The neutral-colored tiles in this bathroom look subtly edgier and more modern simply because they are arranged vertically.
Photo courtesy of Walker Zanger
Turn It Around
It might not seem revolutionary, but a vertical tile backsplash makes a striking statement compared with horizontal tiles.
By Patricia Rivera
There's something about a typical rectangular tile turned on its head that makes it stand out.
"We see a lot of horizontal tile and square tile on the market, and it's refreshing to see something unique," said Rebekah Zaveloff, principal of the KitchenLab in Chicago and a contributor to Houzz.com, an interior decorating website.
Vertically oriented tiles in backsplashes can be used in the kitchen or as accent pieces in the bathroom or transitional spaces.
Zaveloff recommends using the vertical arrangement for modern ceramic tiles, such as the new Regina Heinz line at Ann Sacks, a Chicago-based tile company owned by Kohler.
"To really get that 'wow' look, you want to mix materials and create something with some texture," said Alice Liao, executive editor at Kitchen and Bath Business (K+BB) magazine.
Embossed or ribbed patterns also work well for a vertical application, as do long, rec-tangular glass tiles in a mix of glossy and frosted. Or, use a small vertical tile design in the middle of horizontally laid tile to make a punchy statement.
Liao recommends using natural stone tiles, such as slate, marble or granite. Palettes are often neutral and subdued without flashy patterns, she said.
"People want something that blends in with their home and that they can live with for several years," she said.
Zaveloff said plain white subway tile, which was popular at the turn of the century, can make a splash when placed in a vertical pattern. "I've seen basic white subway tile set on the vertical and stacked for a modern approach to a classic tile," she said.
To create an offset pattern that tends to be more dramatic, set the first row and raise the next by about the length of half a tile. Randomize the offset distance to create an even edgier aesthetic.
"Vertical tile accentuates height and draws attention," Liao said.
Zaveloff favors the stacked pattern on the bottom half of a bathroom wall to create the illusion of wainscoting.
She also likes the look of vertical backsplash in its intended location, behind the stove, to protect the wall from cooking damage.
The best part of this design choice? Vertical tiling won't hit the wallet harder than any other tile, since it's not about the materials but the application. Zaveloff said the cost ranges from $5 to $50 per square foot — from basic factory-produced tiles to designer handmade tiles.
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