Fall 2023 ORC Week 4: Making Travertine Tile Work

One Room Challenge - New Build Kitchen, Projects

Fall 2023 ORC Week 4: Making Travertine Tile Work

When I joined this season’s One Room Challenge, I knew I needed to make a big impact per dollar spent. This is a budget kitchen renovation, yet at the same time I’m determined to make it my dream kitchen!

Tiling is probably my favorite DIY task. It’s what I look forward to the most in any kitchen or bathroom renovation. Choosing the tile, however, often becomes a situation where I’m buying and returning tile over and over again.

This time, I had a vision for a “cottage chic” kitchen with a stone backsplash. Here are some of my inspiration photos:

The Tile I Chose

Well, I couldn’t afford stone for the backsplash so I searched around Facebook Marketplace and found some cheap travertine for sale that came out to about $1.70 per square foot. And if you don’t know much about tile pricing, let me tell you that is a very good price. Decision made (and hours saved)!

A box of vanilla travertine tile
Tumbled travertine tile I found second-hand!

This wasn’t as spontaneous as it seems. I’ve actually used travertine subway tile before, years ago on a fireplace and loved the result. See video below for that fun project!


So I knew more or less what the end result would look like. Do you see that with the extra grout and wider spacing makes it look sort of Old World? Over-grouting also covers a lot of the color of travertine. Sounds funny I’m using travertine when I don’t want an orange tone, but with the white grout, the color turned out exactly how I wanted.

Installing the Travertine Tile

There are two main differences in my fireplace travertine installation versus my kitchen backsplash. This time, I used smaller spacers. I also chose a running bond pattern (instead of a 1/3 offset pattern that I used on the fireplace project).

This made the backsplash installation less rustic than my fireplace install, and while I’m still not sure which would have looked better in the end, I rolled with it and crossed my fingers for something earthy-yet-polished.

How I Made Travertine Work

Not long ago I visited a flooring retailer in search of natural stone for a client. I asked to see limestone or travertine samples, and the sales rep said “travertine is out now, we don’t carry it”. This is nonsense!

Now here me out. Travertine can look outdated. It was a staple in the early 2000s when the Mediterranean look was in. So when people think of travertine, they may think of this….

This is an amazing gourmet kitchen, but so much of what you see here wouldn’t be top sellers today – speckled granite, elaborate cabinet doors, and a lot of orange and brown!

However, I believe just about any natural element can work in interior design if you re-work the shape, color, and the room around it. See my post about shiplap and paneling being here to stay for the same reasons. So here we have travertine. We cut into a subway tile shape and size, then use white grout to mask the orange. Already a very different look than the backsplash in the above photo.

Now just add features in the design style you are going for. In this case I’m going for a modern English cottage aesthetic.

Sneak peak of progress in the kitchen

There you have it. My take on making travertine look polished, Earthy, organic, and a touch of modern… instead of Tuscan… and orange.

ORC Checklist & Progress So Far

  • New range
  • Add cabinet hardware
  • Replace laminate countertops with espresso butcher block
  • Replace backsplash and bring it to the ceiling
  • Swap out microwave for DIY range hood
  • New faucet
  • Paint island green (recently added to wishlist)
  • Add island molding (recently added to wishlist)
  • Install vertical panelling on surrounding walls (nixed this idea)
  • New countertop/built-in microwave
  • Incorporate open shelving
  • Sconces?
  • Gallery rail above cabinets?

Check out the blog next week for a step-by-step of my fluted vent hood trim!

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