Border or no border with a ceramic subway tile back splash?

Fun2LearnOctober 3, 2012

Hi everyone. What do you all think: decorative border or no border with a ceramic subway tile back splash? Most of the photos I see in magazines of ceramic subway tile back splashes do not have a decorative border of any kind, but I think I may want to do one along the bottom, just above the first row of tile, because I don't have any other place for a decorative feature wall, since we knocked down the top of the wall behind the range (we have a raised snack bar there) and there is a window above the sink. I am afraid it will be too boring if I don't do anything "extra" other than the plain tile. What do you all think? I'd love to see photos of your subway tile back splashes with and without borders. (See my photos below!)

After 2 years of looking at every possiblity for a backsplash tile (you may have seen my various posts here over the years!), I finally came back to the tile I liked best at the very first (until a salesman tried to convince me I needed to put in some sort of stone tile to improve my resale value--which led me on a fruitless 2-year search!) It is a subway tile with a very subtle crackle glaze in a warm, not-too gray, biscuit color that complements my light-colored, busy granite and honey-spice maple cabinets. Yipee! (It's Horus Art's "cristalli" 2.5" x 5", hand-made look subway tile.)

Now I just have to decide if I want to do some sort of decorative border with it: either a ceramic "liner" type listello or moulding in the same tile line, and/or a row or two of some sort of mosaic tile border. I would put it right above the first row of tile above the counter, so it would carry around the whole room, even under the raised snack bar area--and thus eliminate having to cut a tile to fit under there, as well. (I have a 4 3/4" clear wall space there underneath the snack bar.)

At the tile store, the sales lady cautioned me that mosaic tile borders that don't relate closely to the "field" tile can look out-of-place unless you do a tile listello or ceramic liner or pencil border with it. Those do get pricey $$$, however. (Horus' simple "dome" liner would be $7.75 for a 1" x 5" piece!--ouch!) Money is pretty tight right now, but I don't want to skimp only to regret it later.

If I go with a mosaic tile border, I was thinking about possibly some sort of tumbled onyx (white or honey?) to complement the soft gold tones in my granite and honey maple cabinets, but am open to any options. I like simple traditional, classic looks (I don't want either too formal and ornate or too contemporary). My kitchen is open on one side to the dining room (where we knocked down the upper part of the wall)and the family room on the other side, with a large brick fireplace. It is a busy, not too big space, with a lot going on, so I do need to keep it somewhat simple, but don't want boring!!

Here is an photo from the family room looking towards the kitchen (we have since replaced the chandelier with oil-rubbed bronze pendants over the penninsula)The floor will eventually be refinished in a darker gun-stock color, to add some needed contrast, too.

Here is a photo looking the other way, toward the family room with the brick fireplace. The family room is only about 12 feet wide, so it feels almost in the same room as the kitchen.

Here is a close up of the Horus tiles. The bisquit color I like is the one on the far right. The mosaic tile on the top of the samples is a glass one that I don't think I like too well- but it gives an idea of where I was thinking of a border.(The lighting makes the granite and tiles a bit darker than it is in real life. Also, ignore the greenish cast from the lighting in the corner!)

Here is a very rough photoshop attemptmade from the above photo from just the one tile sample(looks ungrouted, which it is of course!) Ignore the greenish cast in the corner--not a true representation at all!) I don't like that particular mosaic, but it gives an idea. In real life, the tile and the granite don't really appear than dark, but my camera isn't very good I guess!

Thanks for any help you can give me!

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I was all set to say NO border, works with your kitchen, and I prefer it. :)

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 1:16PM
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Thanks Heidia, for your feedback!

Here are a few more photoshop attempts I just did. I tried to correct the lighting and color, and didn't have much luck. I did use the "auto smart fix" which did help lighten it so it appears closer to real life, though still not quite there. The tile is honestly not that beigey in real life, nor is the granite!)

Here is a border with some tumbled Jerusalem gold (stone) mosiacs (taken from a photo I took in a store). Do you think it looks a bit narrow--maybe three rows would be better?

And here is a photoshop attempt to see what no border at all would look like--do you think it looks too plain?:

Thanks again, in advance for any advice you can give.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 2:21PM
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I'm with Heidia...I was all set to say no border, but it really does look good! I prefer the darker border to the multi colored one. Nice kitchen!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 2:53PM
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How 'bout a pencil liner instead of a border?

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 3:08PM
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I am a fan of the tile border. Can you find tile that picks up on the colors in your countertop? It's reading green and gold on my computer screen. Maybe a glass tile in a brick pattern cut up in rows of three?

Here is a link that might be useful: Glass Tile

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 3:27PM
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Like the others, I was all set to be anti-border. But I agree that border #1 really works with your kitchen, and I prefer it to borderless #3 as well as border #2. I also really like Angie_DIY's suggestion of a pencil liner. And your photoshop mockups look fantastic. I wouldn't call them rough.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 4:07PM
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I like border #1.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 6:06PM
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I like the border but I think it needs more contrast. You can use the border to pull in the colors of the gorgeous counter top! I love the field tile - stay with your gut on that one!!

Disclaimer - of course I like a border - I just installed ours a couple weeks ago (with a little help from our tile guy - OK totally done by the tile installer..)

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 8:46PM
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Border #1 gets another vote!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 9:30PM
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I also like #1. I think it compliments your pretty granite.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 10:06PM
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No additional tile. Just field tile. You have enough going on with the arched, raised cabs and deco valance over the sink. Plus, the room is open enough to the other rooms that the visual of the kitchen includes the decor in those rooms.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 12:10AM
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I have to agree with breezy. I think the colors work well but I don't care for the border with the subway tile.
If you are really set on a border, would you consider one like 2gemini's?

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 7:36AM
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I have never been a fan of a border tile running around the room. Sorry, just my opinion. If anything, maybe something in the same color as the field tile but different shape, like a pencil, or 1/2 round, etc just to give it some dimension and create interest that way.

Again, this is just my personal opinion. No offense meant to those with the border stripes. Like Breezy said, your kitchen has enough interest already.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 8:12AM
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I really like Border 1. I think no border is very plain and boring. Border 2 seems to be including some odd colors that don't really appear in the granite.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 1:16PM
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When you did your photoshopping, you took everything off the counter to really show off the border options. It looks like, from the first pictures you posted, that in real like you have some stuff on the counter, including a very lovely pitcher and bowl set.
I like it simple, without a border. It is lovely tile, a beautiful color with a great sheen, it seems calming and soothing.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 1:37PM
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These both happen to be Crema Marfil, not ceramic tile... but I've seen lots of ceramic with just a line of accent right where you are putting it. I think that will look GREAT!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 2:22PM
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I also like border #1.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 3:39PM
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agree with others, no border

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 4:43PM
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No border.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 4:49PM
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i have to agree with the others on "no border".

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 6:42PM
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Simple borders aren't allowed now either? I think it works--the granite's not busy and it's a subtle way to add a little personality. It solves a tile fitting problem too, so I say go for it!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 10:00PM
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Thanks so much, everyone for your feedback. Since we may have to move soon for job reasons, it is good to get lots of feedback--we don't want to do anything that would turn off a potential sale in the future (and if we stay, I want to love it!) I have been looking at this for far too long and am afraid that I am no longer seeing it objectively, but as I hope it will turn out (if that makes any sense!)I need some objective eyes.

I have spent the day looking and looking at my samples and counter and photo-shopping. (My husband is ready to divorce me if I don't get this figured out soon!LOL)

It seems that opinion is divided so far! I'm glad to hear that some of you like it without the border, I was worried it would look too plain,as that is something to consider and definitely the least expensive option.

Angie DIY: I like the idea of a pencil liner--the tile ones with the tile I like are pricey, though. Maybe a contrasting one, like you have. I like what you did around the window. It is very retro looking and seems to go well with your kitchen.

Annettecm: I love your border, too! I also took home samples of crema marfil, but it just didn't work with my granite. Your border looks quite elegant with it and like it was born to go with it.

a2gemini: I love your border,and backsplash (and kitchen)! I remember your posts from a while ago about it--is that rixi crema tile for the field tile? I love that tile, and so wanted to convince myself that it went with my granite, but it really wasn't complementary to it. May I ask what the name of your border is and where you got it? I don't know if it would work with my tile in real life, but I did a cut and paste and did a photoshop with it in my kitchen! (See below) Pretend that the whitish mosaics are more creamy to better match my tiles--also, do yu think that it looks better with a pencil liner (see that option below, too). My subways are only 2.5" inches high, and it seems like a border should be much narrower than the row of tile. Opinions?

Here is the one with the pencil liner:

This is a more subtle border, just a mini glass brick with some variety in texture and mottling. Maybe too plain?

This is with a mosaic tile I found at home depot. I loved how the colors seemed to tie in everything (the darkest tile is sort of a reddish brown that seems to pick up the garnet in the granite, though it looks almost black in this photo.) However, after photoshopping, I think it might be too much of a contrast--what do you all think?

Here is the same border mosaic, but only one row to accomodate a tile pencil liner. Are the proportions better do you think?

a2gemini's diagonal tile backsplash inspired me to try that option, as well. I do have a diagonal corner on my penninsula, and diagonal fretwork "cutouts" on the wood valance over the window. I put some glass mosaic dots here, but they could be eliminated or perhaps changed to something less contrasting. Perhaps, since I don't have any place for a "feature" on my backsplash, I could do something more interesting overall? Thoughts? (By the way--the lighting here (done without flash) is probably the closest to reality of all the photos! What is your opinion of the basic color of my tile with my cabinets?

Thanks for looking!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 6:29PM
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I hope you don't mind me asking you all to look at all these photoshopped pics! Here is one I forgot to post:
It is the clear/frosted/mottled glass mini-brick border but with a pencil tile liner. From this photo, you can also sort of imagine how it would lookwith just a tile pencil liner, too.

Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 6:40PM
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If you are selling I think a border has a lot more chance of feedback than no border. Meaning, if the bs was just subway, then there probably won't be comments like "I wish there was a border" because they don't know what they are missing, but if there is a border and potential buyers might say " I don't like the border". Buyers are quite picky and insane these days. Been there, done that.

If you think you aren't selling, then by all means do what you like. Life is too short to just be designing your home for a potential possibility you might sell it.

No matter what, it will look clean, current, and fresh. And those are always good.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 6:43PM
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If there's a chance you will soon be selling your house, I believe it's important to keep the backsplash neutral. I would suggest you add interest by placing a dot, or rope, or vine, whatever you like, to create interest, but a subtle interest - keep it the same color. Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 10:41PM
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I like the two-row mosaic from Home Depot.

Bee speaks sagaciously, however!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 10:52PM
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I don't like borders with subways. I can't explain why. So I would vote for the tile on the diagonal like 2gemini's.
I like the simple pencil border that you show with it too.
And BTW your photo shops are great.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 11:01PM
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Love the very first option, with the slightly darker border, which seems to coordinate very well with your granite. It was hands down for me.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 11:47PM
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no border. subways are classic and meant to be clean and simple. if you are selling, just go subways, save some money and not risk turning off a buyer.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 10:46AM
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No border. The only thing I'd consider with subways is a pencil in the same color/finish.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 1:14PM
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no border, agree with babushka...

sorry but it looks like you are trying to hard...

keep it simple and clean

if you want some contrast, go with a darker subway tile w/ no border.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 9:23AM
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In car, on phone, not driving - so cryptic so don't get carsick.
Our BS is Rixi Crema.
I don't like the beach or crystal with your cabinets - how about the 1inch mosaic that u found
I want to see ur photoshop on a big computer screen to look more closely. Limited Internet until Sunday but if I get a chance....

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 10:35AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I like the border #2 in that I think it picks up on the color in your cabinetry and it reminds me of the golden orange border that is in your lamp shades as well. I'm not a fan of the dots...

Just keep in mind that when you run a border so low that a lot of it will be blocked by stuff you have on the counter.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 10:55AM
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