stones are too soft. Most of the travertines that can be polished are more dramatic in color, such as Persian Red or Silver. These highly polished stones are cut so the holes appear as veins that stretch across the surface. You can use them as a travertine backsplash in a modern kitchen.

Tumbled Travertine

Like tumbled marble, tumbled travertine is placed inside a drum filled with rocks, water and sand and tumbled to an aged finish. Travertine is the perfect stone to tumble, because it naturally forms pits, fissures and antiqued edges. Use a tumbled travertine backsplash in a Tuscan kitchen, farmhouse kitchen or rustic kitchen design.

Designing a Backsplash from Travertine

One of the characteristics of any travertine is its variation; no two travertine tiles will ever look the same twice. When designing a travertine backsplash, keep this variability in mind, along with the rest of the overall design.

Rustic or Tuscan Kitchen Design

For rustic kitchens, tumbled travertine is your best bet. Not only will it have a naturally worn finish, but tumbled stones tend to be lighter and more muted in color. Capitalize on this by using two or three different travertines together in the backsplash, such as Noce, Chiaro and Trav de Villa Leya. The various colors will give your backsplash amazing depth and interest.

Rustic travertine borders made up of two colors, such as Noce and Chiaro are available for use as well. Consider using them to frame the area behind your cooktop, and fill in the interior with a mosaic mixture of tumbled travertine in a range of colors.

Transitional and Traditional Kitchen Design

Smooth, honed travertine can sometimes take on the look of soft leather, particularly when it has been treated with wax. Dress up a traditional backsplash design by using honed travertine in a subway tile pattern. The soft shifting of colors among the tiles will add interest and depth to the space. Switch the tiles to a herringbone pattern behind the cooktop and use a travertine chair rail in a different color stone to frame the area.

Modern or Contemporary Kitchen Design

Make the most of your modern kitchen design by choosing a dramatic looking travertine that shows off its veins in polished, 12-inch squares. Arrange the tiles with a half tile on the bottom, and a full tile on top in the first row, then alternate down the counters. Keep all the veins moving in the same direction to elongate the kitchen design.

Fill the area in behind the cooktop with a glass tile that picks up one of the lighter colors in the backsplash. The two tiles will complement each other while providing depth to the space.

Installing Travertine

While a travertine backsplash is naturally rustic, keep in mind that any holes in the loose tiles will need to be filled during installation, if they weren't filled at the factory. Choose a matching color grout to fill the stone with for best results. This way, the tiles will still retain their appeal even when filled.

Choose your travertine tiles with care, and coordinate their look, placement and grout for the perfect installation.

Travertine Backsplash