Inspiring Interiors

Easy, temporary backsplash: Smart Tiles.

Atelier de Curiosite/Smart Tiles -
Photo from Atelier de Curiosite / view full set of photos & blog post

After my post about removable wallpaper for backsplashes, I received a few emails asking that I post more about temporary options like this for renters. In my last apartment, I made a backsplash out of 1/4″ plywood secured with Velcro (it was easy to remove when we moved, and left no residue or damage whatsoever), but I started wondering whether there are temporary tile options, too—so I did some research. And by “research,” I mean I Googled it.

I guess they’ve been around for a while now, but Smart Tiles are new to me. Smart Tiles are peel & stick embossed sheets of something called “translucent gel Gel-O™” (which I’m assuming is some sort of synthetic material), faux-mosaics that look a whole lot like real tiles—right down to the fake grout lines. They’re heat and humidity resistant, they can be installed on top of any relatively smooth surface (including existing tile), and they can be removed fairly easily—whether or not they leave residual damage would, of course, depend on the substrate.

Smart Tiles -

Real talk: Most of the stuff on the Smart Tiles website isn’t aesthetically appealing to me, but there are a few designs that I could absolutely see using in a setting where putting up real tile isn’t an option. Subway White, Bellagio Marmo, and Hexago all look great in pictures, and I’m really curious about what they’re like in person.

The manufacturer of Smart Tiles is based in Québec, and most of the real-life examples of their use are on French-language blogs. They are available in the US, though! They can be ordered directly from their website and through Wayfair (significantly cheaper—most styles are discounted 33-55%), or off the shelf at Home Depot.

Poligom/Smart Tiles -

Poligom/Smart Tiles -
Photos from Poligom / view full set of photos & blog post

Atelier de Curiosite/Smart Tiles -
Photo from Atelier de Curiosite / view full set of photos & blog post

Carnets Parisiens/Smart Tiles -
Photo from Carnets Parisiens / view full set of photos & blog post

Bumcat/Smart Tiles -
Photo from Bumcat / view full set of photos & blog post

Mariekke/Smart Tiles -
Photo from Mariekke / view full set of photos & blog post (+ a video!)

Nice examples, yeah? I’m kind of shocked by how good they look, especially the Hexago style. I’m not usually into fake stuff that looks like other stuff, but for the convenience, price, and (potentially) temporary nature of the product? I could be convinced.

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  • Reply Jules August 12, 2015 at 12:58 am

    I’ve seen them in person–Home Depot. The sample I saw was white Marmo and then others with black tiles. They are very shiny, which I don’t like, but they’re fine for what they are. I thought they are a great alternative for a renter, though my husband didn’t agree.

    • Anna @ D16 August 12, 2015 at 8:19 am

      Yeah, the shininess is kind of weird, but I feel like a duller finish might just make them look damaged/dingy? I can’t see using them in a situation where I have the option to do real tile, but for renters? Definitely.

  • Reply Mariekke August 12, 2015 at 5:14 am

    Ohhhhh thanks !!! ☺️

    • Anna @ D16 August 12, 2015 at 8:17 am

      Your kitchen really looks wonderful, Mariekke!

  • Reply Ilse August 12, 2015 at 5:58 am

    I would love this! The backsplash in my kitchen is just so ugly… We rent, but I’m sure my landlord wouldn’t mind if I put in some pretty tile. It’s just such a hassle! Off to check if they ship to the Netherlands now!

    • Anna @ D16 August 12, 2015 at 8:20 am

      Good luck, Ilse!

  • Reply Heather August 12, 2015 at 7:51 am

    These are a really clever idea! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Becky August 12, 2015 at 9:22 am

    We had these tiles in our kitchen when we moved in. The previous owners had used them to freshen up the kitchen prior to selling (they also covered butcher block with a faux granite). They are so fake looking–they reminded me of the puffy stickers we had when we were kids.
    Regardless, I think the real problem with them is that they are hard to get off the wall–when I took them off, it left a lot of residue in some spots/took chunks of the wall in others. My advice would be to proceed with caution!

    • Anna @ D16 August 12, 2015 at 9:26 am

      Oh dear! Becky, would you mind saying which style was in your kitchen? I feel like maybe it’s just the colored ones look super fake, but the plain white styles are passable. Maybe? Also, what type of substrate were you dealing with when you pulled them off? Was it existing tile that they covered up, or drywall?

      Also faux granite over butcherblock is such a ridiculous notion that I can’t even get my head around it. Yikes!

    • Becky August 12, 2015 at 12:00 pm

      We had the Muretta Brino (multi-colour mosiac–sorry my Ipad doesn’t want to let me insert the link). The white may be much more subtle which might make all the difference in the world–the photos in your post are very nice.
      It was applied straight to the wall (lath and plaster). If you were applying it on top of tile, the removal would probably be much easier. After the removal/patching/painting process I will forever scorn the product though.

    • Anna @ D16 August 12, 2015 at 12:16 pm

      Directly on top of plaster and lath!!! OMG…I’m so sorry. When I said “whether or not they leave residual damage would, of course, depend on the substrate” in my post, that’s exactly what I was thinking about. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t use Smart Tiles on top of anything other than existing tile or if I knew the wall they were going on was going to have to be replaced at some point anyway (like if this were a temporary renovation prior to an electrical/plumbing overhaul or something like that).

      You have my sympathies. :\

  • Reply Tammy August 12, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    Oooh this gives me hope for all the awful 70s era kitchens I’ve been seeing in my Craigslist apartment hunt. Do you think these could also be used in a bathroom?

    • Anna @ D16 August 12, 2015 at 1:53 pm

      Tammy, their FAQ says they can be used in a bathroom, but not in the shower area.

  • Reply Cat August 12, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    I put these up and love them! I forget the style name but I have the little black squares. When I first received them I was like WTF! They are legitimately sheets of textured stickers. My dude thought I was insane. But then I put them up and they look great! It’s been over half a year and I haven’t had any issues. I wouldn’t use them as a permanent solution, but they really improved out rented kitchen.

  • Reply Sarah August 12, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    I researched Smart Tiles for a while and eventually came to the conclusion that it would cost about as much money to use real tile and grout and would give you a significantly better-looking and more practical result. I read tons of reviews, and the quality just isn’t good enough for a lot of the reviewers’ standards.

    I figure if I’m renting an apartment for two years or more and living with pretty new tile, it will be worth eating the cost. I’m also willing to gamble that my landlord will (at worst) not care that I covered up his Home-Depot-floor-tile backsplash and (at best) think I’m an amazing tenant who shouldn’t have her rent raised ever ever.

    • Anna @ D16 August 12, 2015 at 4:00 pm

      Sarah, I totally get what you’re saying, but as someone who has done a LOT of tiling, I can tell you that calculating the actual cost is a lot more complicated than just adding up the tile and grout. There are the various tools and supplies, the necessary overages, and so on…not to mention the time involved. I’m generally not one for taking shortcuts when it comes to this kind of stuff (and I actually really love tiling), but the prospect of ripping down existing tile, removing old drywall, having all of the old tile and drywall disposed of, putting up new drywall, and tiling (including all of the cutting and finagling that’s involved) in a rental is probably more than I’m willing to do unless I’m 100% sure that I’ll be there for a long time and I’m 100% sure the landlord is on board.

      Of course, there’s always my plywood solution, which was easy and cheap and looked great…

    • Sarah August 13, 2015 at 9:38 am

      Thanks for the advice, Anna! So you don’t think it’s worth it in a temporary situation even if you’re just going to tile on top of level, sturdy existing tile? Or would you not recommend that?

    • Anna @ D16 August 13, 2015 at 11:55 am

      Sarah, I wouldn’t do it unless I was 100% confident in the strength of the wall itself. Tile and grout are REALLY heavy, and adding another layer can put a huge amount of stress on a wall. It really depends how much tile and what the wall is like, of course. Then there are considerations like electrical outlets and any moldings the tile might butt up against, etc. You certainly can tile on top of existing tile, but I personally wouldn’t do it unless I had a really good reason to. I definitely don’t think I’d do it in a rental, no. To me, that just seems like you’d be creating more work for someone else down the line, and that doesn’t feel quite right/fair to me. I guess that’s between you and your landlord, though!

  • Reply Sarah August 13, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Really good points. Thanks so much.

  • Reply Katie August 14, 2015 at 10:19 am

    Just ordered our samples! $2 on the the Smart Tile website with free shipping. Thank you for the idea!!

  • Reply Caroline August 17, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Excellent! The kitchen in my otherwise beautiful and minimalist 1960s rambler was “updated” by previous owners, and the backsplash is especially horrible. However my husband is hesitant to do any improvements because we might not stay there for very long. This seems like a pretty A+ solution in the meantime. Thanks for this post.

  • Reply Erika August 22, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    These would be perfect for food photography backdrops! Amazing!

  • Reply Joy September 5, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    I wonder if they would be perfect for covering up laminate? I have those horrible kind of laminate countertops where the builder ran the laminate all the way up to also act as the backsplash. And to beat all, it is a yucky beige-pink hue tone that is just blah! It might look weird because there is no molding where countertop meets the backsplash. Wonder if anyone has tried and can submit photos? Why did the builder do that…guess it was cheap!

    • Anna @ D16 September 8, 2015 at 12:23 am

      Joy, I’m sure they’d work fine on the backsplash, but the website advises against using Smart Tiles on countertops.

  • Reply Carrie September 30, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    So Smart Tiles has inexplicably discontinued the Hexago style. Anyone have any experience with RoomMates’ hexagonal StickTILES? They look bigger and possibly cheesier, and no samples are available…

  • Reply Dean October 8, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    It is amazing where technology has taken us. This is a great example. These “smart tiles” are so easy to piece together and lay. On top of that, they look fantastic as a finished product. I’m very impressed. Thanks for posting!

  • Reply Lori November 2, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    OMG, this is exactly what I didn’t know I needed! Thank you!

  • Reply STEPHANIE January 28, 2016 at 8:44 am

    Hi everyone,
    This is a comment from a desperate French girl.
    I fell in love with this Smart Tiles Hexago motif too.
    I went back on their website on Monday evening to order the 22 pieces I was needing to give the final touch to my brand new kitchen… but the Hexago motif is out of stock !
    I’ve reached Smart Tiles and they found the very last 14 pieces for me.
    Does anyone have 1 or 2 (or 8 😉 pieces left for me ? I would buy them with pleasure.

  • Reply Mike March 30, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Hey Anna,

    How do they look after installation? now that tiles are available in subway and hexagon style they sure have become popular as backsplash tiles, I noticed Home Depot carrying smart tile, we are also thinking about carrying it in our store.

  • Reply Brojohono September 26, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    I own my home and I have no problem using these much cheaper (about 60% less cost where I live) fake tiles. They look fine. Upon close inspection you can tell they’re fake, but that’s with your nose 2 inches from the wall. And if you are going to be around people who are going to be trying to figure out if your tiles are fake with their noses 2 inches from the wall all the time, maybe you should find better friends.

    These tiles are not meant for renters. They are meant for budget renovation. Most landlords will state any kind of remodeling is forbidden even if it comes off. I’ve seen many examples of that in friends of mine.

    That aside these fake tiles look fine and can actually increase the value of your house provided your not selling it to someone who is wanting to buy the royal palace.

  • Reply Kathy October 7, 2016 at 9:17 pm

    Another idea I”ve see is to use regular vinyl peel and stick floor tile, but use a liquid nail adhesive. It’s cost effective as you would probably need only to pay $20 a box of tile depending on the size of your backsplash.

  • Reply Kimi November 15, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    I rent a townhouse and have the standard beige walls. If I use the Smart Tiles, is there a way to remove them? I want to do a kitchen backsplash. If not, could I stick the tiles to another surface and then place that on the wall? Any suggestions are appreciated!

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