In a couple of weeks, I will be writing a story about tile: how to choose it, use it, or lose it. I’ll take you through one of my projects explaining why my client and I chose the tile that we did and why we laid it out in an elaborate pattern. In the meantime, I thought I’d write a bit about a common tiled surface — the kitchen backsplash.
In most cases, there are 18 inches between the top of a kitchen base cabinet and its upper cabinet. This is an area that shouts, “Here’s your opportunity.” It can be the leading star of your kitchen with good looks and personality or it can be a vital supporting actor. Both roles are equally important and both take deliberate thought in hitting the right note.
Knowing when to rein in your tile is just as important, and perhaps more difficult, as knowing when to go full throttle. Choosing tile is an important process that should not be underestimated.
In the spirit of deliberate thought, I have a few ideas for you to consider. The first is simple. Always tile the full 18 inches between lower and upper cabinets. Builders typically cover four to six inches and slab installers typically stop at four. This is done for cost and expediency (and to avoid the effort of deliberate thought).
Design-wise, though, this cuts the wall in two parts and draws your eye to two different materials — the tile or slab and the painted drywall. It causes an interruption. Also, since the purpose of a backsplash is to protect your wall, you can’t let any food, wine, and grease spills splash up higher than four or six inches. Both of these heights come up short, literally.
Some slab installers carry the slab all the way up those 18 inches. There may be a very good design reason to do this, such as creating an uber dramatic visual, but in many cases, the drama is over-the-top and distracting. There is also a danger of having so much slab that your kitchen ends up looking like a rock quarry.
There’s nothing wrong with drama, and it’s often my goal. But there’s good drama and bad. There are two scenarios that can achieve the former and they involve windows and exhaust hoods. These are areas where your kitchen cabinetry might create awkward starting and ending points.
The normal route is to continue your 18-inch line of tile until it butts into either of these objects. But I encourage you to take the tile all the way to the ceiling, over your stove, flanking your hood, and over your window. You may think that this much tile is overwhelming and too busy. But it doesn’t have to be either. If you choose the right tile, you will create the right drama.
And, it will actually be less busy because you are covering your walls in one, continuous sweep instead of chopping it up.
If you are not convinced, and if you have a tile project in mind, come to my complimentary seminar at Abbey Tile, 1145 Jordan Lane, on Sept. 28, from 5:30-7:30 p.m., and Sept. 30, 10 a.m. to noon. Refreshments will be served. Send me an email to reserve a spot.