Picking Penny Tile For Our Kitchen Backsplash

We did it. Since this morning’s post we made one more trip out to the tile store and finally made a tile decision (we ordered over 50 square feet of it to do the entire wall above the stove where we’ll add open shelves and a vent hood as mentioned here). Our process was visiting a bunch of small local shops and big box stores just to see what was out there. And we had the most luck finding stuff that we loved at a local tile store (The Tile Shop). The only problem was that many of their gorgeous offerings were nearly $20 a square foot, which can work if you’re doing a standard backsplash – but can definitely break the budget on a whole wall (50 square feet x $20 = $1000!).

Here are a few things that we loved, but the prices just weren’t right for our budget (this smoky gray skinny tile was $17.99 per square foot):

This moody gray glass subway tile was $18.99:

This pretty cracked glass tile was $16.99 (it looked like a mixture of marble and ice cubes):

This soft tiny glass mosaic tile was $14.99:

Then in the back of the store in the clearance section we came across the prettiest softest gray penny tile with such a smooth finish and such clean circular shapes that it definitely felt modern but not too cold – just clean and sleek enough while still saying soft and reading more as a texture than a big repeating tile on the wall.

And priced at just $5.59 a square foot it was definitely a lot less of a budget breaker (50 square feet x $5.59 = $279).

But we should tell the whole Tile Shop story. At John’s dad’s recommendation, we used The Tile Shop as a resource when we did our bathroom remodel in our first house (they were really helpful when it came to finding the right grout and supplies) and they later became sponsors of ours. So the coolest thing about finding our tile there was that they offer all YHL readers (including us) a 10% off discount on anything in their store (or online) with the code YHL10. So we scored an additional 10% off.

Since it’s going to be a main focal element in the kitchen, we figured it wouldn’t be a drop in the bucket project, but we’re happy to come in way under $300 for the tile and save money on labor by installing it all ourselves (with details as we go of course). We definitely think it’s going to be one of those makes-the-room choices. So excited.

Oh and here’s how Clara reacted to it. First she walked by and coyly glanced over at it…

Then, naturally, she petted it.

It’s very smooth. She’s a fan, just like mom & dad. Incidentally, it’s porcelain – so it’s completely non-porous, which means it is extremely stain resistant and we’ll be using stain resistant grout and sealer so it’ll all be nice and protected against any kitchen spatter. Because I would not wanna be the sucker in charge of scrubbing all that grout all the way up the wall with a toothbrush for years to come. Thank goodness for no-maintenance sealer. We used it in our last bathroom and didn’t clean the shower tiles for over a year  – no kidding. More on that here (you can even reapply it once a year to keep things über protected).

But back to Clara. After we went to the front counter and paid for everything she said “all done” and took my hand and led me right back…

… to the tile display in the back of the store. For one last pet-session. Is she a good tile salesman or what?

But let’s rewind. Before pulling the trigger and whipping out the ol’ wallet we ran home with our sample and googled “penny tile” just to check out a few other kitchens with something similar. Here’s a nice photo that shows how it might look behind floating shelves. And here’s some all-the-way-to-the-ceiling penny tile (of course this stuff is a lot bolder and more metallic than the finish we chose).

Here’s some penny tile that looks nearly identical to the one we picked (found here). Ignore the fact that this is a bathroom and try to picture some dark cork floors, white cabinetry, and chunky white open shelves paired up with it. Yum. See what I mean about it becoming sort of a texture in the room instead of immediately reading like a big shiny wall of tile? I love that it’ll layer in with all the other stuff (open shelves, range hood, cabinetry, counters, cork floors, soft grellow walls, the fireplace, art, window treatments, lighting, etc).

Here’s our tile sample getting cozy on the faux-sheepskinned ottoman in the living room. Looks right at home, right?

And here’s our sample tile paired with the cork flooring sample, the swatch card with our kitchen wall color, a Klean Kanteen (to represent our stainless appliances) and a white ceramic tile (to represent the white cabinets – once we paint them). Can you see it coming together? We couldn’t be more excited.

But before we can get our tile on (and share all the as-we-go steps), we have to do pretty much everything else in the kitchen (the backsplash is one of the last things that goes in after cabinets are set and appliances are installed and counters are in, etc). We’re planning to do some other demo/appliance moving tonight though, so if all goes well we’ll have those pics to share tomorrow! Slowly but surely. Or as Clara says “slowly, slowly” (if you ask her what a sloth says, that’s her answer).

Has anyone else bought tile (for the backsplash, floor, bathroom, etc) lately? Did you also hit up at least five stores and even check things out online before pulling the trigger? We never spend this much time on things like paint (which can easily be redone) – but things like tile and flooring and counters definitely seem to take us some time! How do the people on Design Star make all these decisions in five minutes? Maybe because it’s not a room they actually have to live in for years to come? Maybe that’s where the pressure comes in? Then again, they do have Vern and Candice and Genevieve judging them on national television. So yeah, there’s that kind of pressure…


    • says

      Maybe around January? Since we’re doing it all ourselves and have a huge list of major projects (add a peninsula, get new counters and floors, paint the cabinets, retile the backsplash, etc) it’s gonna take some time. Our last kitchen took 113 days to complete and we had a ton of hired help on that- so I bet this one will take longer because it’s bigger and we’re doing more on our own…


  1. says

    I love it! White kitchens feel so clean and fresh to me! And you can change the decor up and completely change the way the room feels without changing anything major at all.

    Dana over at House Tweaking is using a really similar penny tile in her bathroom!

  2. jennifer says

    i love penny tiles! if i ever have to remodel a kitchen again, i want to use those. in our last remodel we used white subway tiles, but penny tiles seem so much more fun!

    • kristy says

      I was just going to say Dana @ House Tweaking is using the same tile!

      I’m lobbying for the green-ish penny tile for the flooring in our upcoming bathroom remodel. I saw it at overstock.com, and will definitely price compare with The Tile Shop before we purchase!

  3. Tae says

    I love the idea of open shelving, and the penny tile is going to look so good!! Are you planning to add an extra beam to the kitchen like the photo in your post this morning? Is there just that one beam running through the kitchen right now?

    • says

      There are actually three running through so we think we’ll just leave them all where they are (adding another one would mean spacing them all out again).


  4. Jen M says

    Oh, love that backsplash! Dana over at House Tweaking will be using the exact same tiles on her bathroom floor. I even think she’s using the same colour.

  5. says

    I’ve been a huge fan of your fantastically informative blog for a long time now. Figured it was time I broke the silence and gave you some props! The penny tile is fabulous. I can’t wait to see the completed kitchen! Keep up the great work, you two. :)

  6. says

    fabulous!! i can’t wait to see it all come together. i have a feeling, if you’re anything like me, you’re sitting all criss-cross applesauce on the floor staring and smiling at your little sample scene. you are, aren’t you? you are.

    we had a big tile choosing experience last month, thanks to two tiny leaks under the shower pan in our master bathroom. to fix them, we had to demo most of the bathroom, so while we were at it, we gave the whole room a facelift. take a look and let me know what you think! i’d love to hear your opinion!!


  7. Cortney says

    So exciting can’t wait to see it finished! I love the shape, I have a thing for circles, well anything geometric. I actually have never seen this type of tile before. I love seeing everything all together.

    Question if u get a chance? I remember reading somewhere you made your sheepskin rugs? What is the name of the type of fabric you used? Thanks so much!

    • says

      I don’t know the name but I just went to a big fabric store (sort of like a warehouse) and felt them all until I found a faux fur that felt the most thick and plush so it would be convincing. So sorry I don’t have more info for ya!


    • says

      Ooh that’s gorgeous! So sorry you didn’t know about the discount! We always list all of them on our sidebar with a title above it that says “Discounts” and mention them in our monthly sponsor posts – hope it helps!


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