Every expert will tell you that the cabinetry and countertops are foundational
elements in your kitchen’s design. But to take your kitchen from nice to noticeable, you need to focus on the often-forgotten elements, too. One area that can add interest and
express your personality is the backsplash.
Kate-Lo’s Robert Steger says, “If a homeowner wants to change the entire look of the kitchen, then most definitely you would want to include a backsplash to coordinate with the floor and countertop as well as the cabinets. A new backsplash can give your kitchen a vibrant and elegant look.”
“With the help of an experienced designer, a normally insignificant area can be transformed into a focal point,” says Teresa Danos of Rowat Cut Stone & Marble Co. in Des Moines. “Your home is a reflection of your personality, so you should feel free to think outside the box.”
Designers and homeowners are doing just that. You can install a full-height
backsplash from counter to upper cabinets, allowing more space to get creative. Or install a mosaic over the stove or sink to add color and focus.
Meredith Moore, designer with Sunderland Brothers in Urbandale, says, “We’ve seen a trend in mosaic blends in the last few years, where manufacturers are creating
mosaic sheets by mixing glass, metal, stone, even wood.”
These materials can be used throughout the backsplash, in a random play of
texture, or in a larger, artistic design.
“We’re doing a lot of tumbled travertine tiles,” says Jeff Bognar of Granite
Marble Tile in Ankeny. “The ‘rug,’ or pattern, behind stovetops is very popular, and we’re seeing glass tile used as inserts there.”
Another design gaining in popularity is the “subway tile” pattern in which a row of the same tile in a contrasting color is laid along the length of the wall. This technique provides a splash of color without distracting from the overall look of the kitchen.
Bognar says some smaller tile patterns can appear
cluttered in the wrong application. “It depends a lot on the style
of countertop and cabinetry—you don’t want it to get too
busy.” Mixing a multicolored backsplash with marble or granite
countertops can overwhelm the space quickly.
If you plan to replace cabinets and countertops, kitchen design professionals recommend doing that step first. Not only does your backsplash design need to suit those materials, but changing counters or cabinets later can damage the new
backsplash. However, doing countertops and backsplash together can open up even more creative possibilities.
“We just finished installing granite countertops with a vertical vein match on the back splashes,” says Danos. “It took longer and cost more, but the end result exceeded the customer’s expectations.”
Steger of Kate-Lo Tile says, “Backsplashes add a new
dimension to the installation process because you’re working on a vertical surface rather than a horizontal. The installer needs to use no-sag products and make sure the grout and mortar are
appropriate for the tile.” If cost is an issue, he suggests that
homeowners can save money by removing any existing backsplash themselves. “You just need a hammer, a pry bar, and a little sweat equity,” he says.
Per square foot, tile backsplashes cost more than tile floors because the installation process is more complicated due to
additional cutouts around outlets and cabinetry. However, the total square footage is much smaller than the average floor, so you
receive more bang for your buck.
Every gathering eventually ends up in the kitchen, so why not invest in a little extra spice there?