/ Backsplashes

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

Oversized Tile Backsplash
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.

David Portales, Spanish Tile Association: Small spaces can seem bigger when left clear of lots of "stuff," and [can appear bigger with] large format tiles. When [large format tiles] are used on the horizontal line, they can make a space appear longer. On the other hand, a cavernous space can be made more intimate by introducing colors and smaller scale tiles. Be sure to work with experts who can help you truly visualize the end result.


Lori Kirk-Rolley, Tile Industry Professional: Not necessarily. Mosaic tiles have been used successfully in both small and large kitchens. The style of the kitchen, design objectives and the homeowners' personal tastes should drive selection.


Verdict: There is no set rule when it comes to matching tile size with the size of your kitchen. With the right design in place, both big and small tiles can complement any kitchen style.


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

Countertop Backsplash
The owners of this kitchen must really like their countertop material: they covered their entire backsplash in it.

Anna Marie Fanelli, Showroom Owner:Most times I do not like the same material, such as granite, to be the counter and backsplash, since I believe the look is too heavy. Recently, I had a client with contemporary Italian kitchen cabinetry. The countertop I used was Calcutta Gold, and in this case I used the same material as the backsplash. Since the cabinets made such a statement, I wanted a more uniform look, and the material makes a beautiful statement.


David Portales, Spanish Tile Association: Using the same material on a counter and then on the wall may be overwhelming to the eye with no color or textural break in the design. Better to interject a new color, finish or material to add some eye candy.


Lori Kirk-Rolley, Tile Industry Professional:I prefer visual connectivity and bringing different materials into a backsplash design. Doing so also provides an opportunity to coordinate with kitchen fixtures and appliances. However, I have seen this approach used very effectively when exotic stones were used on both the countertop and the backsplash.


Verdict: Unless your countertop is a visually unique piece of stone, you might want to avoid a completely uniform countertop and backsplash.


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

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

Lori Carroll, Interior Designer: After interviewing the client, I personally come up with a tile design for each space. I may visit a tile showroom with the client or if I know their preferences, choose items myself to present later.


Lisa Elkins, Architect: It usually is a collaboration involving us, the client, and the [showroom] we are purchasing tile from. If we have an idea, and the showroom doesn't have the shape or style we were thinking of, they can usually recommend an alternative that will help achieve that look. A lot of times we have samples in our own library, so we know the parameters we have to work in before we even go to the tile showroom. But sometimes we see a space and think of something that would look great that we don't have samples of.


Anna Marie Fanelli, Showroom Owner: It is very important that a homeowner understands the capability of the tile showroom. Most high-end showrooms will be able to design a backsplash or offer design services without needing a kitchen or interior designer. If the showrooms have some interesting tile vignettes, rest assured that they can design.


Verdict: If you're not working with a designer, a tile showroom should be able to help you plan and execute a backsplash design.


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

Glass Subway Tile Backsplash
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.

Lori Carroll, Interior Designer: Probably the most popular choices today are travertine, slate or granite in a variety of forms. Randomly or as a border, I also use wood and metal accent tiles to add even more dimension to a backsplash. Color, more than actual material, probably makes a kitchen look dated. Neutrals or even vivid colors are decidedly more appealing than "pretty" pastel shades of the past.


Lisa Elkins, Architect: Glass has been popular now for a little while, but it's really beautiful, so I think it's going to be popular for a long time.


Anna Marie Fanelli, Showroom Owner: The hottest backsplash material is glass! In any format: sticks, mosaics, 4-inch x 12-inch, 12-inch x 12-inch, and let's not forget custom glass patterns. In addition, stone is always popular, especially water-jet borders and patterned formats. The tumbled distressed stones seem to be less popular.


Lori Kirk-Rolley, Tile Industry Professional: Basic tumbled stone backsplashes without decorative elements have lost popularity, but adding a decorative element or other types of tile into the backsplash design, in addition to the tumbled stone, can make a beautiful yet timeless backsplash.


Verdict: 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.


What size and shape tiles are particularly popular right now?

Vertical Tile Backsplash
Courtesy of Walker Zanger

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

Lori Carroll, Interior Designer: I use a lot of 1-inch x 1-inch, 4-inch x 8-inch or 6-inch x 6-inch tiles for backsplashes; however, combining random shapes, colors and sizes, brings a fresh approach to kitchen and bath design. I will also vary the depths of materials within the backsplash for an even more dramatic effect. If a certain material-Kashmir slate, for example-has distinct detailing already, I will use larger, 12-inch x 12-inch tiles.


Lisa Elkins, Architect: What I'm starting to see now is that vertical is the new horizontal. People who want a more cutting-edge look use the vertical patterns. I'm seeing a little more of the staggering vertical (waterfall effect) pattern. We're starting to see really long tiles, like 1-inch x 6-inch, which look like bars.


Anna Marie Fanelli, Showroom Owner: The most popular sizes are 4-inch x 12-inch, 1-inch x 3-inch stacked mosaics, 2-inch x 4-inch, and 2-inch x 12-inch.


David Portales, Spanish Tile Representative: Larger format ceramic tile has replaced smaller formats. Modular programs especially in rectangular shapes can effectively reinforce the strong architectural, horizontal lines found in kitchens. Emphasis of the horizontal is seen in the line of the counter-top, in the industrial styled cabinet hardware can be further heightened with a ceramic pattern incorporating two formats of the same ceramic tile-for instance, integrating several rows of 2-inch x 16-inch tile in an installation of 8-inch x 16-inch format field tile.


Verdict: 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.


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

Tile Decals for Backsplashes
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.

Lori Carroll, Interior Designer: A renter is bound by their contract with the property owner. Anything that isn't permanent should be ideal, though. There are peel-and-stick metal wall tiles available at home improvement stores that would make a great contemporary backsplash in a rental.


David Portales, Spanish Tile Association: Slim tile is an excellent new option, directly beneficial to the current trend in renovation. At half the thickness of regular tile, slim tile makes perfect sense from a technical/functional and environmental viewpoint: reduce the thickness of the tile as much as possible while still maintaining the mechanical requirements suitable for wall installations and improve the ecological benefits of this style of tile.


Verdict: 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.


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

Stone and Glass Kitchen Backsplash

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.

Lori Carroll, Interior Designer: I use a lot of mosaics in my backsplash designs. Not your classic shards of tile arranged in colorful murals, but a natural compilation of tumbled stone and glass. Especially in the southwest that combination of solid and translucent appeals to our relaxed and informal lifestyle. Tile layouts can include everything from simple squares to random waterfall patterns.

Verdict: A great way to incorporate interesting texture to a backsplash is by mixing materials, especially contrasting textures like glass and stone.


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

Glass Tile Backsplash Accent
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.

Anna Marie Fanelli, Showroom Owner: You can always have great design even on a budget. Try using an inexpensive field [tile] such as 3-inch x 6-inch subway tile and dress it up with sheets of glass or stone mosaics. The detail material is cost effective since you get several rows of detail from one sheet.


Lori Kirk-Rolley, Tile Industry Professional: A homeowner can upgrade a backsplash design by simply adding an accent strip of glass mosaics. Or consider a decorative accent that is offered as part of the wall tile collection being used for the rest of the backsplash. The incremental cost to do this will be minimal, but it will achieve a designer look. Glass is a good option-a little goes a long way!


Verdict: Some striking accent tile can be a cost effective way to transform a bland backsplash.


How does tile design affect costs?

Custom Backsplash Design
Photo by Suki Medencevic

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

David Portales, Spanish Tile Association: Any installation requiring multiple cuts or complicated on-site layout can affect cost. If you're not working with a designer, we would always suggest consulting a certified tile installer (visit the National Tile Contractors Association to find a certified, reliable installer) to help you decide if these design ideas are worth the installation cost.


Lori Kirk-Rolley, Tile Industry Professional: Typically, the layout of the tile design does impact the installation cost. Laying tile on a diagonal will result in more cuts, which, depending on the area of the country, could increase installation cost between 10 to 20 percent.


Verdict: Every expert said costs will rise when tile has to be cut. It's hard to predict how much costs will increase, because each backsplash project presents its own unique set of challenges. 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. Also, all our experts recommend hiring tile installers when it comes to these types of complicated backsplash installations.


Let Your Backsplash Express Your Style

A tile backsplash

This patterned ceramic tile has a metallic glaze that adds a luminous quality to the backsplash.

What started as an easy-to-clean surface behind your cooktop or sink has turned into a showcase of artistic styling for your kitchen. Backsplashes are available in a variety of materials. Whether you're looking for the classic look of ceramic tile or interested in the earthy qualities of natural stone, your backsplash design possibilities are as big as your imagination.

Before you start laying bright orange glass tile, you might want to consider a couple things.

First, depending on your budget, you may want to take a closer look at the price of your materials and consider when you might remodel again. Trends come and go, so don't jump at the latest fad for your walls. Choosing a focal point, like over your cooktop, for more decorative designs while keeping the rest of your backpslash toned down may be the right way to go.

Read on to find out more about backsplash materials and design options.

More in this category:Tile »