Form and Function

Kitchen backsplashes serve a purpose, but they also can add style to the most important room in the house.

PSG construction/Jim Hobart, Macbethphoto

Done right, a kitchen backsplash can do far more than protect kitchen walls from steam, splashes and spills. “To me, the backsplash is the most important part of the kitchen because it grounds the space and creates seamlessness,” says Marc Thee of Marc-Michaels Interiors in Winter Park. “I like to think of the backsplash as the jewelry of the kitchen. I would rather skimp on cabinets and countertops and have my splurge moment on the backsplash.”

“Jewelry” is an appropriate word, given all the sparkle, shimmer and stone seen in the trendiest backsplashes. Marble slabs, glass tiles, mirrored panels, sheets of metal and even mother of pearl are among the on-trend materials being used in backsplashes—their light-reflective qualities adding luminosity and depth to the kitchen.

Can’t decide on just one? Mix them up, suggests Eli Mechlovitz, owner of “Mixing metal and glass mosaic tiles in a kitchen backsplash is an exciting option that brings a unique and inspiring ambiance to the space.” Keep the color palette balanced to allow the visual play between shiny metal and translucent glass to take center stage, he says. “Choose a fairly neutral overall color family, and look for tiles that are all within a few shades of each other to prevent visual chaos.”

Mechlovitz notes that other top backsplash trends include tiles in unexpected finishes, shapes and proportions, including rough-textured stone, circular tiles and large-scale glass tiles.

Dave Stanley, a design consultant for Busby Cabinets in Orlando, says that some homeowners are eschewing oversized tiles in favor of large, seamless sheets of glass or metal. “Full sheets of back-painted glass can give a seamless, contemporary look to a kitchen,” he says. For more traditional kitchens, he notes that sheets of antiqued metal, such as hammered copper with a verdigris patina, are trending for backsplashes.

Choosing your backsplash material is a start, but where you end it is also important, says Thee. “If you aren’t on a budget, I suggest taking the backsplash and bringing it above the kitchen cabinets to the ceiling. There’s no better way to truly ground your space and create that ‘wow’ moment.”  

Make a Splash

Busby Cabinets/Skofield Homes/Everett & SoulÉ

Tile not your style? Stone leaves you cold? There are plenty of backsplash alternatives you can try instead, especially if you’re a handy do-it-yourselfer. Crafty types have created backsplashes from such unexpected materials as pennies, wine corks, wine crates, bottle caps, drink coasters, cigar box lids, chalkboards (shown at right), metal flashing, reclaimed wood, beadboard, pebbles and even street signs. If you choose a material that’s porous, it’ll need protection from water splashes and grease splatters with a thick coat of polyurethane or a similar protective finish. Use color-matched or clear caulk to seal the top, bottom and all the seams.

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