This Crackle Glaze Tile Trend is Taking Over the Kitchen and Bath

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Aimée Mazzenga)

#Ihavethisthingwithtiles, and it’s sort of unfortunate because I’ve never actually picked any of my own. I fell in love with subway tiles nearly a decade ago, and I was crushing hard on those matte patterned cement tiles that popped up a couple years ago. I’m even into faux “wood” larger scale ceramic tiles and teeny tiny, mesh-backed penny tiles. And I’m not mad at a fish scale or arabesque shape either. So right now, I’m thinking it’s not such a bad thing that I don’t have a tile decision—or three—to make. Because honestly what would I choose? That’s a lot of pressure.

Lately though, I’ve been gravitating towards field tiles in all shapes, colors, and sizes that look almost ombre—darker around the edges, lighter in the middle, and on further inspection, slightly mottled in appearance as opposed to perfectly smooth. It’s the crackle glaze, people, and it’s popping up on kitchen backsplashes, shower and tub surrounds, and bathroom walls and floors everywhere.

This new trend is definitely a take on “old world” style. By definition, the “crackle” finish is a glass glaze on a ceramic tile, fired at a specific temperature to create an antiqued crackled finish on the surface. It can be pronounced or subtle, and all the “it” designers and tile makers are definitely up on this game.

(Image credit: Aimée Mazzenga)

A natural place to try the crackle glaze out is in a kitchen, where the white glossy subway tile has become so mainstream that, well, even my parents have them. And yes, subways are classic and will never go out of style, and you can play around with the grout colors or size to switch things up a bit. But why not try crackle glaze, or better yet, crackle glaze in a cool color? This Pratt & Larson kitchen backsplash above in a kitchen designed by designer Carly Moeller of Unpatterned is not for the faint of heart, but you can’t really say you’ve seen it a hundred times before. You’ve got to be a color lover, sure, though I’d argue the crackle glaze actually softens the boldness a bit.

But this finish doesn’t just work on stronger hued tiles. It can add extra texture, depth, and dimension to a neutral color, too. Just look at this greige bar backsplash by Anaber Design. I’m loving that she laid the tiles vertically and chose what looks like a crackle glaze for the finish. It’s more of a shimmer with a crackle glaze, versus a super shiny gloss finish, so the tile looks like it has been there forever in a good way.

Apparently, that’s not the only bar area getting the crackle glaze treatment. Designer Rachel Berger posted this shot of a project, and it’s pretty darn stunning. You don’t often see open shelving that’s also covered in the same tiles as a wall. The crackle glaze is just the icing on the cake. It’s also unclear whether there are actually two colors of tile being used here, but I think it’s just the way the sun is shining in.

It’s much more obvious that there are several colors being used in this crackle glazed gray bathroom. You can really see the texture in the upper right hand corner of the image, where the light is showing that mottled surface. So lessons learned: A patchwork effect definitely works in a crackle glazed finish, as does an oversized field tile. Though TBH, it’s hard to concentrate on the tile when there’s a brass trim wood vanity like that in the frame. Wowza!

And who could forget Mandy Moore’s guest bathroom? You fell in love with that Fireclay Rosemary tile, right? I know I did. PSA: That’s a slightly crackle glaze you are looking at, folks. Bet you didn’t know that was what was adding the color variation and depth Sarah Sherman Samuel wrote about on her blog. The description on Fireclay’s page says the tile will “craze” over time, which means develop slight cracks. And that’s what’s cool about crackle glazes. On the high-end of the market, they’re truly a living finish that will get better with age.

(Image credit: Jill Slater)

And you don’t have to just stick to the sink wall and shower surround with this glaze. Lately, tile has been working it’s way up and around all four (or more!) walls in the bath. Why not try the crackle glaze? It’s certainly more dramatic than just plain tile, especially if you’re going to play it safe with something light colored like this mint green.

Similarly, you don’t have to stop at the backsplash in a kitchen either. In this case, light blue crackle glazed tiles have been applied to the full back wall and counter front of this space. The tiles were also laid in a herringbone pattern, which adds even more visual interest to the application.

And don’t discount the subtlety of this finish on smaller tiles either. Here’s a graphic, small rectangular subway backsplash done in a crackle glaze. And the finish totally gives it a vintage modern, earthy bent.

What about tile shapes other than rectangles? To that I say, check out this fish scale application. There’s a lot of potential here. Again, it just gives your space that much more character and uniqueness.

Right now, most of the boutique handmade tile shops offer this finish, but I’m sure some of the bigger manufacturers at home centers and big boxes can do it, too. Sure, mass produced varieties might not be as nuanced, but on the whole, this tile trend is giving me all the feels. And the fact that I may be able to pull it off on a budget has me counting down the days until I can buy a couple boxes of crackle glazed tiles and get to it. My guess is you’re going to be seeing a lot more of this trend in the near future.