Backsplash tile to complement granite counters and wood cabinets.
September 16, 2010 9:43 PM   Subscribe

Need help deciding on tile for our new kitchen backsplash! We recently moved into a renovated house, and it already has these granite countertops. I'm not a huge fan of the color or strong veining, but they're new and we don't have the money to replace them. Our cabinets are currently dark brown, though we might paint them a light grey or white in the next year or so. What kind of tile or marble should we use on our backsplash? Or should we just paint it another color with somewhat washable paint? We cook lots and there are already quite a few marks above the stove and around the sink.

- I love the look of these Grove Brickworks Field Tiles from Waterworks. They have texture like a glazed brick, but they're thin like a tile. I've got a sample and they look nice but they're somewhat expensive at $17.50 per square foot.
- Would these Carrara marble honed subway tiles be awkward with the current granite countertops? What if the cabinets were painted grey instead of brown?
- Would a plain white subway tile (with white or light grey grout) look better?
- Or something with a bit of color, like a light grey or grey-green to match the veining in the countertops? Or tumbled marble tiles?
- Glass tiles are a bit too contemporary for the rest of the house and my own aesthetic style...but I could be convinced if you think they're a good option.

The counters are Lady's Dream granite.
- Photo of the counter area
- Photo of kitchen - you can see the slate floors and mix of counters and cabinets as they are now.
- Closeup of granite countertop

Also, where would we stop the tile backsplash above the stove? There is a curved glass hood above it. Would we stop below it? Remove it and continue to the ceiling? Make a straight line that continues with the bottom of the cabinets? Cut the tiles to fit below the curved hood vent? (I don't like the weird glass hood vent either, but it's probably staying for now unless I can figure out a better solution. It's kind of space-age for the rest of the kitchen and house.)

Thanks for any advice or photo suggestions!
posted by barnone to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Actually, that looks like a fantastic kitchen!!!

I agree with you about the choice in granite for the countertops. I would have gone with an uba tuba myself.

Since you aren't switching out the countertops, I would go with a larger, plain white tile. I know, sounds boring, but it looks like you have alot going on in that kitchen as it is.

I haven't tiled our kitchen, though I had planned on it, and have actually found that a good, durable paint works just fine.
posted by TheBones at 9:57 PM on September 16, 2010

Have you considered a glass tile backsplash? They're very much "in" right now, and quite handsome. I'd go for a light blue or light green depending on how the rest of your house is decorated, or just beige if you'd rather keep it sleek and monochromatic.
posted by halogen at 10:00 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

With those colors, I would go with white tile, perhaps with a splash of black or red -- a scattered pattern, a small stripe in the center, or a border around the edge might liven up the plain white tile without making the kitchen too busy. I would do a straight line that continues with the bottom of the cabinets.
posted by vorfeed at 10:03 PM on September 16, 2010

Concur with the white tiles. It'll make your dark cabinets and stainless appliances pop, and I'm afraid adding anything more than that will muddle up the works.

Good luck spotting crumbs on that granite surface, though. I probably have enough camouflaged coffee grounds on my similarly-patterned granite countertops to brew a stale cup or two.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:08 PM on September 16, 2010

Have you considered a tumbled marble tile in a 4x4? It's kind of beige (though nicer than that sounds) and has some nice character and the colors would look great with your floors, granite, and cabinets. The tiles have lots of little gaps and such, but you can fill in the natural gaps with grout if you are worried about kitchen gunk getting in there. (Google for it to get tons of results--I don't have any recommended sites in particular.)

Otherwise, I might go for something bright--like a turquoise glass tile or a field tile like you chose. It'll definitely give a modern twist to your kitchen and I bet it'd look fantastic.

I would probably not go with plain white anything, including subway tiles, especially if the white was reflective. I think it might look too harsh against the other colors. Also, I don't think the look of subway tiles will work your natural/modern kitchen.

I asked Mr. Bluedaisy about the hood (his family has a tile company). He says it's weird because normally you'd tile up to the hood and cut it in. But since the hood doesn't go to the cabinets, it's not totally clear where you'd stop. You might need to cut in, and then go straight across from the hood to the cabinet in that gap, with a piece of trim on the top.

If you don't want to tile the backsplash, why not just go for some nice bright-ish paint color? Good luck!
posted by bluedaisy at 10:11 PM on September 16, 2010

If you are considering lightening the cabinet color, I think having white tiles might make the room look bland. In your situation, given that variable, I'd paint the back splash a color you liked (perhaps the green), or do a small sample area (behind the cooktop?) in one of the tiles that stood out to you and live with it for a while, see how it looked with the cabinets if/when you painted them. Low cost, low commitment, quick. Then, once you have the cabinet color settled, decide whether you want white or something more colorful.
posted by bloggerwench at 10:36 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I thought these brushed stainless tiles looked good in the store, and they might work with the other stainless accents in your kitchen. I dunno what to do about the curved range hood, though.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 10:48 PM on September 16, 2010

I'd go with white porcelain subway tiles; they'll go with just about any color you paint the cabinets and — purely IMO here — might remain fashionable longer than other, more dramatic, choices.

Of course, a lot depends on whether you think you're going to be in the house for 5 years or 15 or 50. If you're going to be moving out in short order, then maybe something a little more aggressively fashionable like the glass tiles might be worth it (if you like the look). But if you think you're going to be around a bit longer, but still care about resale value and appeal to a wide variety of buyers, then I'd say a more straightforward white subway tile would be the way to go. Of course, if this is the house you plan on dying in, then screw resale and do whatever you want; if your taste runs to shag carpet on the walls, go for it.

If you do decide on subway tile, the next question is what color you want the grout to be; I've seen some kitchens that have dark colored grout on white tile that look really neat ... but I don't know whether that's going to look really dated in a few years, or if you'd just get sick of looking at it. That said, while regrouting tile is nontrivial and not something you'd ever want to do lightly, it's a lot easier than full-bore retiling. I'd be extremely risk-averse in the choice of tile, but perhaps slightly more open to a 'fashionable' choice in grout.

Also as the owner of a white kitchen I'd strongly advise against, or at least urge you to seriously reconsider, painting the cabinets white. At the best of times they're sterile and bright, but more often they just show dirt and grime like crazy. I think they're one of those things that show well in an unused/brand-new/model house, but aren't terribly practical to keep looking nice if you want to actually use your kitchen. YMMV of course, but I thought I liked white kitchens until I owned one. Never again.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:00 PM on September 16, 2010

You can buy stainless steel in sheets in the roofing section and also "roofing tin" (don't know what it's really made of). It's cheap. I think that would look cool and would be super easy to keep clean.
posted by fshgrl at 11:10 PM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

You can buy stainless steel in sheets in the roofing section and also "roofing tin" (don't know what it's really made of). It's cheap. I think that would look cool and would be super easy to keep clean.

If you did this, you could combine it with a magnetic spice rack for a neat and functional backsplash. Just don't put the spices too close to the stove, as the heat will wreck 'em. I prefer these tins, though -- I used the watchmaker's cases for my own magnetic spice rack, but wasn't impressed with their quality.
posted by vorfeed at 11:20 PM on September 16, 2010

I just had to have a bit of a giggle. We've just been through this process but chose coloured glass. The hilarious thing is that in Australia it's called a splashback! Googling both terms might help you find more and varied images to have a squizz at.
posted by taff at 1:47 AM on September 17, 2010

P. S. When I said glass, I meant a sheet of glass, not tiles. Later on I'll post a pic of our new, untidy kitchen... Currently on tiny iPhone.
posted by taff at 1:51 AM on September 17, 2010

tumbled marble subway tiles
posted by bravowhiskey at 6:46 AM on September 17, 2010

and paint your cabinets white
posted by bravowhiskey at 6:49 AM on September 17, 2010

In my kitchen, I used pressed tin. Not the fake plastic variety, it's actually pressed steel. It's affordable, can be any color, is easily cleaned and painted, and is eminently recyclable if the next owner hates it. It was pretty easy (for the builder) to cut and install. I really love it.

The dark wood, stainless steel and granite are emblematic of current kitchen design. Subway tile would be a nice choice, but it's very popular, and the look will date quickly, if you care about that. It's a lovely kitchen; it would be hard to make a bad choice. If you like tile, go to a really good tile store; you might find something fabulous. I've seen some gorgeous tiles, and the color ranges are infinite. Or, if your family is proud of its Celtic roots, tile with celtic knot designs.
posted by theora55 at 6:55 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Please do not use stainless steel for your backsplash, unless you have a great desire to build biceps, triceps and forearms cleaning off the smearing oil splatters that happen every time you fry something. Everything shows up on this and there is NO such thing as a quick wipe down!
posted by shazzam! at 7:00 AM on September 17, 2010

I'd second glass tiles. I think your kitchen looks amazing, but the white walls are a little stark--enough so that I wouldn't think white subway tiles would be the best choice (I love those too though). I went with glass tiles in shades of blue in my own kitchen and I get loads of compliments. They have a depth and shine that really makes them stand out. they are available in loads of colors and if you get the small ones, it is easy to work them in around plugs and other obstructions.
posted by midwestguy at 7:05 AM on September 17, 2010

Some other ideas:

- Chalboard paint (awesome image here). Obviously you have to consider if you're going to keep your cabinets dark or paint them a lighter color. I
- Get something with a pattern in there! I wouldn't do the white subway tiles. Blah. Spice it up! Since your flooring has some great movement to it and a good bit of color, I'd go with something that is roughly 80% neutral, with maybe 20% accent color in it (red to pick up the color of your granite AND your flooring. Like THIS. You want it to relate but not match exactly.
-I see that you already have the 4" granite backsplash. Do you plan on removing that, and then running your accent tile from your countertop to top of cabinet line? I would do that, if it were my kitchen. I wouldn't want to see your pretty accent tile sitting on that 4" granite backsplash. Does that make sense?

(However, I personally think that granite is very pretty. Usually builders use a fine-grain type of granite (read: inexpensive), but looks like yours has some very pretty graining to it)
posted by elisebeth at 7:15 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

We did the pressed tin too. When we ordered, we had the option of having each sheet coated at the factory with poly. We never have to do anything but a quick wipe down, so easy to care for, We only had about 9 feet of wall to cover, it cost us under $100 and our backsplash is what gets the most compliments in our house.
posted by pearlybob at 7:44 AM on September 17, 2010

I have white subway tiles in my kitchen (with white cabinets and black granite countertops). I used white grout and had very small grout lines. I chose this to keep in the style of our house (1920's bungalow). I get a lot of complements on it FWIW.

If you would like to see this look, memail me with an email address and I will send you a picture.
posted by murrey at 8:06 AM on September 17, 2010

I don't think I would pair white tile or Carrara with your countertops. It would be a stark contrast with no color relation to the granite. I'd probably look for a darker cream tile or a light travertine marble. Those Waterworks tiles are gorgeous, but you're right could get expensive fast. If you go that direction, the Butter Bisque color would likely be one of my top choices.

If the glass of your hood touches the wall, then stop the tile an inch or two under the lowest point of the glass hood. If you have room to tile behind it (I don't think you do based on the picture, but can't quite tell), then I'd take the tile up and over the glass to the stainless portion.
posted by cecic at 9:29 AM on September 17, 2010

Glass can be pretty cute, but it can also get scratched.

I've seen some kitchens that have dark colored grout on white tile that look really neat ...

It can be done, but... I would not recommend this. Contrasting grout draws attention to irregularities. The overall look comes together easier when the grout matches or compliments.
posted by ovvl at 9:51 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I totally love those Grove Brickworks Field Tiles. But if they're too expensive I throw my vote in for white subway tile as well. It's classic, and it goes with everything.
posted by grapesaresour at 11:54 AM on September 17, 2010

Sorry it took me so long.... but here is our kitchen.... finished in the last 6 weeks.
Please note the glass splashback which is almost no-clean and what everyone does here now. Pretty much nobody does tiles anymore.
posted by taff at 9:40 PM on September 17, 2010

I forgot to mention.... the dark wood-look cabinets are now the height of fashion in European kitchens. Well done.... hopefully somewhat reassuring if you don't particularly love them. I like them a lot though.
posted by taff at 11:07 PM on September 17, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the suggestions, folks! I'm still undecided - like some of you, I feel the kitchen is already busy and white or off-white subway tiles would provide some texture without overwhelming the space. But we also have a light green glass tile that looks gorgeous, not to mention the travertine marble or the field tile options. We might just paint the kitchen for now, and wait to see if we end up painting the cabinets in another year. I'm changing out the weird 1980s spaceship light fixtures too, so that might push me in another direction. Thanks for your help!
posted by barnone at 8:28 AM on September 18, 2010

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