Make it Vertical

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There’s something about a typical rectangular tile turned on its head that makes it stand out. “We see a lot of horizontal tile and square tile on the market, and it’s refreshing to see something unique,” says Rebekah Zaveloff, principal of the KitchenLab in Chicago and a contributor to, and interior decorating website.

Vertically oriented tiles in backsplashes can be used in the kitchen or as accent pieces in the bathroom or transitional spaces. Zaveloff recommends using the vertical arrangement for modern ceramic tiles, such as the new Regina Heinz line at Ann Sacks, a Chicago-based tile company owned by Kohler.

“To really get that ‘wow’ look, you want to mix materials and create something with some texture,” says Alice Liao, executive editor at Kitchen and Bath Business (K+BB) magazine.

Embossed or ribbed patterns also work well for a vertical application, as do long, rectangular glass tiles in a mix of glossy and frosted. Or, use a small vertical tile design in the middle of horizontally laid tile to make a punchy statement.

Liao recommends using natural stone tiles, such as slate, marble or granite. Palettes are often neutral and subdued without flashy patterns, she says. “People want something that blends in with their home and that they can live with for several years.”

Zaveloff says that plain white subway tile, which was popular at the turn of the century, can make a splash when placed in a vertical pattern. “I’ve seen basic white subway tile set on the vertical and stacked for a modern approach to a classic tile.”

To create an offset pattern that tends to be more dramatic, set the first row and raise the next by about the length of half a tile. Randomize the offset distance to create an even edgier aesthetic. 

“Vertical tile accentuates height and draws attention,” Liao says.

Zaveloff favors the stacked pattern on the bottom half of a bathroom wall to create the illusion of wainscoting. She also likes the look of vertical backsplash in its intended location, behind the stove, to protect the wall from cooking damage.

The best part of this design choice? Vertical tiling won’t hit the wallet harder than any other tile, since it’s not about the materials but the application. Zaveloff says the cost spans a wide range from $5 to $50 per square foot – from basic factory-produced tiles to designer handmade tiles.

Tags: tile, vertical, trend