More Ways to Waste Time reader Kimberly, of Oakville, Ontario, writes: "Can you help me decide on a backsplash that will add some polish and character to the kitchen in my newly built townhouse? In terms of my design style, I love classic old-house accents like crown molding -- though I don't mind some modern elements, too, as long as they blend well.
I'm leaning toward a cream-colored, 4x4 ceramic tile with a tumbled marble look. I'm trying to keep in mind the resale appeal of neutral decor, but I also spend a lot of time cooking and don't want to live with a 'borrowed kitchen.' The walls are still 'builder's white,' so I'm planning to paint as well. If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them!"
That's not a bad-looking kitchen, Kimberly -- especially considering that it came with the house. But I agree that a great backsplash will give the room a more finished look and allow you to put your own stamp on the place.
I hate to say this, but tumbled marble tile (and especially faux tumbled marble tile) is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. I just think it looks really generic, so it's not going to help you personalize the look of your kitchen. Plus, if it's not dated already -- and I would argue that it is -- it certainly will be in a couple of years. (Remember the shiny granite that everyone went bonkers over in the Eighties and Nineties? I'm convinced the tumbled-tile, pseudo "Tuscan Kitchen" look is this decade's version of that.) So I don't think that's going to help you come resale time. My vote: Ixnay on the tumbled tile.
My first thought -- because I absolutely love the stuff -- is subway tile. I just don't think you can ever go wrong with clean, classy, classic rows of fresh white subway tile. See how great it looks in my blogging buddy Nicole Balch's kitchen? Prices vary depending on brand, quality, and other features, but you can get basic white subway tile at your local home-improvement store without spending a fortune.
Colored subway tile is striking, too -- though this pretty cornflower blue probably wouldn't work with your brown countertops and warm wood cabinets.
How about subway tile in a soft, sage green? I'm pretty sure these are glass tiles cut into a long, thin subway shape. I like how they're running up the wall rather and across it for a more modern look.
Another option is a solid-glass backsplash. You can paint the wall behind it any color you like (and even take the glass off and repaint every couple of years for a fresh new look for the cost of a gallon of paint). And you can customize the backsplash with removable wall decals, like the wood-veneer ones from Beearo shown here.
Or how about a sheet-metal backsplash? Stainless steel would tie in with your appliances, but I think aged copper would look especially nice with the brown countertops and wood cabinets.
A relatively inexpensive, do-it-yourself version of this is to buy a few boxes of vintage-reproduction copper ceiling tiles and simply nail them up as a backsplash.
In terms of a paint color for the rest of the kitchen, that will sort of depend on what material and color you settle on for the backsplash. But I like soft, warm greens with cherry-toned wood like you have on your kitchen cabinets. An ochre yellow might also work, as could a spicy terracotta.
Readers, any other ideas or suggestions for Kimberly? Please post a comment and share them. And Kimberly, let us know what you decide, and be sure to send in a snapshot or two of your completed kitchen!
(P.S. Have a design dilemma of your own? Send it in, along with a photo or two, and I'll put it up here for a communal brainstorming session. But please -- can we take a break from kitchens for a little while? In the meantime, Susan Serra over at The Kitchen Designer blog has a ton of great kitchen renovation ideas to peruse.)