A couple of weeks back, I walked into a Starbucks and immediately started snapping photos. At first it looked like a mirage. I actually had to run my fingers over the pattern to believe it. But sure enough, right before my eyes stood a wall and backsplash constructed entirely of wood subway tiles. The metal cases were inset, sleek and black, which when paired with that warm wood, brought to life one of my favorite material and color combinations. The pattern continued across the front counter and around the pick up bar and I sort of stood there, marveling at it, imagining some contractor spending hours cutting down the tiles that would eventually be placed on the wall. Perhaps that really was the case, but little did I know there were some options out there that could give a regular ol' DIY homeowner like me the chance to outfit a kitchen or a bathroom with the real thing as well.
In researching this post, I actually came across more "faux" wood tile than the honest to goodness stuff. I also realized that this look could go a little more rustic than I personally would ever intend. But there were some high, mid and lower price range options to be found out there that would offer a more contemporary look. Home Depot carries an affordable line called Rustix Wood Bricks for example. Looking for some unique patterns and washes? Check out Mission Stone and Tile. Ann Sacks has a limited line of higher end designs, like that petrified wood sample above which was a clear favorite. For my money, I'd lean toward some of the sleeker, modern cuts offered by Everitt + Schilling.
Though these are laid into thin-set like traditional ceramic tile, they won't require grout in between. You're merely locking them into one another, similar to hardwood flooring. They typically come with a fire retardant already applied or in some cases, you can have this done prior to delivery. Though not recommended for showers or areas where they will likely come in direct contact with water, I can think of so many in-home applications for these beyond just restaurants and hospitality. While I certainly like the warmth, pattern and texture they would undoubtedly contribute to a space, it's the unexpected element of surprise that appeals to me most.