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Backsplash Bling

A ceramic subway tile backsplash from Fireclay Tile.

Update a classic subway tile backsplash with color: Debris Series recycled ceramic tile by Fireclay Tile.

Currently, my kitchen has a 4-inch splash of the same material as the countertop. The 14 inches between splash top and wall cabinets is painted the same shade as the rest of the kitchen. I'm betting many of you have the same arrangement in your own kitchens, if they haven't been remodeled: Most production builders use this formula.


Practical Pointers

Here are some things to take into account before finalizing any backsplash plans or buying any material: 

  • If you're planning on changing your countertops, as I am, do that before you change your backsplash. Otherwise, there's an excellent chance it will get damaged during the top removal. You could also create unnecessary potential fit issues.
  • Consider whether you want to use this opportunity to add lights under your wall cabinets first. Again, you don't want to rip out your new backsplash to accommodate wiring later.
  • Overall kitchen electrical placement needs to be factored into your backsplash design, so that a focal point isn't marred by an unfortunate disposal switch or GFCI label!
  • Consider the grout color dictated by your selected backsplash tile colors. My experience has convinced me that I don't ever, ever, ever want to have white grout in my kitchen again-not on the floors, not on the walls, not in this lifetime, never at all! I found it incredibly hard to keep white, even with a talented housekeeper. (If you have a cleaning solution that unfailingly works, dear readers, please share it with the group.)
  • Consider the maintenance issues required for your selected backsplash material. Will it need to be sealed periodically, like marble or granite? If so, how often, and who will handle this chore?
  • If you are planning a focal point for your backsplash, be sure you have the right scale and space for it. You're going to need enough room not just for the design element, but for field tile above and below to frame it. A range hood usually will accommodate this scale. An over-the-range microwave won't give you space for a major statement.
  • For more practical pointers worth considering, read the entire post on Gold Notes.


Tile Style

Tile is one of the most popular choices for kitchen backsplashes, and it offers tremendous versatility. Tile itself is a very durable material. You can find tile floors in Rome, Greece, Morocco and Spain that are centuries — even millennia — old and still beautiful. It's the grout component that can be challenging. As I so strenuously noted above, I try to avoid white grout in kitchens as much as possible. Here are some tile backsplash options that can look great with less work.


A white penny-round tile backsplash from Modwalls.

Make a fun modern backsplash with ModDotz, glazed porcelain penny round tile by Modwalls



A stone tile kitchen backsplash from Crosville.

Add drama to your backsplash with Modern Mythology stone tiles by Crossville.


Other Ideas

While most of the kitchens you'll see published have tile backsplashes, they aren't your only option. Here are some viable alternatives:

Tin tiles can install on a backsplash instead of on the ceiling. They're usually perfectly sized for this space, too, with the standard being 6 by 6 inches and a full-height backsplash being 18 inches. There are so many color and pattern options to choose from now; you're no longer limited to vintage-look silver! Tin tiles are also typically pretty easy to maintain, which certainly fits many of our lifestyles.


A tin kitchen tile backsplash from American Tin Ceiling.

Be a tin man (or woman) with ceiling tiles by The American Tin Ceiling Co.


Paint can be your backsplash's (and budget's) best friend. One of my neighbors in Florida had a very handy husband. He painted a harlequin backsplash for her that looked just like tile; without the work or cost. Because he used kitchen-friendly paint, cooking splashes just rubbed right off! It was also an incredibly economic solution.

Chez J's Splash of Choice! Check out Jamie's choice of backsplash material for Chez J.


Add-on Opportunities

I often suggest to clients (and will implement this idea Chez J) that they carry the backsplash material into other areas of their public space. Natural opportunities for style extension include fireplace surrounds and powder room wainscoting. These also tend to be small areas that can be enhanced inexpensively because of the minimal material needed.

Depending on the material selected-for example, porcelain stone-your backsplash material could become the powder room floor, rather than wainscoting. Or, if there's a medallion available in the tile series you selected for a backsplash, you could create a great companion focal point in the entry way.


Kitchen and bath designer Jamie Goldberg

 © 2011, Jamie Goldberg, AKBD, CAPS. Excerpted from Gold Notes: Nuggets from the World of Residential Design. Jamie is an NKBA-certified designer of kitchens and baths in San Diego, CA, and offers Sensible Style for Home Seller consultations around the country. She can be reached at (619) 796-2217 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.








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