Apr 24, 2012
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Should a backsplash match: the kitchen countertop, cabinets, flooring, or something else?

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Which backsplash tile materials and patterns are extremely “of the moment”? Are there any backsplashes that are starting to look dated?



What size and shape tiles are particularly popular right now?



What about tile sizes—does small work better in a small kitchen, big better in a big kitchen?



Should a backsplash match: the kitchen countertop, cabinets, flooring, or something else?



Do you prefer a uniform backsplash consisting of the same tiles, or do you like to mix and match tile shapes and colors?



What do you recommend for someone on a tight budget who still wants a great backsplash?



White subway tiles: a classic that can never go wrong, or an overused look that leads to dull backsplashes?



Are there any options for someone who is renting and wants to cover up the existing backsplash without actually replacing it?



Should people ever consider painting tiles?



Do you like when a backsplash is exactly the same material used on the countertop?



Should certain backsplash materials be avoided because they can easily be damaged by high heat or food stains?



If a backsplash is placed in an area without wall cabinets, should the backsplash go all the way to the ceiling?



Who normally designs a tile backsplash: the homeowner, a kitchen or interior designer, or someone at a tile showroom?



How does tile design affect costs?



Is it dated to have the backsplash be the counter extending up 4 inches and then have a painted wall?



How do you select grout? Do you like grout with color? Do you try to match it to tile?



What backsplash and kitchen trends from Europe and Spain can people in the States use?



Why do some European kitchens use tile on the entire wall, not just the backsplash?



Is there a prevalent backsplash style that you see in smaller kitchens in big city apartments?



What types of backsplashes do people in southwestern and western part of U.S. seem to prefer?



In the last 35 years, what have you seen change in backsplash design?



There are many great reclaimed wood kitchen products, but could you use reclaimed wood in a backsplash design?



When choosing sustainable or green tile, what should consumers look for so they know the product is truly sustainable and eco-friendly?



Meet the Backsplash Experts



Photo Courtesy of Oceanside Glasstile

Glass tiles in types of shapes, like these in the form of subway tiles, continues to be popular for kitchen backsplashes.

Courtesy of Walker Zanger

Long and thin tiles arranged vertically are a recent trend in backsplash configuration.

Photo Courtesy of Keraben and the Tiles of Spain

With plenty of room for a backsplash, this kitchen uses large, rectangular tiles to fill up the space behind the cooking area and accentuate the room’s length.

Courtesy of Oceanside Glasstile and DIY-Do It Yourself Network’s Kitchen Renovations series

This photo is a good example of using two different tile colors and sizes within a backsplash to create a stunning look.

If you don’t have a big budget for a backsplash, one way to add some extra style without breaking the bank is using glass accent tiles, like in the photo above.

Photo courtesy of Kohler

White subway tile has been a classic element of design for many years, but is it stylish enough to stand alone in a backsplash?

Courtesy of Mibo Tile Tattoos

Using tile decals, like the one’s from Mibo pictured above, is one way for renters to easily add a little style to their backsplash.

Thinking about painting backsplash tiles? Most of our designers would beg you to think twice, or at least, do plenty of research before reaching for a brush.
The owners of this kitchen must really like their countertop material: they covered their entire backsplash in it.
Many tiles that can be used to create backsplashes will not be damaged by intense heat from cooking appliances, nor will they stain easily if there are cooking mishaps.

Courtesy of Tile of Spain

Without the barrier of wall cabinets, this backsplash is able to extend all the way to the ceiling.

Visiting a tile showroom can be a great way for someone to explore a backsplash materials and configurations.

Photo by Suki Medencevic

Intricate, custom backsplashes, which require tile to be cut into specific shapes, will always cost more than basic backsplash configurations.

Many backsplashes consist of countertop material that only rises a few inches high.

Photo Courtesy of Kohler

This backsplash uses a very light grout that doesn’t detract from the tiles.

Photo Courtesy of Tiles of Spain

European design doesn’t always incorporate wall cabinets, which allows the wall tile to be the focal point in the room.

Photo Courtesy of Tiles of Spain

This modern kitchen eschews wall paint for a mix of cherry red and white wall tiles.

Photo Courtesy of the Atlanta Building Company

Older apartment units in big cities often stick with classic tile for backsplashes, like white subway tile seen above.

Award-winning designer Lori Carroll, who resides in Arizona, says a mix of tumbled stone and glass tile is a popular combination for backsplashes in the Southwest.

Photo Courtesy of Crossville

As backsplashes have evolved over the years, they’ve went from functional parts of the kitchen to a dimension of a kitchen that allows for creative design. The photo above shows a current backsplash with an artistic element.

Photo by Paul Dyer, courtesy of CCS Architecture

You can use reclaimed wood for something like a countertop, as seen in the kitchen above. But using reclaimed wood for a backsplash can be a difficult proposition.

Photo Courtesy of Fireclay Tile

The tiles pictured above are made from post-consumer recycled content.

Decorative elements—like borders comprised of assorted materials—add fresh appeal to the outdated look of plain tumbled stone backsplashes. Glass tile remains hot, and designers expect it to continue as a popular material choice for backsplashes.
Most rectangular and square shapes are in style and work well in backsplash arrangements. But there has been a recent trend in using either small or large tiles instead of using medium-size square and rectangular tiles. The photo shows skinny, “stick” tiles that when placed vertically, create a waterfall look.
The size of your kitchen doesn’t have to dicatate the size of tile used in your backsplash. With the right design in place, both big and small tiles can complement any kitchen style.
While it’s fine to have a backsplash that provides a jolt of color or interesting design, ultimately it should complement your kitchen in some way.
Both varied and uniform backsplashes can work well, as long the design fits with your kitchen’s overall style.
Using striking accent tile can be a cost effective way to transform a bland backsplash.
You don’t have to worry about white subway tile going out style, but if your kitchen lacks pizazz, white subway tile probably won’t change that.
There are few easy backsplashes upgrades for renters. Lori’s solution of getting peel-and-stick metal wall tiles is probably the simplest and most affordable option. Still, it’s a solution that might not provide many design options.
Most of the experts we interviewed were not keen on painting over tile. But if new tile isn’t an option, certain industrial-strength paints can work well on hard-to-paint surfaces.
Unless your countertop is a visually unique piece of stone, you might want to avoid a completely uniform countertop and backsplash.
Many backsplash tiles are durable enough to be placed behind a cooking area, but as always, it’s best to check with the tile manufacturer (or distributor) on the best way to care for the backsplash. Also, don’t forget to properly care for your grout, which can be susceptible to staining and other damage. Epoxy grout is often recommended in backsplash applications, as it highly resistant to stains.
A backsplash that extends all the way up to the ceiling can create a bold, contemporary look. Of course, extending tile all the way to the ceiling will cost more than stopping your backsplash at a shorter height.
If you’re not working with a designer, a tile showroom should be able to help you plan and execute a backsplash design.
If you’re placing tile in a diagonal fashion, or using multiple tile sizes and accent pieces, there’s a decent chance some tile cutting will need to take place. And you can be sure these cuts will result in extra costs.
We realize that not everyone can afford to install a brand-new backsplash, but our experts all agreed that if your backsplash design is simply a 4-inch countertop extension, an upgrade would serve your kitchen well.
The experts advise using grout that doesn’t distract from the tile. So they generally prefer a grout color that is similar to the backsplash tiles.
If you want a backsplash to be the main attraction in your kitchen, try limiting the amount of wall cabinets in your room.
If you’re looking for an alternative to painted kitchen walls, wall tile can provide a European look as well as hygienic surface.
Older kitchens in big city apartments often use classic tile, like white subway tiles, in its backsplashes.
A great way to incorporate interesting texture to a backsplash is by mixing materials, especially contrasting textures like glass and stone.
Once an afterthought, backsplashes are now a primary design element in many kitchens. In other words, when redesigning your kitchen in the 21st Century, don’t neglect the backsplash.
Reclaimed wood can be great for making some kitchen products, but don’t expect to find it available for backsplashes.
If you’re looking to use an eco-friendly tile for your backsplash, purchasing tiles made from post-consumer content is one of the greenest choices you can make.
Meet the backsplash experts we interviewed for this section.

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