Backsplash: Part One

backsplash (2)One visit to Pinterest and you’ll be overwhelmed by the choices for backsplash that are out there. It seems like there are new options coming out almost every day; there’s no limit for the creativity you can display on your kitchen walls. That being said, not every backsplash pattern or material will work with your kitchen. You have to consider the three Cs: colour, countertops, and cabinetry. You want a backsplash that will complement all three. The two most difficult things to decide on when it comes to backsplash are A) the material it’s made out of and B) the pattern you want it to be in. For this blog entry, I’m going to concentrate on the material only and leave the patterns for next week. I’ve provided a few visual examples for you guys, but as you’ll see by the end of this blog post, there are countless other materials cropping up all the time.

Let’s start with some of the most popular materials used in backsplash construction:

CERAMIC OR PORCELAIN TILE (A & E):  Tile is probably the most common choice for backsplashes. The most popular type of tile is subway tile, which gets its name from the white, flat, rectangular tile used in the early 1900s New York subway. In modern times, subway tile comes in many more different colours (which we’ll discuss later), but nothing seems to beat the classic white look. The white subway tile in A has a lighter grout, which gives it a more seamless and uniform look, while the tile in is more individually defined. A well patterned tile splash can give definition to appliances, complement the countertop, and has been providing a stylish, eye-catching alternative to plain walls for decades.

There are many variations on the traditional tile shape and material as well, which leads us to TUMBLED SLATE,  LASTELLO (ACCENT TILE)GLASS TILE, and COLOURED CERAMIC TILE:

TUMBLED SLATE (F):  Tumbled slate is a less uniform way to spice up your kitchen walls. As you can see in F, tumbled slate can come in a mosiac of colours and much smaller shapes than traditional tile. It’s good for creating a rustic feel in West Coast and Country style kitchens, and definitely stands out more (literally) than other more subdued tiles and colours; the texture is rough and more akin to natural stone than other options.

LASTELLO (ACCENT TILE) (B): As shown in B, backsplash doesn’t have to cover the whole area between your uppers and countertop. A shorter strip of backsplash tile can accentuate your fixtures and countertop just as well; because the backsplash area is so well-defined, it may actually direct attention to that area more effectively than an entire wall of tile would. It is also more cost-effective.

GLASS TILE (I): Glass tile is more visually striking than other tile materials such as granite and ceramic, in that it very adequately captures and responds to lighting. When it’s outlined by a contrasting grout, like in I, emphasis is given to the colour and pattern. Glass tile is versatile; it can be combined with other materials such as metal, crafted in colours that directly match your countertops, and is available in multiple shapes and sizes.

COLOURED CERAMIC TILE (D): Subway tile was originally a uniform white colour, but that’s no longer the case. Like most design staples, it has evolved to meet the demands of today’s creative homeowners and designers. Coloured ceramic tile turns your backsplash from solely a practicality and turns it into more of a statement piece within the kitchen. While it can blend seamlessly with the rest of the decor and complement your existing cabinetry, countertops, and paint colours, coloured tile also provides you with a chance to be creative and bold. Conversely, more subdued shades, such as the brown in D, support the kitchen’s style and contribute to the overall aesthetic without being too blatant or in your face.

Countertop materials can also make great backsplash, giving the illusion that the countertop continues seamlessly up the wall. For example:

QUARTZ (C and H): Quartz is best utilized at a full height without seams. The grey quartz in is the same as what is used for the countertop, creating a cohesive design element. This works best when your countertop is more monotone with a few little flairs; a busy pattern on both the countertops and the walls can be overwhelming and may make it difficult to fully distinguish between the two. Other materials that can be used in this fashion are granite and marble.

Finally, some rarer backsplash materials include:

STAINLESS STEEL (G): Easy to clean and visually striking, stainless steel accents add an industrial touch in Modern-style kitchens. They work best in conjunction with stainless steel appliances, such as hood fans.

RECYCLED GLASS: Recycled glass tile is environmentally friendly and is available in many different primary colours. It is a sustainable alternative to traditional glass tile.

BEADBOARD: Though it’s usually reserved for cabinet profiles, beadboard is also a great backsplash material. Traditional white beadboard is popular, but it’s available in many different colours and patterns.

BRICK: A more uniform and rustic alternative to slate or stone, brick is an old-fashioned material that is nonetheless still at home in more trendy, up-to-date kitchens. It works well with many styles, from traditional to transitional.

WOOD: Besides beadboard, a wood backsplash can be made from planks, pallets, and reclaimed wood. As long as it is properly sealed, a wood backsplash is uniquely rustic.

Other unique backsplash materials include coffee beans, blown-up photographs, chalkboard paint, river stones, glass mosaics, mirrors, and even pennies (finally a use for all those pennies, eh Canadians?)

Backsplash has come a long way from simply being a functional way to keep stains and splatters off your walls; it’s become an integral part of the overall design and feel of the kitchen. Backsplash can be your way to make a bold statement or complement the rest of your design. Next week we’ll look at the various backsplash patterns available.

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