Bathroom Backsplashes Make a Style Statement

Article by: Meera Innes

The functional nature of sinks might not always inspire style, but the backsplash can be a bathroom centerpiece. Backsplashes help to protect the wall from water damage, but the myriad materials, colors and finishes also make this a small feature that can transform the feel of a bathroom and add drama, polish or character.

Create a centerpiece. Extending the backsplash over an entire wall — or, as here, a column — creates a feature wall that showcases the sink area. The use of white subway tiles throughout a large bathroom might appear too sterile, so choosing the same tiles in a different color with contrasting grout is a fresh idea that gives a pristine bathroom some much-needed zing.

Go for glamour. If opulence is your style, then it doesn’t get much more gorgeous than this custom inlaid wood backsplash. Polished natural wood inlaid with floral motifs isn’t your everyday sink backdrop and will require maintenance to keep it in perfect condition, but why not choose stunning artwork to gaze at first thing in the morning and last thing at night?

Contrast with polish. Give distressed furniture a twist by combining it with a clean, contemporary backdrop. The backsplash used here is made simply from two large, distinctly modern concrete tiles that quietly showcase the understated sink. 

Leaving the wall behind the sink bare could have rendered this area wanting in the style stakes, but the tiles make it a focal point, tying everything together with their smooth and rough finish that’s midway between the sleek sink and the Shabby Chic–style washstand.

Give it character. The vintage feel of the materials in this bathroom, from the stools to the mirrors, calls for a backsplash in a similarly antique style. The small cut and colorful pattern of the tiles used here make them an appropriate contrast to the stark white subway tiles. 

If you’re feeling bold, choosing slightly mismatched tiles in the same size and shape for each sink could also work in a bathroom aiming for this sort of bohemian charm.

Don’t be scared of brights. A backsplash is an easy way to add punchy color to bathroom decor, which often errs on the neutral side. This backsplash’s smooth, modern finish and long lines are in keeping with the overall style of this contemporary bathroom. Aim for cohesion, not clashing, in a space as streamlined as this.

Define your sink area. Backsplashes aren’t just for the wall — your floor could use the love, too. The way this backsplash rolls down into the floor tiles gives this sink the red-carpet treatment. The Moroccan design is a quirky choice that lends the contemporary feel of this bathroom a pleasing bohemian twist.

Keep it quiet. If your bathroom is a haven where you like to unwind and escape the chaos of life, then a muted palette might just hit the right tone. The gray-blue of this backsplash doesn’t fight with the striking Victorian-style ceramic floor tiles, yet quietly enhances the gray tones of the vanity unit and paneling.

Choose white in a small space. Even the simplest backsplash can make all the difference to a sparsely decorated bathroom. Here, the humble subway tile adds plenty of interest to a run-of-the-mill white suite. All-over white was the best choice for keeping the decor clean and enhancing a sense of space in this mini loft bathroom, while wooden details in the door, window and accessories add a warm edge.

Play with color and texture. It could have been tempting to follow through on the reflective theme here by creating a mirrored backsplash, but these colorful iridescent tiles provide a refreshing contrast with enough shine for consistency. The hint of art deco about the tiles complements the style of the mirror and cabinet while keeping the overall look modern.

Work a neat repeat. If you’ve used tiles elsewhere in the bathroom and you have some left over, it makes perfect sense to use the remainder on the backsplash. It’s a less adventurous choice, but it ensures that your theme is consistent, and you can be certain it’ll match the decor.

Why You Should Embrace a Solid Slab Backsplash

A solid slab backsplash is a custom look that says luxury in a kitchen of any size. But it doesn’t require a luxurious budget. Take inspiration from this trendy yet timeless look, and give your next kitchen remodel a solid head start.

A slab backsplash is simply a backsplash made of a continuous material (or in cases like this one, a few large pieces with the occasional break for an appliance or a cabinet). The solid surface creates a different visual effect than, say, tile. When matched to the countertop, it creates an especially big, bold look.

The minimalist sensibility of unbroken planes makes the slab backsplash a key ingredient in many contemporary or transitional kitchens, balancing a modern form with a timeless traditional material for the best of both worlds.

Plus, a stone treatment on the wall is naturally more eye-catching than one on the counter, as the eye gravitates to vertical surfaces first.

A stone with large-scale veining suits spacious kitchens perfectly, making it a natural match for open-concept kitchens where the backsplash is on full display even from a distance.

However, it can also be an achievable look for a less expansive kitchen (more on that in a moment).

When combined with a wrapped island, the look is ultraluxe. It’s no small investment, but the unique architectural nature of the installation means it will always have classic elegance.

A slab backsplash does not have to be created from high-contrast stone either. An engineered material like Corian or Caesarstone also looks beautiful facing forward, especially in a more modern setting.

Layered with open shelving, it becomes the perfect backdrop for a rich but fuss-free look.

You can match the slab to the counter and island, or let it be a feature on its own paired with simpler materials for the other surfaces, even combining up to three materials for a subtly diverse look. 

To play it safe, I would avoid choosing more than three materials, and for a no-fail option use a solid-colored slab for one area and simple subway tile for another to avoid clashing.

Get the Look for Less

There are several budget-friendly ways to achieve this look. One is to simply clad a smaller feature area, such as the space between the range and hood. This is especially effective in a space where much of the wall is already eaten up by a window. With a pale or plain treatment for the remaining walls, the stone will dominate the statement.

Similarly, you can use two book-matched pieces of stone (two layers sliced from the same source and flipped to make a mirror image) to create an elegant effect from smaller pieces. 

If you shop around, you can likely find a stone supplier that will sell you smaller off-cut pieces at a discount; you’ll need to be flexible about the type of stone you’re seeking. This can be a great way to inspire the rest of the look — starting with a stone and working from there to choose coordinating colors and finishes.

In a kitchen renovation project of my own, I needed only one slab of material to dress this galley kitchen, making the compact size an advantage in creating a big look. Because the backsplash reaches the upper cabinets, it feels like a full-impact effect, even though the actual material square footage is low. I then backed the stove and fridge niche in a subdued material (sheets of smoky gray mirror) to let the stone speak for itself.

Another trend is to use a short backsplash, often just a few inches high, to give the sense that the material is traveling up the wall while protecting the wall from dings and dents where it’s needed most. In fact, you may prefer this look for its more understated nature.

You can then combine this low-lined look with a secondary tile wherever you need a little more coverage, such as behind the stove.

Using an engineered stone on one third to half of the wall above a countertop leaves room for a display of art, decorative plates or a stunning painting to give your kitchen a gallery-like feel that softens the functional feel.

You can also create a similar effect by choosing tiles that have a chunky, high-contrast grain or color variance. When the tiles are put together in a complex pattern (like herringbone), their geometry gives way to a sense of organic rippling that has the energy of a slab with a subtle layer of extra sophistication.

Make sure to take the treatment all the way to the ceiling for that high-impact look.

Last, take inspiration from this idea and get the look not with stone but with paper. A wallpaper backsplash creates that continuous custom look while tying the room to another space in your house (if you repeat the pattern in, say, your living room or dining nook). Just add a layer of glass on top to create that wipe able surface.

Kitchen Ideas: How to Choose the Perfect Backsplash

Article by: Sophie Baylis

The humble backsplash has come a long way. Once upon a time, its purpose was purely functional: a tiled area behind the stove and sink to protect kitchen walls from stains and splashes. Today the availability of all manner of materials in a wide array of finishes means your backsplash can make more of a statement. To help you decide which material would work best for you, we offer expert advice on the 10 most popular backsplash materials.

Stainless Steel

Get an industrial vibe with a stainless steel backsplash. The material comes in sheets of flat steel that can be fixed directly to the wall with either glue or screws.

“You should only ever clean it using warm water and an e-cloth,” advises Conrad Hendrick of LWK Kitchens London. “Over time, the chemicals in common cleaning agents can create a buildup on the steel’s surface. This will make watermarks and fingerprints show much more prominently, leaving your stainless steel not quite so stainless.”

Pros: Stainless steel is not only affordable; it’s known for its heat-resistant and hard-wearing properties. It’s also easy to clean.

Cons: Although easy to clean, stainless steel can be difficult to keep looking pristine. It is not scratch resistant — although minor scratches enhance the look over time — and can dent.

Porcelain and Ceramic Tiles

Tiled backsplashes are a popular choice, as they offer versatility, practicality and style. Thanks to advances in printing technology, ceramic and porcelain tiles can be produced to resemble natural wood and stone, but with none of the associated performance challenges. The tiles are resistant to scratches, heat and water, and should be reasonably cheap and easy to install. And while they are durable, should a tile become chipped or damaged, you simply need to remove it and lay another.

Pros: While tiles are easier to clean than most other materials, and therefore lend themselves perfectly to a backsplash, this is not the only reason they are ideal for the job. “With such a range of shapes, sizes, colors and patterns now available, tiles give you the freedom to put your own creative stamp on your room without compromising on practicality,” says Robin Auld of Topps Tiles.

Cons: The sheer volume of styles and finishes can be overwhelming. “Consider exactly how the space will be used to ensure your choice works with your lifestyle,” Auld says. “While pristine white tiles and matching grout may look perfect in a modern, low-use kitchen, they are not the most practical choice for a busy family space.” Darker-colored grouts are definitely worth investigating.

Glass

For those wanting a sleek, streamlined kitchen look, glass is a popular choice, because it can be fitted in large, seamless panels. You should always ask for tempered glass, which is harder than ordinary glass and will be far less likely to scratch, advises Siobhan Casey of Casey & Fox. Also ask for polished edges, so there’s less chance of scratching the surrounding furniture on installation.

The beauty of a glass backsplash is that you can choose anything from a custom piece of artwork screen-printed and mounted on the back of the glass, to a digital image or a painted finish. “I would always recommend that a professional takes care of the painting,” Casey says. “It could be a costly mistake to attempt this yourself without the experience and knowledge of a professional.”

Pros: Strong and durable, glass is also easy to clean and install, being either screwed or glued to the wall. While glass backsplashes used to be expensive, the good news is that prices have decreased dramatically in recent years.

Cons: Make sure you choose a color you and your family are happy with. “While changing this after installation is not impossible,” Casey says, “it’s not an easy job.”

Engineered Stone

Also referred to as quartz composite, engineered stone is made of crushed quartz mixed with resin. Look out for leading brands, such as Silestone and Caesarstone, that make their engineered stone using the lowest percentage of resin, advises Andrew Macintosh of Andrew Macintosh Kitchens. High-performing engineered stones are heat and scratch resistant as well as extremely tough.

To keep costs under control, Macintosh suggests teaming an engineered stone backsplash with matching countertops. “If you do this, the templating and fitting charges are much lower than using a different material and supplier,” he says.

Pros: Engineered stone is durable, scratch resistant and nonporous, meaning it won’t stain. It’s easily cleaned with warm, soapy water and comes in a wide range of different colors to suit all tastes. It’s supplied in large panels, resulting in fewer or no seams on a larger wall run.

Cons: Installation of an engineered stone backsplash must be done by a specialist. It is certainly not a DIY job, Macintosh says. 

Granite

Granite is still a favorite for backsplashes, working equally well in traditional and contemporary settings. What’s more, no two slabs of natural stone will ever look exactly the same, so you are guaranteed a unique look. 

One of the main factors that will determine the appearance of your granite backsplash is whether you opt for a honed or polished granite, says Hendrick. Shiny polished granite is popular for traditional and country-style kitchens. Alternatively, honed granite has a matte finish that’s much more textured yet understated, so it’s the ideal choice for a contemporary kitchen.

If you choose honed granite, test some samples with water and oil, as certain variations of the stone can show wet marks longer.

Pros: Granite is easy to clean, very hard wearing and available in a range of different colors. 

Cons: Among the costlier backsplash options, granite is porous, so it needs sealing to prevent staining.

Polished Plaster

There are many reasons to choose a polished plaster backsplash, not least because it can be specified in almost any color. Texturally, it can range from highly polished and smooth to rough and weathered,” says Charlie Borthwick of Cue & Co of London. It also doesn’t have to be one flat color; veining can be introduced to add depth and interest. 

Pros: It’s easy to maintain and needs minimal care once installed — simply wipe it down.

Cons: Although polished plaster is fairly hard wearing, accidental chips cannot be repaired. If this is a concern, use your worktop material to create an upstand — a small skirting around the edge of the worktop — to help protect the plaster, Borthwick says. 

Composite

Composite (or solid-surface) materials, such as Corian and Hi-Macs, are usually made from a blend of one-third resin and two-thirds natural mineral. Available in a diverse color range, they also offer extraordinary design flexibility and can be seamlessly molded into angles and curves, so there’s no seam between the countertop and backsplash. This makes them easy to keep clean and hygienic, because there are no seams where dirt can gather.

Pros: Composites are nonporous, easy to care for, hygienic and durable. Joints are inconspicuous, providing a seamless surface.

Cons: Composite materials such as Corian can be scratched, but very often scratches can be sanded out. Also, Corian is not heat resistant, so you can’t install it behind a gas [cooktop], Hendrick says.

Laminate

If your budget won’t stretch to a natural stone backsplash, consider laminate. It is not only affordable, but it comes in numerous colors and finishes designed to look like real wood or stone. Although laminates don’t offer the same sense of luxury, high-definition printing and textural innovation mean they can look and feel increasingly realistic. 

Pros: Easy to keep clean and water resistant, laminate is a hard-wearing and affordable choice for a kitchen backsplash. “Match it to other finishes in your kitchen so it becomes part of the whole color scheme rather than just a statement feature, says Diane Berry of Diane Berry Kitchens. 

Cons: Laminate is not suitable for use behind a gas range because of the open flames, and Berry alsorecommends a gap of at least 4 inches (10 centimeters) between a laminate backsplash and any other kind of stove. You also need to make sure it’s installed well, particularly around wet areas, to stop water soaking into any joints, just as you would a laminate worktop, she says.

Mirrored Glass

A mirrored glass backsplash suits all styles of kitchen, often adding a contemporary twist to a more traditional look. Its reflective surface bounces light around, making the space feel bright and often larger than it really is. “If you want mirrored backsplash in your kitchen, then general safety regulations dictate that you must have toughened or tempered glass,” Hendrick says.

Pros: Toughened so it’s strong and durable, mirrored glass is also easy to clean. And because panels are available in lengths up to around 10 feet (3 meters), it’s possible to create a seamless look. 

Cons: Mirror can’t be used behind a gas range, because continuous expansion and contraction of tempered glass created by an open flame can, over time, cause visible cracks to form behind the glass, Hendrick says. “Although easy to clean, mirrored glass needs a regular polish, because marks show up easily,” he adds. 

Marble

Nothing beats the natural beauty of a marble backsplash, which never fails to bring a luxurious look to a kitchen. It’s important to be aware, however, that marble is porous, so it needs sealing and periodic resealing to prevent staining. It also gets scratched more easily than other materials. 

Pros: Graham Barnard of Matrix Kitchens describes marble slabs as “naturally occurring pieces of art,” because no two slabs look exactly the same. “Choosing which marble to use is immense fun,” he adds. “A trip to the stone yard is always an adventure for the designer and the client.”

Cons: Cost can be an issue, depending on the marble you source. What’s more, marble can get stained easily. “You have to accept marble for what it is,” Barnard says. “It’s beautiful, but not maintenance free. However, lots of marbles have wonderful streaks and patterns that tend to help hide any areas of staining.”

How to Add a Kitchen Backsplash

Article by: Mitchell Parker

The options for kitchen backsplashes are pretty much limitless in terms of material, color, size and cost. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide what’s best for you and your lifestyle. Knowing how to navigate the process of installing a new backsplash can help ease some of the stress. Here’s what to expect. 

Project: Adding a new backsplash.

Why: A backsplash can act as a focal point in the kitchen, creating interest and balance between the other materials and elements. 

Details: The difficulty and expense of the project will depend on the complexity of the design. First you’ll want to decide what kind of backsplash you’d like to have. As mentioned, the options are endless, from smooth, backpainted glass to complex ceramic tile patterns and custom murals. Look at photos, research materials, meet with a designer and visit showrooms to decide what’s best for you. 

 

 

 

 

 

Measure, remeasure and remeasure, says designer Mariette Barsoum. This will help determine what size of tile or material will work best. Then think about how everything will fit together. This is where an experienced designer can come in handy. A designer will be able to quickly come up with ideas for how the tile layout will end and begin, how it will wrap around your cabinets or range hood, and so on. 

The type of countertop you have will be a very important determining factor. For example, a busy backsplash would clash with a busy granite countertop that has a lot of variation. Make sure to consider how the material will enhance the other elements in the room, and vice versa. 

 

You’ll then want to figure out how much tile or other material you’ll need. Barsoum says a good rule of thumb is to add 10 percent to the amount of square feet of space. If you have 50 square feet for a backsplash, for example, order 55 square feet of tile. This will account for breakage and mistakes on the job. 

Barsoum also recommends working with the materials company or store to make sure what you’re ordering — tile, trim pieces etc. — will arrive at the same time. “Once the job starts, you want to finish it,” she says. “You don’t want to be going along and then have to wait because you’re missing three pieces of tile or bullnose.”
 

Cost: Because the options for materials are so vast, it’s difficult to give a ballpark estimate, but Barsoum says a typical backsplash including labor and materials should run around $1,500 on the low end and $6,000 and up on the high end. She says you can get 3-by-6 ceramic tile for $3 per square foot and 3-by-6 blue marble for $70 per square foot. 

In the example shown here, a kitchen backsplash Barsoum installed, she used marble that comes in 12-by-12 sheets at about $15 per square foot. Because there’s no pattern and the sheets are easy to work with, Barsoum says almost anyone can install these themselves.

 

Who to hire: If you’re confident in tiling techniques — leveling a wall and adding grout — this could be a DIY project. But Barsoum says the more expensive the material, the more you should consider hiring a professional. For most jobs a tiler is your best bet. 


Best time to do this project: Either during a kitchen remodel or after. You don’t want to add a backsplash if you plan to remodel your kitchen anytime soon, because you’d have to replace the backsplash anyway once you start ripping out cabinets or adding countertops.
 

How long it will take: Planning and getting the materials can take anywhere from a couple of days to several weeks. Again, it depends on the materials. If your tile choice is in stock, you can have it in a matter of days. If you’re ordering handmade tiles, it can take six to eight weeks. 

Once the job begins, it typically takes two or three days for tile to set. The good thing is, you can still use your kitchen throughout the job.

Kitchen Color: 15 Fabulous Green Backsplashes

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Sure, your kitchen backsplash serves a very practical function: protecting the wall area above your countertop from splashes and spatters. But it’s also the perfect place to add a dash of fun color. The weather where I live in Central Texas has turned rather frightful, so I’m starting this new series on colorful kitchen backsplashes with happy, fresh, spring-inspired green hues. Here I’ve gathered some of my favorite examples with tips for working ones like them into your own kitchen. 

Create an eye-catching feature wall in your kitchen by extending a bold-colored textured backsplash tile all the way to the ceiling. This larger-format tile works best on a wall where you are forgoing upper cabinets, so the pattern can be fully appreciated.  

This backsplash has vibrant green hues, but the intensity is broken up due to the subtle shade variations of the handmade tile. I like the mix of greens and wood tones, as it has a very natural, organic feel. 

 

This gorgeous green onyx linear tile backsplash also has a nice mix of colors. (Always see a sample of your chosen backsplash material in person before you make a selection.) 

I love this kitchen for its openness to the outdoors as well as for its gorgeous splash of leafy green. The darker tile accent strip is a nice detail that helps break up the expanse of bold color and ties in well with the wood tones of the floor and table set. 

If you’re on the hunt for a kitchen backsplash material, you have no doubt noticed that tiles now come in every color, shape, size and texture imaginable, so I say why not go for something unusual? I’m a huge fan of these triangular tiles, which have a wonderful vintage-modern vibe. 

Large-format tiles are becoming increasingly popular, as are tiles in zingy colors. But the best thing about the tile here is that it was selected by the homeowner’s 2-year-old son. Very nicely done! 

What a fantastic grassy green color. It really brightens up and enlivens this kitchen, even on a cold winter day. This line of tile is available in a wide range of rich colors as well as interesting shapes and sizes, and it’s also manufactured in part from recycled materials. It works well with a variety of design styles, from traditional to contemporary, and has thus become one of my go-to tiles. 

If you go with a bold green backsplash tile, try picking up the hue in small bits around the room for color balance and cohesiveness. You can take your chosen backsplash tile to your paint retailer and have the color matched, or you can even have a paint color formulated for you that’s a few notches lighter or darker than the tile, should you want to break things up a bit. 

For those looking for a softer, mellower green backsplash, there are plenty of options. If you do go with a lighter and more subdued hue, try selecting one in a glossy finish, because it will add interesting sparkle and texture to the kitchen. These pretty glass tiles pair nicely with the rich dark brown cabinets and light and neutral countertop.  

Here’s another glassy, soft green backsplash. This particular shade of green reads as a neutral, so accents of other, bolder colors can be added, such as the red-orange on the base of that fantastic kitchen island.  

These hand-crafted tiles have subtle variations in color, which adds much charm and warmth to this gorgeous kitchen. 

This backsplash has a wonderful sheen and texture in addition to a slight hint of green. This is how to do a light and airy kitchen right.  

My favorite interior design style is contemporary with bits of industrial and rustic thrown in for warmth and charm. This kitchen captures that style perfectly with its clean, horizontal lines and minimal ornamentation. The exposed ceiling beams, colorful salvaged-wood-clad island and vintage metal stools are perfect decorative elements. As is the light spring-green glass backsplash, which adds a nice hit of color but keeps to the clean, minimalist and contemporary vibe of the kitchen.  

Not a fan of grout lines? Looking for a clean and modern alternative to tile? Consider a back-painted glass backsplash. It’s an easy-to-clean surface that has a cool and contemporary vibe.  

Or you could skip the tile and glass entirely and paint the wall a fun hue. If you go this route, I’d recommend installing at least a short splash to give you a finished edge where the countertop meets the wall, and to protect the area from splashes. Then use a paint in a semigloss finish to give the wall extra protection and allow for easier cleaning. 

9 Hard Questions to Ask When Shopping for Stone

Article by: Anne Higuera CGR, CAPS

Deciding to use stone and choosing the kind to use are more complicated than just picking a finish you like. Because stone is a natural material, its appearance, durability and production can vary from one quarry to another, and from one batch to another, causing problems (or in some cases, providing benefits) you might not have anticipated. 

Here are nine questions you should consider before buying stone.

How thick does it need to be? Floor and wall tiles for interiors are usually ⅜ inch thick, while countertop slabs are typically 2 centimeters (¾ inch) or 3 centimeters (1¼ inches) thick.Exterior stone pavers could be 1½ inches or thicker.

Differences in counter and paver thicknesses can usually be accommodated if planned for in advance. It’s also not unusual to add a laminated edge to the front of a 2-centimeter counter to make it appear thicker.Tile for floors, however, can be tricky, particularly if you want your floor to flow to adjacent rooms without a transition. The best practice is to select floor tile early in the process and choose a material with consistent thickness.

We opened a box of specified slate tile on a project and discovered that each piece was a different thickness, with some well over ½ inch, making them higher than the adjacent wood floors even without thinset below. The clients opted to send it all back and ended up selecting a ceramic tile with similar colors but very consistent thickness.

Are there fissures?This is a question not just for countertop slabs but for tiles, as well.A fissure is a natural weak point in the stone, usually visible as a hairline crack. A fissure’s location can prevent you from using the stone if cuts will result in the weakest point’s being located where the stone needs to be strong, like around a sink or on an overhang. It can also result in the slab’s breaking during fabrication.

Fragile stone tile can also break during cutting, which means tile setters have to anticipate more waste. Instead of ordering the usual 5 to 10 percent extra for waste, they might add 15 to 20 percent more. The best practice is to select a slab and have the fabricator review it for flaws and fissures, so that you’ll have time to select something else if it won’t work.

What’s your finish? The most common finishes for stone are polished and honed.Both have a sheen, although honed has a fine texture that minimizes reflection.A heavier texture can be achieved with acids, buffing and heat, resulting in “antiqued,” “tumbled”and “flamed” finishes. Which one you choose depends upon personal taste, except when it comes to matters of safety. The larger the tile and the more polished the finish, the more likely it will be slippery under wet feet or shoes.

An easy way around slipperiness is to install the material in a smaller size — 4 inches square or less — or to select a material with more texture.

How well will samples match what arrives at your home?Because stone is a natural material, it can vary in color and in many other ways.If you can, get a large sampling of what’s in stock — five to 10 pieces of 12- by 12-inch tiles, for example — so you can see what you’re likely to get in a typical box.If there’s a huge variation in color or quality, you may want to look at something else.

This backsplash (far end) is a mix of onyx and glass mosaic tile. The onyx tile arrived at the jobsite with some bright red streaks across the face, which weren’t visible in the sample. The clients opted to buy additional tile and piece in nonred stone to make the results more consistent. 

Is it strong enough to span?Countertops are sometimes designed to span significant distances — over dishwashers, breakfast bars and desks, for example. Manufactured materials like quartz have specific maximum spans, but the fabricator may recommend a variety of solutions with stone, depending upon how large the unsupported portion is: a decorative corbel or other support; a concealed steel brace; or even a routed area under the stone for a steel or fiberglass rod. Your fabricator will help you determine how much support your counter needs.

How porous is it? All stone is not created equal. Some stones, such as limestone and marble, are more porous than others, and are more likely to absorb stains from substances like red wine and coffee. Acidic substances like lemons can etch surfaces, and even hair dye can stain a shower. Some stones, such as soapstone, are softer than others and can be scratched. 

Before committing to a stone, think carefully about how you plan to use it, and how much contact it’ll have with potentially damaging substances.

Will it hold up? The answer to this question depends on your lifestyle, how much you plan to use the stone surface and how careful you are with cleaning. (Cleaning products can etch limestone, marble and other materials.)

We once had clients whose old limestone counters were covered in coffee stains and had to be removed. They replaced them with Caesarstone, which remains in great shape many years later. My own granite counters are pristine almost a decade after installation, with no resealing.

To seal or not to seal?Sealants are frequently used on grout and sometimes on natural stone.Some sealants darken or even give a shiny look to otherwise honed or textured surfaces.If you’re considering a sealant for your stone, request a sample showing you different options, so you’ll know how the finished surface will look.

What’s the source?Stone comes from quarries across the globe, including the United States. Part of selecting a material involves thinking about where it comes from, how it is produced, the environmental impact of transporting it to your locality, and whether it is a sustainable, sensible and long-lasting material.

If you still have questions, ask your local supplier, fabricator, contractor or designer about the specifics for your project.

Kitchen Color: 15 Ravishing Red Backsplashes

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Last week we looked at some gorgeous green backsplashes. This week we’re swinging over to the other side of the color wheel to focus on rousing reds. Red can be a tricky color to work with, especially in superbright and bold shades. If it’s combined with too many other loud colors or elements, the effect can be overwhelming and at times garish. 

The key is to use just a little bit, because red really will go a long way toward adding vibrancy to your kitchen. That’s why a backsplash is a terrific place to add a dash of red. (Backsplashes typically encompass a relatively small section of a wall or walls, so this element is usually the perfect size for embracing reds.) Check out these 15 fetching examples of how to rock a red backsplash, along with the pertinent information for each in case you see something you like for your own kitchen. 

This beautiful glass mosaic tile adds some nice shimmer to a contemporary light-filled kitchen. Red partners well with warm wood tones, and the white countertop and ceiling add crispness. 

 

Here’s another gorgeous glass mosaic tile, this one in linear bricks instead of squares. The swath of red, which gets picked up by the pendants over the peninsula, adds a nice punch of bold color. Using a blend of colors for the backsplash tile (rather than one single color) makes the backsplash appear less monolithic, and therefore more modern or transitional in style than slick and contemporary.  

I love a kitchen with a garage door! It allows in so much natural light during the day, and gives the kitchen a cool industrial vibe. With so much light filtering in, you can really go big and bold with the backsplash. These tiles are dual glazed — each 2-inch by 4-inch tile is finished in multiple colors with glossy and matte glazes, which gives a slight mosaic look but in a subway-tile format. 

I’m a huge fan of three-dimensional tiles, and these ovals are among my favorites. Admittedly, the nooks and crannies might require a bit more elbow grease to keep clean but, to me anyway, the wow factor they add to the kitchen is worth the extra upkeep. 

For those who prefer a low-maintenance backsplash, look into back-painted glass. This can be a well-priced option for savvy DIYers, or check with your local glass supplier to find someone with the experience and know-how to help you create your own custom back-painted-glass backsplash. Here one works strikingly for a red-hot ubermodern theme. 

Here’s another unique glass backsplash option: Aura glass from Ann Sacks. This material is available in a range of sizes, from 4- by 8-inch bricks to various-size hexagons and sheets up to 24 by 40 inches.  

Get the look of a solid glass backsplash but with all the shimmering texture of a glass mosaic by selecting a small-format glass mosaic in a single hue. This gorgeous backsplash sparkles and adds a touch of glam to this elegant kitchen. 

Here’s another version of the Gloss Mosaic tiles from Artistic Tile. I like how the kitchen palette was kept very light, cool and neutral, which allows the hot, shimmery backsplash to take center stage. 

I recommend playing with scale, because there are now so many options available in backsplash tile beyond the once-standard 3- by 6-inch subways or 4-inch squares. These skinny sticks look clean, neat and modern. 

Or go big with a superwide-format subway tile. These 3- by 16-inch glass tiles look sharp in this cool kitchen.

 

Who says backsplash tile has to be rectangular? This tile has a softer, more organic geometric shape, which adds oodles of charm and a vintage feel. 

This is another favorite backsplash tile of mine. I love the irregular and random triangular and wedge shapes as well as the subtle color variation among the pieces. This particular tile requires fairly thick grout lines, so be sure to seal the grout according to the manufacturer’s specifications. 

This gorgeous iridescent glass mosaic tile would work with a variety of design styles, from traditional to contemporary. And it has a good amount of orangish-red coloration, so it harmonizes well with the orange tones expressed by the wood flooring and cabinets. 

These cool glass stick mosaic tiles are reminiscent of stained glass panels, but with a modern twist. You can run this tile vertically or horizontally. Installing it vertically, as shown here, draws your eye up the wall and makes the ceiling feel higher.  

Here’s another nice linear stick glass mosaic tile with beautiful coloration. The white grout helps showcase the individual tiles and ties in well with the crisp, white countertop.

Countertop + Backsplash: Making the Perfect Match

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Which do you select first — kitchen counter or backsplash? How do you coordinate colors? Is it OK to mix patterns? The seemingly unlimited countertop and backsplash choices can feel overwhelming.

I’ve had homeowners approach me after weeks or months of looking at and collecting samples of materials that they love separately but just don’t love together. Some settle on a combination that looks good together, but they don’t actually like either material on its own. 

Here are 10 examples of stunning and successful countertop and backsplash combinations to help you plan your own mix of kitchen finishes, along with tips to ease your selection process. 

Approach 1: Select the Countertop First

If you feel overwhelmed by the countertop and backsplash options, try focusing on countertop selection first. Your countertop is the workhorse in your kitchen and can constitute a good chunk of your budget, so you’ll want to get it right. Your budget and the way you use your kitchen will narrow things down. Plus, there are generally fewer color and pattern options for countertop materials, whereas backsplash options are practically unlimited. Countertops will also be installed before the backsplash, so you definitely need to decide on them first if construction has already begun.

Browse the Houzz photo database for countertop materials that appeal to you and the compare pros and cons in the Houzz guides to countertops. If you want to see something in person, check out what’s available at your local stone yard, kitchen and bathroom design showrooms, and home improvement stores.

Shown: Soapstone and butcher block counter; linear glass tile mosaic backsplash 

Once you’ve homed in on your countertop of choice (congratulations!), you have immediately narrowed the field of options for the backsplash. Trust me, this makes your life easier. 

Now, you don’t necessarily need to exactly match the color or pattern of your countertop to that of your backsplash, especially if you go for an unusual hue or a countertop material with a lot of movement in it. In these cases a simple and neutral-hued backsplash is a good choice, so that the countertop takes center stage and does not fight with the backsplash for attention.

Shown: Orange quartz counter (get the look withOne Quartz from Daltile); Oceanside Glasstile’sTessera mosaic blend in Veil backsplash

 

If you want to go bold with both your countertop and backsplash, bring a sample of your chosen countertop material with you as you shop for backsplash tile. You will be able to instantly limit your backsplash options to those that work with your countertop material. If you are struggling with finding the right backsplash to work with your countertop selection, consider hiring a pro, even if it’s for just a few hours, to help you nail the selections. Or enlist the help of a color- or design-savvy friend.

Shown: Green quartz counter (get the look with Silestone); mosaic glass tile backsplash 

Approach 2: Select the Backsplash First

Of course, if you happen to find a backsplash you absolutely love before you’ve even looked at countertops, I say go for it. Making this selection will absolutely help you narrow down the options for the countertop. If you go for a statement-making backsplash such as the one here, find a quiet, subtler countertop material so it doesn’t fight with the backsplash.

Shown: Pietra del Cardoso stone counter; Stone & Pewter Accents mosaic glass tile backsplash

 

I prefer that either the countertop or the backsplash be the star of the show, with the other material playing a supporting role. This stunning backsplash has lots of color and movement and, in my opinion, should not have to compete with an equally attention-grabbing countertop.

Shown: Caesarstone counter; glass mosaic Waterworks backsplash 

That’s not to say you shouldn’t consider a mix of colors and patterns for both your countertop and backsplash. But if both of your materials feature multiple hues and have different patterns, aggregates or movement, stick to one overriding color palette for both materials. This will give the materials a nice cohesiveness, so they don’t fight with each other.

Shown: Bianco Romano granite counter; stained glass mosaic tile backsplash 

Approach 3: Use the Same Material for Both Counter and Backsplash

Love your countertop selection and want to keep this process simple? Consider running your countertop material up onto the wall as the backsplash. This is an especially smart option if you are required to purchase entire slabs of your chosen countertop material and you happen to have enough material left over to use the remainder as the backsplash.

Shown: Get the look with a Pietra del Cardoso stone counter and backsplash. 

You can also use the same or similar countertop material for your backsplash but break it up by selecting a tile format for your backsplash rather than a slab. This can be a budget-friendlier option than purchasing extra slabs to create a backsplash.

Shown: Get the look with a Carrara marble counter or, for a more durable option, check out Misty Carrera from Caesarstone; Carrara marble subway tile backsplash 

Another cost-effective approach is to run your countertop 4 to 6 inches up the wall as a short splash. It will give you a nice finished edge where the countertop meets the wall, and it will also provide protection to the part of the wall most likely to get wet or dirty. Just be sure to check your local building code requirements regarding the minimum height of noncombustible materials on the wall area above the range or cooktop.

Shown: Uba Tuba granite counter; colbalt-blue Daltile subway tile backsplash 

Approach 4: Hire an Expert

Some homeowners just have a difficult time visualizing their finished kitchen, which is why material selection can prove so challenging. And all too often you are asked to make too many decisions in too short a time period. If you know you are prone to analysis paralysis, do yourself a favor and give yourself enough time to weigh your options, but with a firm deadline to make the decision. Engage the assistance of a friend whose taste you admire, or hire a design professional to help guide you or bless your selections.

Shown: Gray and white granite counter; oversize ceramic tile backsplash

 

13 Big Ideas for Small Bathrooms


Small Bathrooms1.jpg

Photo: via TOH. A few things all old house lovers are familiar with: drafty windows, less-than-perfect plumbing, squeaky floors – and small bathrooms. While new home baths have nearly doubled in size over the past 30 years, old home bathrooms average about 5- by 8-feet.

Not to worry, though: you can combat the claustrophobia by scaling down to physically save space. (Pedestal sink, anyone?) And, with the right colors and lighting, you can create the illusion of a roomy bath

Here, we dig into the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) Design Competition archives to deliver great ideas from Certified Kitchen Designers that you can use in your next remodel. 

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Debbie R. Gualco, California

#1 Rich, Asian-Inspired Design

This homeowner wanted to bring her home out of the 1980s with contemporary Asian design, so the powder room vanity was inspired by a Japanese kaidantansu (stepped chest), which contributes fluidity of design in the cramped quarters. The use of rich and dark colors makes the walls of the small space recede.

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Erica S. Westeroth, Ontario

#2 Day at the Beach

These homeowners opened up their space by getting rid of two small closets and adding task and ambient lighting to help create the illusion of a larger room. Little width remained after incorporating the tub and toilet, so a shallow cabinet was incorporated. Our favorite detail? The playful “dry riverbed” of stones in the floor. 

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Gary Hentges, Illionis

#3 His-and-Her Bath

The use of continuing horizontal lines, a large, frameless mirror, and well-placed task lighting helps to create the illusion of a larger space. The marble-clad dividing wall lends modesty to the toilet area, while creating a recessed storage opportunity. A must in every small bath, the shower has a curbless entry to eliminate demarcation of the limited footprint. 

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Gary Henteges, Illionis

#4 Small and Simple

These homeowners wanted to “keep it simple and do it well.” This cherry and limestone bath replaced a tiny, cluttered space meant for guest use. The curved-front vanity maximizes usable space with two deep drawers on double extension drawer slides.

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Holly Rickert, New Jersey

#5 Zen Escape

The size of this room called attention to an eyesore: an off-center, aluminum-framed window. A floor-to-ceiling Shoji screen took care of that by concealing the flaw, while letting light through. A 7-foot framed mirror, hung horizontally, spans the entire length of the room and reflects the ladder towel rack, which adds storage without taking up floor space. 

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Keri Davis, Oregon

#6 Small Spa Retreat

This bathroom was constrained by bedrooms on either side, so it wasn’t possible to increase square footage. To make the space feel roomier, white marble tile and several mirrored surfaces wrap the room. Floor-to-ceiling cabinets add height, while a glass shower wall eliminates the visual barrier of a shower curtain or doors. Rich wood tones add warmth and create balance. 

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Leslie Ann Cohen, California

#7 Hacienda-Style Bath

This guest bath features a custom miniature sideboard topped with a rich red travertine counter and copper vessel sink. Rich shower draperies and handmade tiles add to the charm of this space, showing that patterns used selectively as accents will not overwhelm a small room.

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Lori Carroll, Arizona

#8 Tone and Texture

It’s not uncommon to create attention-commanding focal points in compact spaces. This powder room vanity is crafted with smooth, flaxen veneer and is topped with a cast bronze basin and patina counter. Recessed lighting around the large mirror illuminates any reflection.

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Leslie Thompson, Florida

#9 Modern Makeover

This vanity continues the lesson of creating a bold focal point in a small space. The upper walls of this ultra-feminine retreat are upholstered in padded silk, but the stainless steel backsplash adds a rugged accent.

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Margie Little

#10 Compact Commode

This teeny, tiny full bath features a wall hung toilet; the tank is hidden inside the 2×6 stud wall, allowing for 9 inches of extra space in the center of the room. Clear glass shower doors eliminate visual barriers and a skylight floods the space with natural light.

Photo: via TOH | Designer: MaryLou Kalmus

#11 Glass Grandeur

A curved glass countertop provides a sense of spaciousness, while hand-applied 1-inch Bizazza glass tiles mimic the swooping curves of the fixtures. The high ceiling features a deep amethyst color wash to visually lower the height of the room, which felt “like a tunnel” to the homeowers.

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Sheila K. Tilander, Washington

#12 Retro Redo

This homeowner wanted a nostalgic style with a contemporary twist. Trumpet-shaped sconces flank an oval mirror that conceals a medicine cabinet. A frameless shower door extends the visual expanse of the space, while allowing unobstructed views of oversized subway and amber glass tilework. 

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Tiffany De Tomasi, California

#13 Eastern Oasis

A freestanding vanity with elongated fixtures, a custom bamboo mirror, and ladder towel rack create the illusion of vertical space in this small guest bath. A soft color palette accented with dark woods, balances the space. Artistic relief panels add visual interest without completely walling off light. 

(You are reading an article originally posted on This Old House)

Emerald: 2013 Color of the Year

Every December, designers of all creeds impatiently wait for Pantone’s (the world leader in color) announcement of its new color of the year. Whatever color is announced is present in all the fashion and decor of the following year. For 2013, Pantone® chose emerald as its color of the year.

Here’s what the Pantone® press release has to say about emerald:

Photo: Emerald Steps | Uploaded by Pinterest User: Donita Paul via Decorative Communications

Most often associated with brilliant, precious gemstones, the perception of Emerald is sophisticated and luxurious. Since antiquity, this luminous, magnificent hue has been the color of beauty and new life in many cultures and religions. It’s also the color of growth, renewal and prosperity – no other color conveys regeneration more than green. For centuries, many countries have chosen green to represent healing and unity.”

So, for all you fashion-minded decorators out there, how should you use emerald in your home decor? Here are some suggestions:

Emerald in the Kitchen

What rooms of the house would use emerald at its best? The kitchen, for one, is one of the best places to use shades of green. Thinking of redoing your backsplash with a pretty mosaic (all the rage these days)? Choose one that uses emerald in its color scheme, along with other warm shades of green and yellow.

If you need to add to your dinnerware, emerald is a good color choice. Not only will it make your food look more appetizing, but it will also add a dash of sophistication to your table. Green dinnerware will look great on a white tablecloth, but will work just as well with yellows, grays and even turquoise.

For the more daring, an accent wall in emerald will do wonders for your kitchen or dining room. It will inspire calm and bring back nature to meal times.

Emerald in the Living Room

Emerald can be used in different moods and styles, depending on the colors it’s paired with. To enhance the sophistication of emerald, use it with neutrals like gunmental, pewter and beige. Paint an accent wall in emerald with a grey couch in front of it, along with emerald accessories all over the room.

Emerald can also bring you back to your childhood’s country cottage. Remember that old dark green couch that squeaked every time someone sat on it? Paired with colors such as red and blue, emerald inspires the quiet and “old but loved” feeling of the country cottage. Green, red, blue and yellow are typical colors of the traditional tartan; use this to inspire a decor that gives you a sense of heritage.

As an accent color, emerald works well with brown, burgundy and warm yellow. It adds a daring splash of nature-inspired color to any neutral-based decor.

Emerald in the Bathroom

Another room where green has a great place is the bathroom. Along with shades of blue and gray, emerald will bring a instant touch of freshness and sophistication to the bathroom. Keep the blues muted and mixed with gray, and use emerald as an accent in the backsplash or shower tile, with plants (I love to add one of those small potted bamboos on the counter) or with hand towels. 

Emerald is a great color for your soap tray-glass-toothbrush holder kit. I like to use these accessories to change the mood of my bathroom periodically, without spending a fortune. If you add a shower curtain that uses emerald, you can transform your bathroom for less than $100.

Emerald in the Bedroom

It’s easy to add a dash of emerald in your bedroom, especially if your decor already uses neutrals. Emerald bed linen, a few cushions or even a new coat of emerald paint on your furniture will give your bedroom a dash of sophistication or of nature, depending on your style. A potted plant with dark green leaves or emerald curtains will make any bedroom feel more organic.

If you want to go all in and redecorate, using emerald as a main bedroom color is a great choice if you value calm, healing and renewal. No wonder green is a popular color in hospitals! (Not that we want your bedroom to look like a hospital room.) If you decide to plant your walls in emerald green, keep one of the walls in a neutral beige to avoid the “oppressive forest” feeling. Use colors found in nature, like brown and sand as accents. A few pops of bright colors like pink, blue and yellow will remind you of flowers growing on the forest floor.