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Tiles, leather, slabs can all add life to dated areas

Heather Hower
Special to the Daily
Varying colors, sizes and textures can make a kitchen wall feel contemporary.
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

There’s no time like springtime for a house renovation and since the kitchen is the heart of the home, you might as well start there. Every renovation doesn’t have to be all-encompassing. Feel free to start small and still get a big impact. Updating a backsplash adds punch to a kitchen, immediately updating the space and making it feel more modern. The first step in considering a new backsplash is to make sure it connects with your kitchen design. However, this is an area that can truly stand out, so think unique, think bold but have it complement your overall aesthetic.

There are many ways to be bold with backsplashes, said Amy Casey of Casey, St. John Interiors. She’s used a variety of materials in her clients’ designs, from always clean and sleek subway tiles to the unexpected and non-traditional tooled leather.

make backsplash unique

A favorite she recently installed — and one she admits might not be cost effective, but has a dramatic impact — is a one-of-a-kind stone slab. “In the past we have designed a backlit onyx slab bar and backsplash. It’s probably not the most economical option but it’s absolutely stunning,” Casey says.

Kim Toms, senior designer and fixed finishes expert at Slifer Designs, said that using a backsplash slab allows the homeowner to use a stone that might stain as a countertop but is beautiful, adding pizazz to the kitchen.

She recommends the look of a stunning slab for a clean, sophisticated look. “Less is more. A lot of people use composite stone (on a counter) because it’s bulletproof, so you could use natural stone as a backsplash. You could use a beautiful marble slab that has striations in it,” Toms says.

She adds that if you’re sticking with a budget, then another option is to source porcelain tile that looks like natural stone.

“You can’t tell it’s porcelain and it’s more cost effective,” Toms says.

If you’re updating, then Toms said removing the four-inch slab that most homes have and running the backsplash from the counter right under the cabinets creates a fresh look.

Kitchens should be as beautiful as they are functional. If color is your thing, then Casey’s advice is to be daring and go with a strong statement that will contrast with the cabinets. The backsplash in this instance would get all the glory and be an immediate conversation starter.

“The most outlandish (design we’ve done) would be a red textured tile on a bar,” Casey says. “You have to love the blast of color to make this successful, but if you do, it’s a very ‘one-of-a-kind’ statement.” She has also used red art glass for a similar wow effect.

Many of us are fearful of taking on too much color — or afraid we won’t love it after spending time, money and energy on the look. So Toms and Casey suggest keeping things neutral, but that doesn’t mean boring.

Try using a large-format subway-type tile in a vertical pattern for a clean, elegant, easy look. Using an 8 inch by 16 inch or 6 inch by 24 inch adds a lot of interest to a backsplash, Toms says.

Another rich look on a budget is using a composite marble-looking slab behind a hood with the white subway tile. “This can be a really inexpensive route, you can do (the slab) behind the hood to have something special. Then a simple white tile.”

Think outside the proverbial tile box to add a pop and totally transform the look and feel: windows to let the natural light in, stainless steel, copper, tin, wood or faux tiles. For the function, you’ll want it to be easy to wipe and keep clean.

Let your inner artist shine as you create a backsplash that won’t be relegated to the back burner.


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