Launch Slideshow

Kitchen Backsplashes

How can you turn your kitchen from drab to fab? Carve out a little wall section and have some fun with colors, textures, and materials.

Kitchen Backsplashes

How can you turn your kitchen from drab to fab? Carve out a little wall section and have some fun with colors, textures, and materials.

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    Greg Hadley

    3Form resin panels inlaid with natural grasses provide an organic counterbalance to the clean lines of this Arlington, Va., kitchen by Landis Construction. And unlike your typical configuration, they aren’t flush with the wall. “We set the panels off the wall so we could backlight them as an alternative to traditional under-cabinet lighting,” explains project designer Greg Gardner. “This light source introduces a soft glow and accentuates the grass pattern on the panels.” www.landisconstruction.com

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    Coles Hairston

    This remodeled condo by Texas Construction Co. in downtown Austin has amazing skyline views, but its kitchen and bar areas are pretty easy on the eyes, too. For the backsplashes, the design team went with a staggered checkerboard pattern of slate and glass to accent the urban home’s earthy palette and white oak trim. The 1,500-square-foot, 2-bedroom unit was renovated for a couple who were downsizing from a larger single-family home in the suburbs. The space is smaller, but the finishes are every bit as upscale as what you’d find in a larger home. http://www.txconstruct.com

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    Courtesy Modwalls

    Want a culinary space that feels festive? Try some confetti on for size. The owner of this light-filled kitchen went with Modwalls Brio 3/4-inch vitreous glass tiles to unify a design inspired by the colors of caramel apples. “I took cues from around the room: Pear to match the bright green walls, Terra Cotta to play off the orange tones in the cabinetry, Walnut to pick up the countertops, and Soft White to keep it all bright and airy,” she explains. “It’s fun, crisp, and happy!” Using equal parts of each hue, she used Modwalls’ online blender tool to create a scattered design that’s balanced but not uniform: http://www.modwallsblender.com/blender.html

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    Courtesy Cottage Home

    Most beach houses keep things on the lighter side. Cottage Home stayed true to form with the crisp millwork in this waterfront home on the shores of Lake Michigan, but the team also made a bold move with a warm, dark backsplash wall of Oceanside Glass Geologie Denali tile that picks up the rich tones of the bar stools. “We actually got those great stools from Target,” says interior designer Vicki Zylstra. “We spent a crazy amount of money on the tile, but we balanced it with these inexpensive but impressive pieces. The bar stools and the tile make for a great combination – both visually and financially. Once you take the price tags off, it’s all about the look.” www.cottagehome.com

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    Bernard Andre Photography

    There’s nothing shy about this remodeled kitchen by TRG Architects in Burlingame, Calif. It’s sustainable in its material selections and bold in its style picks. The textured backsplash is an iridescent silica product by Oceanside Glasstile in an amber tone that matches the Plyboo cabinets. Interior designer Leslie Lamarre punched things up even further with two types of recycled glass countertops and 3Form Varia Ecoresin translucent cabinet panels. www.trgarch.com

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    Lisa Strong

    For a sophisticated look, you can’t go wrong with a neutral palette that puts the emphasis on texture. Bielinski Homes did just that in this model home, “The Preston” in Pewaukee, Wisc. Glass tiles in varying lengths and widths provide a stylish middle ground between the dark espresso cabinets and creamy Zodiaq quartz countertop. “Traditionally kitchens in suburban Milwaukee offer oak or light maple cabinetry…and warm color finishes,” says the builder. “We made the decision to go against the grain and create a more urban, streamlined look. The base of this palette is “greige” – gray that incorporates the warmer elements of beige.” www.bielinski.com

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    David Dietrich

    A wall partition covered in sheets of blackened steel provides a nice counterbalance to the walnut island countertop and wormy chestnut cabinets in this Asheville, N.C., kitchen. Designed by Carlton Architecture as an open pavilion, the main workspace hides waist-high appliances such as the oven and dishwasher behind the island, and sticks with a downdraft ventilation over the range so as not to interrupt the backsplash wall’s clean lines. Taller units—the fridge, wine storage, and microwave—are tucked into a pantry alcove around the corner. www.carltonarchitecture.com

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    Courtesy Alterstudio

    Some backsplashes are so dramatic they can’t help being the center of attention. Others take a quieter supporting role, such as the sleek vent hood wall in this renovated mid-century modern house by Alterstudio Architects. “The backsplash is a monolithic piece of glass that has been painted on one side. The painted side of the glass faces the wall, while the non-painted side faces outward,” the architects explain. “We used the same paint as the walls and a continuous bead of silicone around the perimeter of the glass to attach it to the wall. Using a white paint on standard glass gives a slight green hue due to the natural color of glass.” Sleek and relatively inexpensive, this solution is easy to clean (there are no seams or grout lines) and gives the wall an unusual feeling of depth. http://alterstudio.net

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    Courtesy Modwalls

    Designer Maxi Lilley went with Modwalls ModDotz porcelain penny round tiles in Marshmallow with a medium gray grout to provide a light and punchy texture to this wrap-around backsplash wall in her century-old Craftsman bungalow in Oakland, Calif. The retro tiles complement a 1957 O'Keefe & Merritt stove and a fresh combo of walnut and laminate cabinets. The porcelain dots measure 18mm and come mesh-mounted on 11.9" x 11.5" sheets. http://lilleyfaurot.com

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    Johnny Quirin

    There’s a reason farmhouse kitchens are topping the popularity charts these days. They’re warm and inviting, but not over the top. Interior designer Julie Holmes struck just the right balance in this Michigan home designed by Visbeen Associates with a pretty tile combo that feels fresh and clean. Mossy-toned mosaic tiles outlined with a light grout give the appearance of folksy gingham on most of the wall, but they stop short of meeting up with the countertop. It’s at this juncture that a border of creamy subway tiles turned vertical lends an air of sophistication, while also providing a more seamless, cleanable finish in areas that are exposed to dirt and water. www.visbeen.biz

It’s often treated as an afterthought, but a great backsplash can be one of the most crucial design elements in any kitchen. Sure, it provides practical wall protection against grease splatters, dishwater sprays, and flying cake ingredients, but a good backsplash also plays an equally important role in the aesthetic mix. When rendered in a bold color, pattern, or material, it can bring a commanding dose of eye candy to an otherwise plain Jane space. Or maybe its role is more of an equalizer. If the centerpiece of your culinary zone lies elsewhere, the backsplash can play a key supporting role by helping to achieve visual balance. A smart choice in hue and material will help to smooth out transitions between warms and cools, lights and darks, or shiny vs. matte surfaces.