A backsplash, which covers the wall between the countertops and the cabinets and behind the stove and sink, gives a kitchen personality and style. Sometimes, if it's an especially bold color or graphic design, it becomes the room's focal point. Picking the right backsplash can be a lot of fun but with so many available choices, it can also be overwhelming. Take a look at these guidelines to get started.
Pick the countertop first.
The countertop, not the backsplash, sets the stage for the kitchen's entire color palette, said interior designer Sharon Flatley. "The colors of the backsplash, walls and cabinets all hinge on your countertop choice." If the countertop is colorful or highly patterned, keep the backsplash neutral. "Something needs to stand out, and you only want one shining star," said Flatley. You want your backsplash to compliment the counter-top, not compete against it.
Match the tile design to your style.
In a rustic kitchen, Flatley suggests getting tiles that look handmade with irregular edges or crackled glazes. "There are some really neat-looking tiles with geometric prints now," she said, "and your options for color, texture and pattern are unbelievable." If you're doing a contemporary or industrial kitchen, look for sleek, clean tiles. "But there are also some really phenomenal tex-tural tiles that give you shape and still maintain that sleek look." For a transitional design, try a beveled subway tile that adds some architectural flair without being boring, she said. Geometric shapes like hexagons are trending in transitional kitchens too.
Pick a material that makes your budget happy.
Backsplash tiles come in not just many colors, patterns, shapes and sizes but also price points. You'll have more than enough to choose from, whether you can afford $10 or $100 per tile. Popular high-end choices include laser cut, natural stone mosaics and glass. Budget-friendly choices are ceramic and porcelain, some of which are manufactured to look like stone or wood, a welcome choice if you want a high-end custom look at a lower price.
Choose the right grout.
Grout, which can be as important a design element in some kitchens as the tile, comes in many colors, including black, orange and pink. But Flatley recommends that you choose a grout color closest to the color of your tile. "I am not a big fan of 'outlining' the tile in a darker color of grout," she said. "The tile is usually the major component of the backsplash design, and the grout should be simple and elegant."
Go big or go home.
Small tiles, which work well on shower floors, look outdated on a kitchen backsplash. "Most people are choosing the larger sizes, which means less grout joints and less cleaning," said Flatley. "It used to be that your only choices were 4-inch-by-4-inch or 6-inch-by-6-inch, but now the sky is almost the limit."
Add a little extra to your tile purchase.
After picking the tile you like, figure out how much to buy. "Measure the space then calculate the amount of square feet needed to cover the area," said Flatley. "I always add some percentage to the square feet needed as overage — usually 15 percent — for tile that is to be cut and has the potential for breakage."