Modern rustic kitchen tile ideas – 11 ways to add character and color to practical spaces

Bring color, texture and pattern to modern rustic kitchens with these inspiring tile ideas

Modern rustic kitchen tile ideas
(Image credit: Ca' Pietra, Fired Earth, Shannon Tate Interiors, photograph Joyelle West)

Whether used on walls, floors, or even countertops, tiles are a popular and versatile surface finish for modern rustic kitchens. As well as being hardwearing and easy to maintain, they are a wonderful way to inject texture, color, and pattern which are key features of the relaxed modern rustic look. 

From encaustic, terracotta and stone to handmade zellige ceramic tiles, we’ve gathered an array of modern rustic kitchen tile ideas to help inspire your characterful, yet practical project.

11 modern rustic kitchen tile ideas

The modern rustic kitchen is characterized by a use of aged surfaces and natural materials yet with sleek design elements and all the functionality of a modern kitchen. Nothing is too ‘matchy’ and modern rustic spaces often look as if they have evolved naturally over time. 

'For me, modern rustic kitchens mean lived-in kitchens. Personally, I prefer my kitchens to look and feel more like rooms and I like to mix various materials and textures; this makes them warmer and more inviting,' says Krystyna Martin-Dominguez, interior designer and founder of K Space

When it comes to kitchen floors and splashbacks for modern rustic spaces, tiles are a wonderfully versatile option; there's a huge array of styles, sizes, and materials to choose from including ceramic, porcelain, terracotta, and natural stone. What’s more kitchen tiles can be laid in all sorts of configurations for a fun, unique focal point.

Handmade ceramic, encaustic or terracotta tiles with varied texture and maker's marks work particularly well in modern rustic interiors and are a great way to bring much-need soul and personality to practical spaces. Similarly, natural stone flooring such as marble and limestone their irregular veining and markings will beautifully complement older properties and rustic architectural features.

1. Add warmth and character with terracotta tiles

Marlborough parquet tiles by ca Pietra in a herringbone pattern on a kitchen floor

(Image credit: Ca Pietra)

With their warm coloring and matt, weathered surface, terracotta tiles are a popular choice for modern rustic kitchens. However, being an absorbent material the tiles do require water- and oil-repellent treatments to be suitable for use in kitchens and they will require maintenance to keep them looking their best.

Alternatively, if upkeep is an issue, there are floor tiles that combine the beauty and texture of terracotta with the practical benefits of durable porcelain, such as the new Marlborough tiles from Ca' Pietra.

‘After over 18 months in development, a porcelain tile that replicates the beauty and intricate colors and textures of terracotta has been launched,’ reveals Grazzie Wilson, head of creative at Ca’ Pietra. ‘Porcelain is one of the hardest wearing tile materials and requires absolutely no maintenance or special instructions for cleaning and best of all they can be used inside and out (unlike the real deal) so you can create a continuous floor to merge the two spaces.’

2. Embrace European style with hand-painted tiles

Kitchen with rustic tiles by Shannon Tate Interiors, photo Joyelle West

(Image credit: Shannon Tate Interiors, photograph Joyelle West)

If you're a fan of rustic Mediterranean decor you can't go wrong with hand-painted tiles. In this stylish space Shannon Tate-Giordano injected a pop of pattern with handpainted Tabarka tiles behind the oven but kept the space feeling bright and uplifting with simple metro tiles across the backsplash. Meanwhile, terracotta floor tiles bring welcome warmth to the navy kitchen cabinets.

'I have loved Tabarka tiles since I laid eyes on their website around 15 years ago.  Their collections are stunning.  I have always been drawn to anything handmade,’ says Shannon Tate-Giordano, founder of Shannon Tate Interiors. ‘I grew up in a family of artists, so I’m always drawn to things imbued with human touch and how the soul and story of the maker is forever imprinted on it.'

Shannon Tate-Giordano
Shannon Tate-Giordano

Based in Massachusetts, interior designer Shannon Tate-Giordano founded her design studio in 2012 and offers design services for everything from kitchen renovations to full home decor projects. Shannon's portfolio features projects across the US from small urban apartments to large historic homes. She also offers video consultations and works on remote projects as far away as Australia. Shannon began her career in interior design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, but is mostly self-taught. She believes her time as a health coach, private chef and Reiki practitioner has informed her holistic approach to interior design and aims to create relaxed, elevated but livable spaces that effortlessly blend old with new.

3. Add organic texture with zellige tiles

warm neutral beige zellige tiles on a splashback

(Image credit: Shannon Tate Interiors, photograph Joyelle West)

While single-piece quartz, perspex or metal backsplash ideas might suit a sleek, modern kitchen, modern rustic kitchen splashbacks take on a more decorative role and tiles are a wonderful way to achieve this. 

Handmade tiles with hand-applied glazes such as traditional Moroccan zellige tiles offer subtle variations in tone and color which when laid together create a beautiful textural backdrop in an otherwise neutral kitchen. ‘Everyone is slightly different and it results in the most unique, varied, and gorgeous installation,’ explains Shannon Tate-Giordano.

4. Add fun with patterned floor tiles

Walnut island in a white kitchen with a patterned tiled floor

(Image credit: Plaster & Patina, photograph Amy Bartlam)

If you love pattern but are cautious of using it on walls then creating a feature floor is a great option. Cement tiles come in an array of colors and graphic patterns plus have a subtle patina perfect for creating characterful surfaces in a modern rustic kitchen.

'We chose hand-painted cement tiles from Morocco. These tiles are special as they are a bit porous, so although this may bother some, we love that they are a living finish, meaning they develop slight wear and age over time,' explains Alexandra Azat, founder of Plaster & Patina. 'We think this is part of their charm, but if you're looking for a tile that requires no upkeep, this isn't the tile for you.'

Alexandra Azat profile image
Alexandra Azat

A true believer in following her passion, Alex launched her first creative business, Blush Event Designers at the age of 23, where she created spaces for a discerning clientele ranging from BVLGARI to Aaron Rogers.  After purchasing her first historic home, built in 1915, and turning it into the home of her dreams, a passion for interior design was ignited. After a 15-year career in the luxury event space, she pivoted her company to focus on interior design and in 2019 launched Plaster & Patina. Today she specialises in respectfully breathing new life into old homes and in transforming newly-built properties into homes with soul.

5. Inject color with glazed ceramic tiles

Kitchen with yellow zelige tiles on splashback

(Image credit: Lizzie Green, photograph Chris Snook)

Color is an instant mood enhancer so tiling a splash back in vibrant designs is guaranteed to put a spring in your step; after all, kitchens are the hub of the home so it's important that they're uplifting spaces we enjoy spending time in. 

Handmade in Morocco, these beautiful zellige tiles offer subtle variations in tone which inject color but also have a softness too. Why not choose yellow for a ray of sunshine all year round as done here by interior designer Lizzie Green? ‘The client was relocating back to the UK after a few years living in the sunshine, so going for the golden tiles injected joy into daily life, despite any grey skies outside,’ says Lizzie Green.

6. Choose metro tiles for an utilitarian feel

An airy kitchen with open shelving and an island

(Image credit: Future)

Reminiscent of subway stations utility style subway or metro tiles are a go-to for creating a modern rustic look. Traditionally they are laid in the classic brick-style configuration but increasingly we're seeing more playful layouts. Using a dark grout on light-colored tiles adds an industrial feel.

'Metro-style tiles are a classic choice for country kitchen walls. For a modern take, look for metro-style tiles in unusual formats or finishes (perhaps glass or metallics), and think about creating bold vertical bands of color as an alternative to a traditional brickbond layout,' suggests James Sirett, head of product at Fired Earth.

7. Create a feature floor with terrazzo tiles

Terrazzo kitchen floor tiles by Fired Earth

(Image credit: Fired Earth)

Originally made from shards of marble, quartz and other fragments of stone set in a binder and polished, terrazzo floors and tiles have graced the properties of Mediterranean homes for centuries. In recent years the technique has made a resurgence and there are plenty of authentic designs and practical porcelain terrazzo-effect versions available. 

‘Porcelain replica-terrazzo tiles such as those in Fired Earth's Frammento collection offer the perfect combination of timeless familiarity (terrazzo has graced homes for generations) and modern-day practicality. The random, mosaic-like patterns will add decorative detail and a sense of texture, while opting for large-format tiles gives kitchens walls or floors a seamless, modern-rustic look,' explains James.

8. Use glazed tiles for a shimmering effect

Kitchen with neutral zellige splashback tiles

(Image credit: Laura Stephens Interiors, photograph Chris Snook)

Glazed and glossy tiles can be used to wonderful effect in a modern rustic kitchen - laid tightly together across a splashback they can create a wonderful shimmering effect, plus they will also help to bounce light back into the room. Here Laura Stephens chose neutral zellige tiles from Mosaic Factory alongside cabinets in Little Greene's Aquamarine Mid. 

'These tiles were chosen to add some texture and interest to this long kitchen run. They have a light reflecting quality which adds a pretty shell-like appearance,' says Laura.

9. Add character to a kitchen island

Fired Earth Kelmscott tiles in a modern rustic kitchen

(Image credit: Fired Earth)

The beauty of tiles is that they can be used on all sorts of surfaces and just a small number can make a big impact. For an eye-catching yet affordable focal point why not tile a kitchen island?

Inspired by Arts & Crafts designs these Kelmscott tiles are perfect for bringing a touch of heritage style and the blue tones beautifully complement the warm wood often found in modern rustic kitchens. 'Pair them with natural woods, creams and off-whites for a fresh but subtly aged feel,' says James Sirett.  'Using tiles on the side of a kitchen island or as a worktop (always check suitability) introduces a relaxed, eclectic element that's perfect for contemporary country kitchens.'

10. Try a tiled countertop

Peach kitchen with blue tiled kitchen island countertop

(Image credit: K Space Interiors, photograph Kasia Fiszer)

Recently we've noticed a rising trend for tiled countertops. Rather than serving as just another practical surface, we're seeing countertops doubling as design features in their own right with materials and treatments becoming more decorative. Tiles are a wonderful way to achieve a unique characterful look and they can be more affordable, too. In this large kitchen by K Space, interior designer Krystyna Martin-Dominguez chose glossy blue tiles to contrast with the other rustic textures throughout the room. 

‘In this project the budget was small but the room was large. Kitchen units are from IKEA, worktops along the wall are black paper stone, and splashback is sprayed brass. We needed color and shine for the worktop,’ says Krystyna Martin-Dominguez. ‘The client chose the color and I chose the tile. I worked with a lady who loved my kitchen and asked me to design her house as if I was designing my own again. The house is filled with antique furniture and these zellige tiles sit beautifully next to them.’

11. Bring timeless appeal with natural limestone

Quorn Stone limestone floor tiles

(Image credit: Quorn Stone)

Large format stone tiles make a timeless foundation for modern rustic kitchens. The subtle natural tones and delicate markings bring softness and a relaxed feel to kitchens, plus they pair beautifully with wood cabinets. While they can be expensive, solid stone tiles, such as these from Quorn Stone, will gently wear over time becoming more characterful with age. Alternatively for fuss-free, easy-to-maintain floors there's a huge variety of porcelain tiles with stone-effect finishes. 

While their role is primarily practical, we're noticing kitchen tiles increasingly used for decorative purposes in order to bring texture, pattern and color. Handmade ceramic tiles, zellige tiles, encaustic and terracotta tiles are proving particularly popular in kitchens as their varied marks and tones bring welcome character to practical spaces which can often feel cold and sterile.

'Rustic-look tiles are hugely popular right now and work just as well in modern, contemporary kitchens as they do in traditional, cottage-style spaces.' says Isabel Fernandez. 'Their warm, natural tones are very on-trend and align with the popular beige color palate we’re continuing to see a lot of this year – including paint colors, soft furnishings and décor items like vases and artwork.  Used together, this creates a modern rustic look that’s warm, unfussy and beautifully calming.'

Pippa Blenkinsop

Pippa is a contributor to Homes & Gardens. A graduate of Art History and formerly Style Editor at Period Living, she is passionate about architecture, creating decorating content, interior styling and writing about craft and historic homes. She enjoys searching out beautiful images and the latest trends to share with the Homes & Gardens audience. A keen gardener, when she’s not writing you’ll find her growing flowers on her village allotment for styling projects.