Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Kitchen Backsplash: Style & Utility

At Master Kitchen & Bath Design, we love new kitchen cabinets, gleaming floors, and sturdy contertops, but the unsung hero of the kitchen remodeling world might just be the kitchen backsplash.

"But why?" you ask.

Well, with minimal labor, a kitchen backsplash can add an exquisitely stylish touch to your kitchen. But the backsplash is not all about style. As the name implies, a "backsplash" can serve as a protective shield against, well, all the splashes that might otherwise damage the kitchen wall.

Have you ever opened a bottle of wine with a little too much vigor? Have you ever splattered pasta sauce all over your kitchen wall? How about oil stains? If you've ever suffered the ignominy of scrubbing your kitchen wall in the middle of a dinner party, you'll appreciate the utility of a kitchen backsplash. 

Best yet? A kitchen backsplash just might be the most inexpensive kitchen upgrade. We recommend a backsplash for most full-scale kitchen remodeling projects, but it's also perfect candidate for a DIY project.

If you're tired of the look of your old kitchen, you might slap a new coat of paint on the kitchen walls, but one afternoon of work can also yield a beautiful backsplash that can transform the look and feel of your space.

Have we got you thinking backsplash? Great! Check out our handy primer below to learn more about this simple, yet effective kitchen upgrade.

A natural stone backsplash adds a stylish panache to this Center City MKBD project.

The Backsplash:  A History of Utility & Style

On her blog, The Kitchen Designer, Susan Serra offers an anecdotal history of the kitchen backsplash:

"Everywhere I look, I see small rectangular tile used on backsplashes and upper walls in the kitchen. It's getting a little bit worrisome to me. It's worrisome because, having been a kitchen designer since the very late 80s, I have perspective. Perspective helps my clients, and I hope it helps you too.

"It started (my professional association with tile) with 4x4 ceramic glazed tiles and pretty fruit and vegetable or flower designs, often seen with corner motifs, sort of that Country Floors look. Definitely gorgeous. Funny, I'm seeing it more and more frequently again and it's still every bit as beautiful. Like Terracotta flooring, it was very popular, then went away. Now it is returning, at least on the periphery, to fashion again."

Serra's history is valuable for her perspective on backsplash trends since the early eighties--and up to the two thousands, but you might be surprised to hear that the word backsplash has been around since at least 1947, according to the Merriam Webster.

Here's how the august dictionary defines the word: "a vertical surface (as of tiles) designed to protect the wall behind a stove or countertop."

So, as a mid- twentieth century invention, the backsplash was originally intended to provide the necessary utility of protection, but by the 80s, the "pretty fruit and vegetable or flower designs" that inspired Susan Serra's early association with tile signaled a more whimsical purpose: style. 

For this contemporary kitchen remodeling project in Hatboro, PA, MKBD installed a variety of backsplashes, including marble and a metal mosaic mix.

Kitchen Backsplash Materials

As the two pictures above illustrate, the backsplash can be made in a variety of materials, not just natural stone or ceramic tiles, but granite, limestone, soapstone, plate or mosaic glass, beaded board, stainless steel, and more.

Your choice of material will ultimately depend upon personal preference, and each material will offer its own unique benefits, but most homeowners choose a backsplash material that easily integrates with the cabinets, kitchen walls, and countertops.

The easiest and most cost effective solution is to simply use the same material for your countertops and backsplash. However, some homeowners use the backsplash to provide a subtle contrast to the countertops.  With a seemingly endless variety of patterns and colors, and a variety of finishes, you're sure to find a backsplash that matches your vision. 

For more backsplash material ideas, check out HGTV's "30 Trendiest Kitchen Backsplashes."  

In this MKBD project, the homeowners opted for a contrast between the beautiful Decora cherry cabinets and the countertop and backsplash.

Hire a Pro? Or DIY?

As we noted above, a kitchen backsplash is a perfect addition to a full-scale kitchen remodeling project. That said, a backsplash can be installed quite easily as a simple kitchen upgrade by a professional remodeling company or by you--if you're the DIY type.

Prepare your walls by cleaning with soapy water. You might find that you have to sand the walls, too, before applying a layer of mastic and laying your tiles. Once your work is dry, seal the tiles with grout. To finish, clean your tiles again with soapy water. And, of course, make sure you choose only the best materials.


Got a kitchen backsplash question? Please feel free to call MKBD for an individualized consultation. MKBD is currently offering a FREE Kitchen remodeling estimate, FREE design, and FREE custom layout to all new customers.

Let's talk backsplash and more!

Call now! 215-355-4747 or visit us online at 

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