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The Kitchen Backsplash – How to Combine Art with Functionality

The Kitchen Backsplash – How to Combine Art with Functionality

The kitchen backsplash started life as a practical and useful idea and evolved into something that could arguably be termed ‘kitchen art’.

There are so many choices and ways to fashion a backsplash that choosing one, may seem overwhelming at first. While selecting a backsplash it is very useful to understand what type of backsplash products and materials are available, and how to use them.

Most of us associate ’tile’ with a kitchen backsplash, but you might be surprised at what else is available. You can have a backsplash that is permanent or temporary, tile or metal, pre-made or custom manufactured. But before you make a decision, be sure to think through all considerations, so that your choice of backsplash will be right choice for now and several years down the road.

Kitchen backsplash ideas

Kitchen Backsplash Ideas and Styles

Kitchen backsplash ideas run the gamut from simple to elaborate with all kinds of styles in between. Tile is the really common and versatile choice but isn’t the only show in town.

So where do you start?

One way to get a handle on narrowing down your choice for the perfect kitchen backsplash is to break down the infinite realm of backsplash ideas into some manageable categories.

From these categories, or types you can decide what ideas strike your fancy and then run off and explore the options. This is no “official” list and there may be some overlap here but it should help you sort out and hone in on your favorite “types” of kitchen backsplash ideas.

Horizontal tile backsplash

Tile

Kitchen tile backsplash

Tile backsplashes are the mainstay of kitchen decorating, offering limitless design options and artistic styles. Options include ceramic and porcelain tiles, stone, metal and even an engineered stone tile. Backsplash tiles are very do-it-yourself friendly so it’s a project you can do yourself without too much fuss.

If you go for a more elaborate design you may want to enlist the help of someone with some experience. Laying out a full-scale mockup drawing beforehand and taping it in place may help you get an idea how the finished product will look.

Mosaics

A mosaic kitchen backsplash is just another version of a tiled backsplash except that it’s usually made from smaller pieces of glass, ceramic or stone tile. Some mosaic backsplashes depict a particular image or scene, much like a puzzle. Others simply provide color and/or some geometric pattern, with no specific image. You could even try your own hand at making a mosaic.

Backsplash Tile Ideas

Mural

A backsplash mural is also usually made with tile and depicts some sort of picture or image. It’s somewhat synonymous with a mosaic image backsplash although the mural is usually made with larger tiles. A backsplash mural can be created several ways including hand-paintings and the reproduction of photo images that are applied to the tiles.

Kitchen backsplash mural

Removable/Temporary

A removable backsplash is one that you can take off as easily as you can install. These kinds of products usually involve a pre-assembled backsplash that’s installed in a frame and hung on the wall like a picture. These kinds of backsplashes work well in temporary situations like apartments where you may want to take your backsplash with you when you move.

Backsplash

Panels or Sheets

This category comprises several kinds of backsplashes that involve the application of sheet materials like plastic laminate or metal, or the use of panels. Panels can include things like solid surface wall panels with a wainscot design, thermoplastic panels that mimic the look of embossed tin and even glass panels that can be backlit, frosted or textured.

Black backsplash

Once you’re aware of the various ‘categories’ of backsplash ideas that are available it’ll be a little easier to narrow down your selection to the type of backsplash you’re interested in.

Backsplash Materials

Part of what defines the style and feel of your kitchen is the texture of the backsplash, and textures are a characteristic of the type of material you choose. Different materials will obviously have different textures.

Rougher tiles and stone textures convey a more casual or rustic feel whereas the smooth surfaces of glass and stainless steel impart a sleek, modern look.
Backsplash materials and their texture also define how well they’ll stand up to the rigors of what they were actually intended to do — protect your walls from overspray and splashes from the sink, the stove and klutzy mishaps on the countertop.

The material you choose will also dictate the level of maintenance required to keep it clean. Picture a gurgling pot of spaghetti sauce and the way it “pops” those little bubbles onto the counter and backsplash. A smooth non-porous surface will be easily wiped clean whereas a rough or irregular surface might be a bit harder because of the pores and/or creases in the material.

Regardless of where you fall on the style spectrum there are plenty of choices when it comes to backsplash materials so you should be able to find one or some that suit your needs. Just keep in mind the care and maintenance involved with each.

To avoid confusion, the pictures shown below all depict tile backsplashes of one form or another. Pictures that are near text that describe other backsplash materials don’t represent those particular materials.

Ceramic/Porcelain Tile

The most common material, tile backsplashes offer an infinite range of style options. Most ceramic and porcelain tiles are glazed or have a hard, non-porous finish. If they don’t you’ll need to be careful as they’ll be harder to clean and more easily stained.

Kitchen Backsplash Design

Stone

Natural stone backsplashes are typically made from stone tiles and offer the beauty and randomness that only nature provides. However, stone is porous and needs to be sealed periodically to avoid staining. Stone is also heavy, depending on the amount and thickness of the pieces that form the backsplash.

Kitchen stone backsplash

Metal

A metal backsplash comes in several forms; there’s metal tiles, metal sheets and smaller panels. There are lots of design options here too. Metal choices include stainless steel, tin and copper, or virtually any type of metal you can have fabricated and installed on the wall. You’re not limited to just a plain flat surface either. Textured metal backsplashes include pressed tin, evoking a more antique style, and pillowed and pressed sheet metal for some added visual dimension.

Metal Backsplash

Plastic Laminate/Thermoplastic

Some of the simplest forms of kitchen backsplash use the same laminate that’s found on countertops.
It can be cut and adhered to the wall, is available in hundreds of colors and patterns and is extremely durable and easily wiped clean. Other similar products include thermoplastic panels, some that mimic the look of pressed tin.

Their advantage is the ease with which they can be installed and cleaned and the ability to mimic the look of other embossed materials like metal.

Glass

A glass backsplash offers a unique look in that it’s not found in every kitchen. Glass is durable and easily cleaned due to its non-porous surface. Glass backsplashes are available in tile form as well as in panels. Using tiles made from recycled glass is a great way to ‘green-up’ your backsplash and re-use material that would otherwise go into a landfill.

Glass backsplash

Solid Surface

Solid surface, the material typically used in countertops, can also be used as a backsplash. Solid surface is easy to clean and it’s also renewable, meaning scratches and staining can usually be removed.

Kitchen backsplash

Any Combination

Got ideas? Combine several materials for a unique and interesting backsplash. Add some metal tiles as a border to a field of ceramic tiles. Use one type of material as a focal point behind an oven or range while using another type of material for the remaining counter backsplash area under the cabinets.

Things To Consider Before Choosing A Backsplash

So what are the considerations when putting up a kitchen backsplash, other than the style and design? Nothing too critical but there are few things to think through so you do not fall into any “buyer’s remorse” later on.

• Permanent Or Temporary
Most kitchen backsplashes are relatively permanent, being adhered to the wall in some way. But if you’re fickle and don’t want to stare at the same tile design for the next 20 years, think about something less permanent. Sheet-style backsplashes and the picture-frame backsplash products are more easily removed than a glued-and-grouted tile backsplash.

• Going With A Timeless Design
Similar to a tattoo, some backsplash designs might become dated depending on the style. If you’re really into that vineyard scene and know you’ll still love it years down the road, go for it. Then again, that flamingo colored border might not be in vogue 5 years from now. In other words – choose a backsplash that you know you’ll still love years down the road or, exhibits timeless design qualities that won’t be considered garish down the road.

• Clean-ability And Maintenance
It was mentioned above but it’s worth stating again – choose a backsplash material and/or design that won’t be too much of a burden for you to keep clean. You may be a very clean cook and your backsplash may never see a spec of dirt. On the other hand, maybe your kitchen looks like a tornado zone after prepping for a dinner party. Keep this in mind when you choose your backsplash.

• Enhancing It With Undercabinet Lighting
The use of some undercabinet lighting can really enhance a kitchen backsplash, particularly if it’s a unique design or has some interesting visual detail. Lighting also works well with glass backsplashes as the glass tends to pick up and reflect the light, helping create a nice visual touch to the kitchen.