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Arabesque Tile Backsplash Accent Tutorial | Create a dramatic focal point in your kitchen using this tutorial for an Arabesque Tile Backsplash Accent.

Arabesque Tile Backsplash Accent Tutorial | Create a dramatic focal point in your kitchen using this tutorial for an Arabesque Tile Backsplash Accent.

DIY Arabesque Tile Backsplash Accent

I’m so excited to share the very first tutorial from our kitchen renovation! As you may know, we have been working on this project since September 29th (my birthday). I suspected it would take months to finish, but what I didn’t know for sure was how wonderfully everything would come together. I am truly in awe every time I walk into the room. We are still working on finishing up the rest of the cabinet doors, building a furniture-style island, cabinet interior organization, and some lighting. However, I thought I would go ahead and walk you through one of the projects that is 100% complete ahead of the “big reveal“.

Here’s what we started out with for a backsplash:

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I don’t know how to say it delicately, but I really didn’t like it. I actually hated it. No amount of cleaning could ever make it truly look clean because grease and dust seemed to get into every crevice of the tile. I also knew that the strips of granite backsplash would have to go- I much prefer backsplashes that go all of the way down to the countertop. (I’m not sure if there’s a technical term for that- I’ll just go with “prettier”).

This ugly backsplash did not want to go easy. It ended up taking the whole wall with it. We ended up taking the Dremmel to the edges and cutting out the whole thing, drywall and all. So that complicated the project a little more than we had originally planned, but it actually ended up almost being a good thing, because it made wiring the under cabinet lighting a whole lot easier.

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Once all the technical stuff was done, it was time for the fun part. I already knew I wanted to go with subway tile with white grout, but then I began to question whether it would be a little… well… boring. 

I thought it would be interesting to go with the arabesque tile rather than the herringbone in the accent area. That was something he could live with. We went ahead and purchased the subway tile at our local home improvement store, and I went on a search for arabesque tile. I quickly found options, none of which were inexpensive, and dejectedly began to think that the idea was going to be scrapped. Then, one day, when looking for roman shades on Overstock, I stumbled across the same tile for a reasonable price. I was so excited! I went ahead and ordered. My arabesque kitchen backsplash was one step closer to happening!

The Process

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I ended up with way too much, which I was fine with, and the color didn’t 100% match the subway tile from Lowes- but it was close enough that I could deal with for the price. It has been brought to my attention that there is also an inexpensive option sold at Home Depot by the sheet. I am not positive if it is from the same line as their Subway tile- but if it is you may have better luck getting that perfect color match!
 
I won’t walk you through the subway tile portion of the program, as there are countless subway tile tutorials out there, and I doubt if there is anything profound I can add. We decided to do this accent before the surrounding subway tile, and that proved to be a good decision. Even with careful measurement and planning the surrounding subway had to be cut to different measurements within a 1/4″.
 
We first measured and decided where we wanted the accent to appear behind the stove.We decided not to perfectly center it in both directions, and to move it closer to the top of the area.
 
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We separated the tiles from the webbing. We’d read in the tile reviews that the webbing on the back dissolved in the water. Then we tested it out just to double check, and it was true. Mack then cut the tiles with our wet saw. This was not easy, as they were so small. He wanted me to relay to you to be cautious, and also to turn the tile upside down, as a little bit of chipping did occur. By running the tile through upside down, the chipping was at least on the back side of the tile instead of the front (you can see the difference in the bottom corner photo between the ones that were upside down).
 
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After all of the cutting was complete, I laid out the design in it’s entirety on the countertop.
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Mack applied the mastic to the wall and began adding tile.
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This is when we remembered that we now have under cabinet lighting… haha!
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Working with the mastic is time sensitive, so pretty quickly it was completed.
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We completed the surrounding subway tile and allowed it to dry overnight. I have to admit, I was a little concerned with all of the uneven gaps at this point. The arabesque shape was certainly not easy to work with, or consistent. All of the tiles were slightly different sizes, no matter how hard Mack tried to be precise. Even with our careful measurements, there were some inconstancies. We were feeling a little dejected at this point. But then, it was time for grout!

Grout

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We could already tell that it was looking much much better with the grout added.
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 Here was a tip Mack asked me to share with you. (It was probably the most awkward thing I’ve ever had to photograph to date.) This is a deposable Wilton frosting bag filled with grout, it helped him get into the corners and other difficult spaces.
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Once again I had a lot of anxiety because the “white” grout appeared very yellow and dark.

The Result

Arabesque Tile Backsplash Accent Tutorial | Create a dramatic focal point in your kitchen using this tutorial for an Arabesque Tile Backsplash Accent.
However, it lightened up as it dried. It is actually even lighter now, several weeks after the fact. I can’t wait to share the final kitchen photos with you so you can get the full effect. It really is beautiful! It adds interest to what could have easily ended up being a boring large area of plain subway tile. I am so happy with it, it’s another touch that makes the kitchen uniquely ours!

 

See our other kitchen posts: 

 

Comments

It looks like your countertops had a short backsplash that came up the wall-when you removed that how did your countertops look-did you have to refinish somehow? I have the same thing and would like to remove (as well as the ugly tile backsplash I have) and probably put in a subway tile backsplash all the way from the countertops to the cabinets-but worried we would then have to replace the counters-which isn’t in our current budget!!!

It was a separate strip of granite, and was attached to the countertops with silicone caulking. We simply had to scrape that off, and it looked fine! However, the drywall behind the backsplash was ruined and we did have to replace that. :/

Hi, where did you buy the trim pieces you used around the arabesque tiles? Love this look.

Hi Missy, they were from Lowe’s!

This looks great! Where did you get the trim pieces that you used to make the frame around the insert?

They were from Lowe’s!

Can you reveal how you finished the exposed edge of subway tile. The edge I would like to know about is the edge facing/pointing towards the refrigerator. Did you just caulk it?

Hi Andrew! Yes, we just used caulking!

we have similar dark granite with backsplashws and gross checkerboard role with sanded grout in our kitchen and I really want to rip it out. Did you have to take down your cabinets or did you just rip out the tile the best you could around the cabinets then put new drywall up? Curious how long it took?

Thanks!

Hi Lauren, we left the cabinets up and ripped out the tile as best as we could. It ended up taking most of the drywall with it, so we replaced the drywall in those areas. We spaced the project out, so it’s hard to say how long it took- probably half a day for demo, half a day to replace the drywall, half a day to tile, and then grouting goes pretty quickly!

Awesome, awesome idea with the pastry bag and grout!
very creative. As a cake decorator, it really makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the tip!

You are so welcome, hope it helps :)

what color was your grout since I am planning to put the arabesque tiles?

There is a grout sealing product that makes it much easier to keep clean. With the tile being in a cooking area you might want to look into it.

As to your initial disappointment with the differences in the tile size from piece to piece it is because of differences in the amount of free water in the clay as the tiles are being made and then going through the firing process that removes the free water. More water in the clay, more shrinkage in the firing. I am making my own tiles for my kitchen. The carved tile are done while the field tile seem to take forever to make enough.

umm….THANK YOU!
I’ve looked at those tiles and my husband does not like them {he wants white subway…boring}. Then I found them on HD’s site for not very much money. I think this will make BOTH of us happy!

Love this….Thank you! Thank you!

How did you replace the drywall in the back splash with the cabinets and counter top in place? Isn’t taping required at the seams?

Hi Michele! Since we were using mastic tile adhesive, taping wasn’t necessary. The seams were filled with the mastic, and we haven’t had any issues. I hope that helps! :)

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[…] Our White Kitchen Reveal Arabesque Backsplash Accent […]

Such a nice touch! Love seeing the progress, and look forward to seeing the final project. Thanks for sharing Nina.

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