A penny tile bathroom backsplash can add vintage elegance and timeless style to your space. These classic round tiles in miniature scales are making a major comeback in modern and traditional homes alike. With so many colors, patterns, materials and layout options, penny tiles offer versatility for achieving your dream bathroom design aesthetic. We’ll explore everything you need to know to install penny tile with confidence.
What are Penny Tiles?
Penny tiles, also sometimes called coin tiles or centavo tiles, are very small, round ceramic or porcelain tiles typically ranging from 1″ to 2″ in diameter. They are called “penny” tiles because their diminutive size resembles that of an old British penny.
Despite their petite size, penny tiles make a bold statement and bring antique character to modern bathrooms. Their rounds shapes and closely stacked arrangement create a playful pattern when installed in a grid-like design on walls, backsplashes, shower floors and more.
While historically penny tiles were only available in a few colors like red, black or white, today you can find them in every hue imaginable. There are also numerous materials like glass, marble or terrazzo, bringing unique textures and high-end luxury to the tiny tile trend.
Benefits of Using Penny Tiles for Bathroom Backsplash
There are many advantages to choosing penny tiles for a backsplash installation:
- Vintage appeal – Penny tiles have an inherent old-world, antique look that brings warmth and character to any space. The small rounds shapes and scale are reminiscent of early 20th century design.
- Pattern versatility – With myriad colors and materials available, penny tiles can be arranged in limitless patterns. Contrasting colors in geometric shapes or intricate mosaics create visual interest.
- Easy maintenance – The tiny grout lines between each penny tile help prevent water and grime buildup, making cleaning and upkeep easy. Their smooth surfaces simply need a periodic wipe down.
- Lovely focal point – A penny tile backsplash draws the eye upward and creates a stunning focal point in the room. It can be a piece of artwork in itself.
- Durable material – Porcelain penny tiles are very durable and resistant to scratches, stains and moisture. With proper installation, they can last for decades.
Popular Styles and Colors for Penny Tiles
Now that you understand the unique benefits of penny tiles, let’s explore some of the most popular colors, styles and layouts for achieving different design aesthetics:
Classic White, Red and Black
A classic combination of white, red and black penny tiles has old-world European charm. The contrast pops against both light and dark cabinetry. Laying the tiles in a checkerboard pattern or framing a red center with black and white borders are eye-catching options.
Vintage Blues and Greens
For a vintage or farmhouse aesthetic, soft colored tiles in shades like sky blue, periwinkle, seafoam green or sage green evoke timeworn appeal. Pairing with white penny tiles adds nice contrast. Laying them in vertical or horizontal bands creates visually appealing dimension.
For a more eclectic, modern or artsy statement, choosing penny tiles in a rainbow of punchy bright colors is bold and fun. Contrasting hues like citron yellow, azure blue and magenta pink make the tiny tiles pop. Geometric or floral patterns work well.
For a more subtle approach, earthy neutrals like warm grays, beige, light brown and ivory are refined and elegant. Alternating matte and glossy tiles in the same color adds nice texture. Sophisticated layouts like herringbone and chevron patterns work beautifully.
Natural Materials like Marble and Terrazzo
For luxurious backsplashes, penny tiles made from marble, travertine, glass or terrazzo add upscale texture and one-of-a-kind natural beauty. The veining and tonal variations give dimensional nuance. Keeping the rest of the space rather simple allows the feature wall to shine.
As you can see, the options are almost endless when it comes to color and style! Choose hues that complement your cabinetry, flooring and other finishes.
Penny Tile Layout Ideas and Design Tips
Carefully planning the layout of your penny tiles is the key to creating an eye-catching focal point. Here are some popular arrangements and design suggestions:
Grid layout – Laying tiles in a basic grid pattern is the most common. This showcases each color and shape cleanly. Offsetting the grids slightly can add some interest.
Borders – Framing a colorful penny tile section with neutral borders in black, white or beige nicely enhances the design.
Shapes and patterns – Geometric shapes, floral designs, starburst medallions or zig-zag layouts are chic modern options.
Banding – Stacked horizontal bands of color are a simple way to add visual dimension. Varying the band widths adds even more depth.
Mixing direction – Laying some sections horizontally and others vertically creates aesthetic appeal. For example, a center medallion could be vertical while the surrounding tiles are horizontal.
Multiple materials – Mixing natural stone like marble with porcelain penny tiles can upgrade the look. Using glass, mother of pearl or metallic tiles as accents also adds luxe texture.
Niche and mirror framing – Penny tiles can beautifully accent niches and frame bathroom mirrors or medicine cabinets. Contrasting colors or patterns around each edge are striking.
Limit color palette – For small spaces, limiting to just 2-3 complementary colors avoids overwhelming the room. neutrals paired with one vibrant hue keeps the look cohesive.
Vary orientation – Angling some sections diagonally or even vertically adds striking visual dynamics. This works for niches, focal walls or shower floors.
Consider scale – Very tiny mosaic penny tiles paired with larger tiles exaggerates the precise detail. Multiple tile sizes can create depth and interest.
With so many colors and patterns possible, you can really get creative with your layout. Mix and match sizes, textures, materials and orientations to design a custom showcase that matches your personal taste and style.
How to Install Penny Tile Backsplash
Installing a penny tile backsplash is an intermediate DIY project that is very achievable for a motivated homeowner. Here are some step-by-step instructions:
Step 1: Plan the Layout
First, measure your backsplash area and sketch out the pattern or design you want to achieve. Account for focal areas like the stove back and center sections. Calculate the tiles needed based on square footage. Consider mixing materials or multi-sized tiles.
Step 2: Prepare the Surface
Thoroughly clean the backsplash area and remove any old tile, grout or adhesive. Fill any holes or uneven sections with spackle. The surface should be as smooth as possible. Allow any fillers to dry completely.
Step 3: Apply Mortar and Level
Mix thinset mortar adhesive according to instructions and apply liberally to the backsplash installation area using a notched trowel. Check for level in all directions with a spirit level tool.
Step 4: Set the Tiles
Following your layout design, carefully set each penny tile in the mortar, spacing them evenly. Use tile spacers between each one to achieve consistent spacing as you go. Keep everything plumb.
Step 5: Let Mortar Dry
Allow the thinset mortar to dry completely according to manufacturer directions. Usually at least 24 hours. Remove tile spacers gently with needle nose pliers. Avoid disturbing the tiles.
Step 6: Grouting
Mix grout according to package instructions. Apply over the entire installation using a rubber grout float. Push into joints and wipe away excess. Allow to dry before polishing again. Caulk edges if needed.
Step 7: Seal and Finish
Once grout has dried fully, seal the tiles and grout lines with a penetrating sealer suitable for the tile material. This prevents staining and damage. Admire your stunning new penny tile backsplash installation!
Always consult detailed installation guides to ensure you follow each step properly. Taking care with surface prep and using the right setting materials avoids issues down the road.
Penny Tile Backsplash Maintenance Tips
Penny tiles do require some periodic maintenance to look their best over time:
- Use a mild detergent and soft sponge or cloth to clean grease, dirt and grime. Avoid abrasive scrubbers.
- Re-seal the grout lines every 1-2 years with a grout sealing product to prevent staining and damage.
- For ceramic, porcelain or glass penny tiles, a sealer can also be applied to protect from moisture and potential etching.
- Check for any cracked, loose or missing grout. Re-grout those areas to match the existing grout lines.
- To keep colors vibrant, use ceramic tile cleaners formulated for removing residue build-up without damaging the surface.
With proper installation and care, your penny tile backsplash can stay beautiful for many years ahead. The intricate patterns and colors add a personalized touch of antique flair.
FAQs about Penny Tile Backsplashes
What is the best grout to use with penny tile?
For most porcelain, ceramic and glass penny tiles, a polymer-modified sanded grout is ideal. The fine sand provides durable filling between the tiny grout lines without scratching. White or gray tones keep the look subtle.
Can you use real pennies as penny tile?
While using actual pennies is creative in theory, they will quickly tarnish, corrode and discolor. The smooth, shiny copper finish will degrade rapidly in a wet bathroom environment. Stick with porcelain, ceramic, marble or glass penny tiles.
Should penny tiles go all the way to the ceiling?
Visually, it usually looks best to install penny tiles from counter to ceiling. This creates an uninterrupted focal feature. However, if your ceiling is unusually tall, going 3/4 up the wall also works well. Just finish the upper portion with painted drywall.
Can you install penny tiles directly over existing tile?
This is not recommended. The layers of old adhesive and grout can prevent the new tiles from properly adhering. Removing old tile allows inspection of the subsurface and installation of fresh mortar directly onto the backsplash area.
How are penny tiles different from subway tiles?
Subway tiles are square or rectangular, measure 2″ x 4″ to 3″ x 6″, and have modern origins. Penny round tiles are literally round, 1″ to 2″ in diameter, and mimic antique European tile designs. Subways create uniform grids while pennies allow more elaborate laying patterns.
Are penny tiles expensive?
Penny tiles are actually very affordable, ranging from $5 – $15 per square foot. This is cheaper than many larger format tile sizes. Their diminutive shape simply requires more meticulous installation work, driving up labor costs somewhat. But the materials themselves are reasonably priced for most budgets.
Final Thoughts on the Timeless Allure of Penny Tiles
With infinite colors, patterns, textures and materials to explore, penny tiles give you the creative freedom to design a backsplash that reflects your personal vision and style priorities. Their vintage vibe injects charm and character into any space. And their tiny size allows achieving striking designs in even the most modest bathroom.
Take some time to appreciate the nuances of color, sheen, spacing and orientation when planning your layout. Contrasting hues and multi-material combinations create eye-catching appeal. Whether aiming for an old-world antique look or a punchy modern statement, penny tiles offer the range and flexibility to bring your backsplash dreams to life.
The intricate installation process is manageable as a DIY project if care and attention to detail are taken. And the finished result will bring you joy and compliments for years to come. With just a bit of periodic sealing and cleaning, penny tiles retain their beauty while standing up to everyday use.
So embrace the penny tile trend and start designing the magnificent backsplash you’ve always imagined. These little vintage darlings provide timeless style on any budget. Let classic round penny tiles make a fashionable comeback in your modern bathroom oasis!