Travertine has been used as a building and decorating material for thousands of years. Known for its rustic beauty and elegance, travertine lends a sense of timelessness to any space. However, some wonder if travertine backsplashes feel dated or out of style in contemporary homes. There are valid reasons for this perception, but there are also ways to use travertine backsplashes that feel fresh and current.
What is Travertine?
Travertine is a type of limestone formed by mineral springs. When the hot, mineral-rich water flows through limestone, it dissolves the calcium carbonate in the rock. As the water loses carbon dioxide, some of the dissolved calcium carbonate recrystallizes and forms travertine.
Travertine comes in a range of earthy colors from ivory and tan to rust and brown. It forms with pitted surfaces, veins, and natural holes throughout. These variances in color and texture provide visual depth and interest. Travertine has been quarried for centuries from places like Italy, Turkey, and Iran.
The Appeal of Travertine
So what makes travertine enticing as a backsplash or countertop material? There are several key qualities that contribute to its popularity:
- Natural beauty – The variations in travertine’s colors and textures emulate the patterns found in nature. This gives spaces a sense of organic, rustic charm.
- Historic feel – Travertine conjures images of Roman architecture and ancient ruins. The patina of age makes travertine feel distinguished.
- Durability – As a form of limestone, travertine is incredibly durable and withstands daily wear and tear. Properly sealed, it can last for decades.
- Versatility – Travertine comes in tile, slab, and brick forms. This allows design flexibility for backsplashes, floors, walls, countertops, and beyond.
- Value – Natural stone materials like travertine often cost less than options like marble or granite. Travertine provides an affordable way to get the look of stone.
These qualities help explain travertine’s popularity in home design over the centuries. But tastes change, so it’s natural to question if travertine feels dated today.
Does Travertine Feel Outdated?
For some designers and homeowners, travertine backsplashes can evoke a sense of the past more than the present. Here are a few reasons travertine may feel outdated to some:
- Associations with Tuscan style – For years, Tuscan design was hugely popular in the U.S. The look featured travertine along with wood beams, wrought iron, and terracotta. While beautiful, it became overused.
- Perceptions of the 1990s/early 2000s – Travertine was ubiquitous during these decades. Some may associate it with this period and find it stale.
- Country kitchen clichés – Travertine backsplashes got overused as a backsplash choice in country kitchens. This may make them seem cliché or kitschy.
- Coloring and sealing – Travertine is often coated with dark brown sealants. This accentuates a rustic look that not everyone favors.
- Lack of design evolution – Unlike some natural stones, travertine use has remained relatively consistent. People associate it with past eras because it hasn’t adapted to current tastes.
For homeowners wanting a clean, contemporary look, heavily patined travertine may seem too reminiscent of decades past. But that doesn’t necessarily mean travertine can’t work today.
Making Travertine Feel Fresh Again
There are several ways travertine can be adapted to feel fresh, modern, and stylish in contemporary homes:
Use New Colors and Finishes
Travertine comes in a range of hues beyond basic brown. Many suppliers now offer travertine in colors like grey, cream, silver, white, blue, and more. Opting for a lighter, more neutral travertine instantly modernizes the look.
New travertine finishes like brushed, chiseled, and polished also lend a more contemporary edge. These finishes highlight the stone’s natural patterning while minimizing the rustic, heavily weathered effect.
Many people associate travertine with a completely homogenous look. But travertine has natural veins running through it like marble. Choosing pieces that showcase dramatic veining provides visual interest and a cleaner, more modern aesthetic.
Use Large-Scale Pieces
Travertine backsplashes typically utilize small mosaic tiles. While this has advantages, it can seem old-fashioned. Using larger travertine tiles, slabs, or bricks creates a more seamless, sophisticated look. Modern kitchens often have fewer grout lines and a more integrated style.
Incorporate With Other Materials
Travertine rarely has to be the only material used. Pairing travertine with contrasting materials like marble, quartz, or glass instantly freshens the whole look. Many contemporary backsplashes mix travertine with metal or stone accents. The blend feels more updated.
Focus on Simple Palettes
Tuscan-inspired kitchens overloaded travertine with ornate iron fixtures, carved wood details, and terra cotta. Simplifying the color scheme and décor helps travertine feel crisp and clean instead of fussy. Stick to minimalist styles to keep the look uncluttered.
Instead of travertine backsplashes floor to ceiling, use travertine more strategically as an accent. Flanking a cooktop with travertine tiles surrounded by white subway tile backsplash creates a modern pop of texture. Travertine niches, shelves, or behind sinks also feel fresh.
Modern Examples of Travertine Backsplashes
With a few tweaks to color, finish, and styling, travertine can look completely at home in contemporary kitchens. Here are some stunning modern uses of travertine backsplashes:
Light Grey Veined Travertine
This kitchen features large-scale, bookmatched slabs of travertine in a soft grey and ivory. The variation in the stone’s veining provides interest while the neutral color feels clean and modern. A polished finish and the lack of dark sealants keep the travertine looking fresh.
Mixed Grey and Ivory Travertine Tiles
Mixing complementary colors of travertine tile creates depth and visual interest. The smaller subway-style shape feels more contemporary than large tiles or slabs. The grey grout matches the grey veining for a cohesive look. Country touches are avoided.
White and Grey Linear Travertine
This backsplash uses linear travertine tiles in cool white and grey hues. The subtle grey veining enhances the stone’s linear quality. The contemporary kitchen pairs the travertine with streamlined cabinets, stainless steel, and white quartz. Crisp white open shelves keep the look light.
Travertine Accent Behind Range
This kitchen places travertine strategically behind the range only. The ivory and grey stone adds warmth between the crisp white upper and lower backsplashes. Using it as an accent, instead of on every wall, creates contrast and freshens the look.
Many modern backsplashes incorporate niches for displaying cookbooks or décor. Here, a grey travertine slab creates a striking open shelf. The more modern niche shape and metallic holders add to the contemporary vibe. Surrounding subway tiles also look cleaner than a full travertine wall.
Mixed Material Backsplash
Combining travertine with other backsplash materials integrates it seamlessly into modern kitchens. This backsplash pairs ivory travertine tiles with marble and metal accents. The mix of modern metals and natural stone feels stylish and current.
Travertine Finish Options
When selecting travertine, the finish makes a big difference in the overall aesthetic. Here are some popular finish options to consider:
- Honed – Matte and smooth but not glossy. This shows some natural texture but minimizes patina.
- Brushed – Subtly textured with ridged surface. More modern than heavily pitted finishes.
- Tumbled – Stone is tumbled with pebbles to soften edges. Maintains some natural pits and texture.
- Polished – Glossy and reflective finish. Enhances stone color and minimizes weathered look.
- Unfilled – No treatment to fill pits and holes. Rustic, natural look. Needs heavy sealing.
- Filled – Pits and voids filled to create a smoother surface. Easier maintenance.
The finishes can also be combined, like a honed and filled travertine that is smooth but still lightly textured. Each finish impacts the look, so view tile samples before deciding.
Caring for Travertine Backsplashes
While very durable, travertine does require some maintenance to look its best. Here are some care tips:
- Seal travertine backsplashes every 1-2 years to protect from stains and etching. Use a penetrating stone sealer, not a topical coating.
- Clean with pH-neutral stone cleaner and soft cloth regularly. Avoid abrasive scrubbers.
- Blot spills like wine or oil immediately to prevent stains.
- Re-hone or polish travertine if the surface becomes dull over time.
- Avoid exposing travertine to harsh acidic cleaners, dyes, or permanent inks.
With proper care, travertine backsplashes can remain beautiful for decades. Taking steps to seal and protect the stone will maintain the travertine’s quality.
Travertine Backsplash Ideas
Travertine’s natural beauty offers limitless possibilities for backsplash designs. Here are just a few ideas:
Frame out a niche above countertops or appliances to display items in style. Travertine’s earthy vibe pairs nicely with pottery, woven baskets, or books.
Use travertine tile shapes like hexagons or herringbone to create modern geometric backsplash designs. This surprises in travertine.
Just a strip of travertine behind sinks or ranges adds subtle charm. Go modern with polished linear tiles in soft grey.
Mixed Tile Shape
Alternating travertine tile sizes and shapes creates an eye-catching mosaic statement. Classical meets modern.
Bookmatched travertine slab backsplashes highlight striking veining for a clean, contemporary look. The large slabs feel fresh.
Oversized travertine tile shapes make a bold, graphic statement. Square, rectangle, or hexagon tiles can feel modern.
Is travertine outdated?
Travertine can feel outdated if the finish and color seem too rustic. But new travertine colors, minimalist designs, and integrating it with other materials can give travertine a modern, stylish look.
What is the most modern way to use travertine?
Choosing travertine in lighter, grey-toned colors with smoother finishes like honed or brushed creates a more contemporary look. Strategically using travertine in backsplashes as accents also modernizes it.
Should I avoid travertine if I want a modern kitchen?
Not necessarily. Travertine has innate beauty and durability that still works today. Just take care to avoid heavily pitted, stained travertine in basic brown. Instead, look for ways to adapt travertine to your modern aesthetic.
What backsplash is replacing travertine?
No single material has definitively replaced travertine. Homeowners today just have more options like oversized porcelain tile, glass, and unique natural stones. These may be perceived as more modern but travertine can certainly still work beautifully.
Is travertine timeless?
In many ways, yes. Travertine has endured for thousands of years as a building material because it offers subtle beauty and durability few materials can match. While some finishes may fall in and out of vogue, travertine itself remains inherently timeless and classic.
While travertine backsplashes may seem dated to some, the natural stone has timeless appeal that continues to work in many modern kitchens. Updating the colors, finishes, patterns and styling allow travertine to feel fresh and current for contemporary homes. Travertine’s beauty, texture, and durability make this natural stone a lasting choice when thoughtfully incorporated into new designs. With an updated perspective, travertine backsplashes can be an elegant and charming focal point. Their allure is far from outdated.