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Mar 18, 2012 12:53 PM

Which Kitchen Tiles to go with my Soapstone Countertop?

I'd love your suggestions for tiles to go with my soapstone countertop. I'm getting 12x12" soapstone tiles from Alberene Soapstone- the Church Hill variety, with soapstone v-cap edge tiles from Vermont Soapstone. The counter will eventually be dark charcoal-gray-to-black. Now I need to choose tiles for the backsplash and pony wall counter. This is the fun part, I feel like a kid in a candy shop! Go ahead- enable me!

The kitchen is a small "L", each counter is 64" long (inside measurement) with 26" deep counters . The east side has the sink and pony wall, with the living room on the other side. The backsplash for the pony wall above the sink can be 4"-6", and the raised counter will be about 16" across the top. The sink will be 33" stainless steel, single bowl.

The south side of the "L" just has a backsplash that's 24" high and about 7-feet long, with wall cabinets above it. It's going to have a 30" inlaid butcher's block, but no stove or anything to break up the countertop (using portable induction hobs for cooking). The refrigerator (white) is on the far end of this counter, in the corner.

The cabinets are going to be a natural unstained maple with linseed oil and beeswax finish- slightly golden but not yellow. They could be painted as an alternative, as long as it's zero-VOC paint (I have multiple chemical sensitivity). Floor is a neutral light beige porcelain tile.

Option 1: Zen - I fell in love with a glossy sage green 12x12 tile called Praga Verde for the backsplash (see photo). But I think it'll be too much to use it for the pony wall and counter as well, and I don't know what other tile to use for pony wall etc. if I go with it.

Black counters, maple cabinets and calm green backsplash would create a peaceful kitchen. What other tile would look good for the pony wall?

Option 2: Mexican - I found these beautiful Mexican Talavera tiles (see photo). My inner child wants these for the backsplash. They'd be fun! But do they really "go" with soapstone, and again, what to do for the pony wall/counter?

Option 3: ???

I hope this isn't too wordy, just wanted to give you an idea of the kitchen. Any ideas?

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  1. I would recommend the soapstone for the pony wall counter since that is another horizontal surface and then have fun with the backsplash. Otherwise, you might risk having the eye jump around too much.

    3 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      Unfortunately I can't afford more soapstone. I did play around with a matte black ceramic tile, and some gray porcelain tiles for the pony wall counter and didn't like it. It's too dark- soaks up all the light.

      Maybe white or cream for the pony wall counter (or even a pale mint) would complement the black soapstone and not compete with the green? A friend suggested light salmon pink tile, but I can't find any.

      1. re: shiny

        I don't understand why you would use light salmon pink--unless you are going retro. What is the color scheme/vibe of the living room. Wouldn't you want to take that into account since the pony wall tile will be in there two since the space is open?

        1. re: escondido123

          Color scheme LOL! The house has NO style or color scheme- it's a 1986 mobile home. The only things nice about it are the tile floors which my late husband put in, and my leather sofa, which my cats have given a "patina". ANYTHING I do to this place will be an improvement!

          My mom loved antiques. Her house was so eclectic- if she liked it, it didn't matter what style it was, or from what era. Oddly enough, it worked! So I'm not too worried about say, a Zen or Mexican style in the kitchen with leather and wood in the living room. The cabinets and floor are neutral enough to work with anything.

          Pink tile wasn't my first choice- a lot of people hate it. Plus, I can't seem to find pink tiles anywhere.

          The green sample tile I have has a pale mint color on the edges which might make a nice color for the pony counter.

    2. I love the color accent of Talavera tiles, I have used them in Mexico and Colorado. They are fragile, not exactly uniform in size, have a slight hollow in the underside, and require a knowledgable craftsman to set them. But they are beautiful and add a little human touch and movement side by side with stone of any type. Talavera talks to you, stone doesn't. Cemeteries are stone.

      6 Replies
        1. re: Veggo

          "Talavera talks to you, stone doesn't."

          I like this :-)

          It might be easier to color complement the Talavera than the green Prago Verde tile. I could use a solid color tile for the pony counter- one that picks up a color in the Talavera. But would this "go" with soapstone?

          1. re: Veggo

            A single row of Talavera in a backsplash might indeed be very tasteful. But I think that more than that would be very busy looking - IMO. A tumbled beige travertine backsplash, properly accented with Talavera ... might look awesome. You might need to use pencils or OGs to aid the visual transition ... I'm not sure unless a bunch of tiles were laid out - to really see it.

            They also do make some porcelain tiles that do a "decent' job of looking like tumbled travertine. But the real thing is incomparable. If I recall correctly, Florida Tile makes some of the porcelain versions. But we went with natural stone tiles. Please see the attached photos. A single quart of a good sealer (aquamix) is needed to protect the stone (in the kitchen I'd use 3 coats).

            What you see in the shower walls is tumbled beige travertine - but it's also color enhanced. Sealers can enhance or not - depending on what you want. Without enhancement, these tiles are much lighter. But there are MANY variations of beige and noce tiles. One will likely be really nice paired up with your counter and whatever you use for a trim.

            1. re: PepinRocks

              I've been looking at Florida Tile for the last hour- thanks! Can't do the travertine because I can't use sealers (multiple chemical sensitivity), but they have some really pretty tile.

              Someone is bound to ask what I plan to seal the grout with... I'm going with SpectraLock. It's inert once dry and never needs sealing.

              Thank you, guys and gals for all the ideas. I appreciate it no end.

              1. re: shiny

                I would really suggest not going with two tiles in addition to the soapstone because it could become busy. I would suggest settling on one tile and using it wherever necessary.

                1. re: shiny

                  If you use epoxy grout, you won't have to seal it. Just be sure to wear gloves, so that it doesn't get on your hands. This is a must.

                  Similarly, if you do like travertine, you can seal it BEFORE installation (we did that with 2 coats), while wearing gloves. I sealed ours without gloves and experienced no reaction at all (and I do have sensitive skin) - but I was using a brush and didn't intentionally get any on me. We put a 3rd coat on after installation. Before you seal, simply scrub the tiles with a plastic brush in a plastic bin filled with water - to get rid of all the dust etc - then let them dry for a day before you seal them. Travertines from Florida Tile won't be as economical, as a shop that specializes in them. Do some google searches and call around. We found a big shop that has a massive variety of natural travertine for only $4 a square foot. It's easy to do and the results will be spectacular.

                  When it comes to Florida Tile, there will be a WIDE variety in the price from one dealer to another. In my experience, a dealer that carries a LOT of their line will probably have better prices - in some cases $2-3 a square foot cheaper.

            2. What do you think of stainless steel subway tiles? They might be really nice in a sort of Zen-modern way. Or for a similar effect for less money, a plain or "quilted" stainless backsplash (like they have in old-school diners), even mirror. Super easy to clean and won't fight with any other colors you bring into the kitchen.

              1. If you are looking at green you might consider a green onyx tile like this: or a smaller size for the back splash. We used honey onyx in our kitchen for the backsplash.

                1. Based on your description of your cabinetry, I believe a backsplash in a similar colour palate/style to the one in the attached link would suit your space. What I like about this option is that the backsplash colours integrate the grey/blacks of the counter stone with the warm tan/brown colours of the cabinets: