This Kitchen Backsplash Looks Like a Stone Slab, But Costs $8K Less

All thanks to this clever purchase.
Lydia Geisel Avatar
oak wood island

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Anyone who has ever renovated a property will insist you add an extra 30 percent of your total cost to your budget. The line item? The unexpected. Usually, an unforeseen leak, a finicky heat pump, or a foundation crack. But for photographer and director Harper Smith and her husband, Cameron Duddy, the bass guitarist for the band Midland, it amounted to an entire kitchen remodel. In the process of renovating the Dripping Springs, Texas, home they’ve owned for nearly a decade, they discovered that the exterior walls had been poorly constructed—all of them would need to be torn down, including the ones supporting the kitchen cabinets. “We ended up having to rip out the kitchen against our will,” says Smith. The silver lining: The drab, brown space was “zero percent cute,” so they were at least able to justify the reno from a style perspective.

Right away, the couple; their designer, Amy Pigliacampo; and their contractor, Strong Roots Development, started thinking of clever ways to make the surprise project less expensive. Giving up on having a “badass full slab” of Calacatta Viola marble for a backsplash was one such solution. “I could find some slabs that were affordable, but the pieces were all too small or there wasn’t a beautiful violet tone to them,” Smith recalls. Most quotes were in the $9,000 to $10,000 ballpark. “So it was like, I’m either going to spend a bunch of money on a slab that’s not the right color or we’re going to have to find a different way.” That different way was tile.

oak wood and stone kitchen

A little research led them to Artistic Tile’s 18-by-18-inch honed marble tile. Compared to other Calacatta Viola tiles Smith sampled, these were the only ones within her budget that didn’t have a glossy printed appearance. Between the materials and labor, Smith guesses their backsplash cost them a mere $1,800. “Plus the company was great to work with; a couple broke and they sent new ones right away,” she says. (Editor’s note: Right now the brand is only carrying 24-by-24 and 12-by-24 options.)

stone kitchen backsplash

Viola Reale 24-by-24-Inch Marble Tile , Artistic Tile

The only real instruction Smith and Pigliacampo gave the tile installer was to group the pieces that had the most dramatic veining over the stovetop. Their logic: Those six tiles are the first thing you see when you’re walking down the stairs in the morning.

terrazzo shower tile

This clever fake-out wasn’t just applicable to the kitchen. The couple’s shower is swathed in large 12-by-24-inch black terrazzo tile from Direct Stone Source, but the hack is even less noticeable because the pattern is so busy and the dark grout blends right in. “It seems seamless,” says Smith.

As for the floor tiles, those were all made by Smith and Duddy in her mom’s ceramic studio after they decided they couldn’t afford Cle Tile’s Fornace Brioni collection. “I had a kiln and a husband who was totally down to help,” shares Smith. The only thing better than saving $8,000 on material costs is making the stuff yourself.

Terrazzo Nero Matte 12-by-24-Inch Porcelain Tile, Direct Stone Source

Lydia Geisel Avatar

Lydia Geisel

Home Editor

Lydia Geisel has been on the editorial team at Domino since 2017. Today, she writes and edits home and renovation stories, including house tours, before and afters, and DIYs, and leads our design news coverage. She lives in New York City.