Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Design Dilemma: Help Me Choose a Kitchen Backsplash!

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.

Photo from Making It Lovely

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.

Photo borrowed from beachbungalow8

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.

Photo by Beearo

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.

Photo from the Metal Peddler

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.)


Anonymous said...

I was going to suggest stainless steel for the backsplash. I too love subway tile but think the stainless would make her builder cabinets look more custom.

florspace said...

I'm loving the sage green from Building Stone magazine but the tiles might be a bit too busy against the kitchen floor tiles? Maybe the glass version from Beearo would look cleaner. :+)

Christine said...

I like the idea of the glass tiles but you have to be really careful about smoothing out the grout beneath the tiles....if it isn't done right you can see the trowel ridges behind the glass....

debbiekimsf said...

you need a glossy tile to bounce light since it is a dead corner. i would go with a sage green subway glossy to offset the orange of your cabinets. it will be earthy, clean and classic but not staid. do not do tumbled marble it will be dead.

freshpinkstyle said...

I like those green subway tiles. Nice kitchen post!

Anonymous said...

Hi there
As I was looking at your kitchen I thought an injection of colour was needed. My attention turned to the splashback. I solid glass one was proposed and I shouted, admittedly at the screen, WALLPAPER. How about some funky paper which could be encased behind the glass. This would help if you're thinking of resale as it can be changed or stripped and painted before leaving. I know when I renovated my kitchen the most expensive thing after appliances was the bench top. So rather than change it pick up the colour accent in the wallpaper paint plain doors finishing with interesting knobs. This make your kitchen feel modern and fresh.

Anonymous said...

I have written several blogs on backsplashes. For my own tastes, I prefer painted ceramic tile, but there are various permutations of tin backsplashes that also look good. And, because I'm a cabinetmaker, I cannot entirely rule out the thought of a solid wood backsplash, which sounds, at first blush, like something that may not cut it. But they now have a number of products available for waterproofing wood that I trust. In fact, these are the products that are used for wooden countertops. But to return to your question, what I would most recommend your installing is not whatever is "hot," but, simply, whatever you prefer. Your kitchen, like your home, should be a manifestation of who YOU are, not an interior designer, however well-intentioned or trained that designer may be. Just my opinion, of course!

Anonymous said...

how is a solid glass backsplash secured to wall if its clear w/ paint or wallpaper behind?


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