Ceramic Tile Backsplashes
Perhaps one of the most popular styles, ceramic tile backsplashes can work well in a variety of kitchen areas.
Ceramic tile is a classic, timeless choice for a backsplash. Available in a number of sizes, shapes, colors and textures, ceramic tiles can be used to create a variety of designs.
Put a Cork in It
To give a wet bar a dose of witty personality, consider an easy DIY project: covering the backsplash area with used corks. "It’s a great conversation-starter,” says Luke Perisich of Blue Sky Building Company. “If anyone asks, just claim you can't remember drinking all those bottles."
In a contemporary kitchen with white-painted oak cabinets, designer Ioana Mezei of Primera Interiors SRL added interest with a unique backsplash. “We customized wallpaper with chef Jamie Oliver’s hamburger recipe and covered it with ultra-clear glass,” she explains. The result is fun, easy to adapt to your own tastes (choose your own favorite recipe, quote or other writing) and easy to wipe clean.
Seashells collected during the homeowner’s family trips to the ocean were the perfect choice to create a personalized backsplash in a vacation home. Designer Kelli Kaufer of Kelli Kaufer Designs attached the seashells to the wall with an all-in-one sanded grout, available at any hardware store. No additional grouting required! “Apply a clear sealer once it’s dry to make the backsplash easier to clean later,” says Kaufer.
For the media-room bar she designed for a spirits lover in Austin, Texas, designer Natalie Howe used vintage bottle caps set in lilac-colored grout. “I sourced the caps through a collector in North Carolina,” she says. “It's fun, vibrant and always brings a smile – which mixes perfectly with cocktail hour.”
Cute as a Button
Designer Kelli Kaufer created this one-of-a-kind backsplash using her client’s prized collection of buttons (plus a few extras bought at garage sales and crafts stores). “I used a double-sided sticky mat,” she says. “Apply the mat to the wall and start placing the buttons. You may want to use the back side of the buttons as there are fewer ridges. Once the buttons are in place, apply a non-sanded grout just like you would grout normal tile. This will help hold the buttons in place.”
Incorporating exterior materials can give interior spaces an extra dimension of texture and interest. Case in point: the luxurious basement bar of a home in Calgary, Alberta. “We used an entire wall of manufactured stone for the backsplash,” says Fire Ant Contracting. The result is masculine, rustic and rich.
Second Time Around
For the kitchen of a vacation house in Portland, Ore., designer Michelle Ruber of Encircle Design and Build wanted a stylish and low-maintenance material that would stand up to a high-traffic environment. She found her solution in an unlikely place: “The backsplash is the old pony wall in the basement that was removed during the remodel,” she says. “We had the wood planed and then applied it to the backsplash, which brought in a warm feel and history of the original structure. We used a durable marine-grade varnish to protect and properly seal the wood.”
In a kitchen with an open layout, it can be challenging to link the workspace to adjacent living areas. Here, designer Robin Baron used an extra-tall stone-tile backsplash to help connect the kitchen and casual dining area and create an intriguing mix of patterns. "Great design is all about the balancing of layers,” she says. “This mixed stone patterned backsplash combined with the bold tapestry on the banquette create an interesting and inviting space for the family."
In a workspace that takes as much abuse as a family kitchen, it’s essential to choose materials that can stand up to daily use. Travis Arnett of Arnett Construction chose a rustic oak plank for the backsplash of the space, but with a twist: “I used Mohawk’s rustic oak plank tiles instead of actual wood,” he says.
If you like the idea of decorating with natural materials, consider this unusual option: 12-inch “tiles” made from reclaimed coconut shells. “They’re very easy to install,” says designer Kelli Kaufer. “Following the instructions, you apply adhesive to the wall and stick the squares in place.” For simpler maintenance down the road, finish with a clear sealant. “They add great texture, creating an earthy look that fits the relaxed, vintage style of this kitchen perfectly,” she says.
In a sleek, contemporary kitchen, texture can be the best way to add dramatic interest. In this space, designer Laure Antonetti Schutze of L. Antonetti Design chose a rich metallic basket weave for the area behind the cooktop. "Our client wanted a kitchen backsplash with a 'wow' factor,” she says. “We used a woven copper that's not only beautiful but a conversation piece for the space."
If you like the idea of a patterned backsplash that won’t go out of style, consider a simple geometric pattern: stripes, diamonds or zigzags, for example. To create this chevron effect, designer Kelli Kaufer used hand-cut stained glass. She bought three different colors, cut them into 1-inch wide by 3-inch long angled pieces, and applied to the wall using a double-sided sticky mat. Then, she grouted with a non-sanded grout. “This backsplash can work with many different styles,” says Kaufer. “Depending on the color of the glass pieces, you can either go bold, creating a hip, modern look, or muted, for a classic, sophisticated style.”
For the backsplash in the kitchen of this ski chalet, designer Kelli Kaufer turned to her client’s hobby for inspiration, creating a backsplash covered with pieces of old skis. “The homeowner had a few old skis around and we also found a few more at a local second-hand store,” says Kaufer. She used a circular saw to cut the skis into 2” x 2” pieces, glued them to the wall using adhesive designed for metal, and filled the gaps between the ski pieces with small mosaic tiles. Regular sanded grout holds the pieces in place. “The backsplash adds whimsy,” she says. “And, it’s easy to clean. Skis are designed to take a beating!”
However, before you decide on the type of ceramic tile you will choose for your backsplash, it is important to first consider how you like to cook and clean. The thing is, ceramic tile often includes exposed lines of grout—meaning dirt can get trapped in every nook and cranny. Therefore, if you spend a lot of time at the stove or are prone to making a mess when cooking, you may not want to choose tiny tiles that will result in a lot of grout lines. You might also want to choose a dark grout which will make dirt less visible.
Once that is decided, then you can choose the ceramic tiles that will work best in your kitchen area. A country style kitchen might pair well with pale yellow tiles or a mix of faded green and blue tiles. On the other hand, a Tuscan style kitchen might be enhanced by ceramic tiles that are accented by a decorative bunch of grapes or ivy.
Some people also add a touch of creative genius to their backsplashes by choosing neutral tiles and painting a stenciled design onto the tiles. Once the design is complete, the tiles are then adhered to the wall.
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