A lit­tle less drama: Kitchen back­splashes get sleeker

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

The kitchen back­splash - that sur­face be­hind the stove­top or sink that pro­tects the wall from dam­age dur­ing cook­ing and dish­wash­ing - has long been used to add color and beauty to an oth­er­wise util­i­tar­ian space. But dra­matic, or­nately pat­terned back­splashes, once pop­u­lar, are be­ing re­placed by sleeker, simpler designs, says in­te­rior de­signer Jenny Kirschner. Many de­sign­ers are us­ing monochro­matic tiles ar­ranged in sim­ple pat­terns to cre­ate beau­ti­ful back­splashes that won't quickly go out of style. We've asked New York-based Kirschner and two other in­te­rior de­sign­ers - Florida-based An­drew Howard and Cal­i­for­nia-based Sayre Ziskin for ad­vice on cre­at­ing a kitchen back­splash that is as time­less as it is gor­geous.

Qual­ity and hand­craft­ing

"I make it a point in ev­ery kitchen to do a stand­out back­splash," Howard says. But that doesn't mean the project has to be ex­pen­sive. Be­cause a back­splash cov­ers a rel­a­tively small area, he says, it's pos­si­ble to use high-end and even cus­tom-made tiles while keep­ing costs down. There is usu­ally a space of just 18 inches be­tween up­per and lower cab­i­nets, so it doesn't take a lot of tile to fill that area if you wish to ex­tend the back­splash be­yond the sink or stove­top.

All three de­sign­ers sug­gest hunt­ing for high­qual­ity porce­lain or ce­ramic tiles, or com­mis­sion­ing them in cus­tom col­ors and fin­ishes. For ce­ramic tiles in cus­tom col­ors, Kirschner rec­om­mends Fire­clay Tile, a Cal­i­for­nia com­pany that ships na­tion­ally. Ziskin is a fan of the hand­made tiles by Anne Sacks, which she says of­fer the beau­ti­ful flaws and unique­ness that ma­chine-made tiles don't have.

Co­or­di­nat­ing, not Con­trast­ing

It's tempt­ing to add a burst of color in your back­splash. But by keep­ing the back­splash neu­tral and adding brighter col­ors through more eas­ily re­place­able things like cur­tains and up­hol­stery, you're less likely to get bored. And if you'll be sell­ing your home within a few years, a neu­tral back­splash in clas­sic white sub­way tile or a pale gray glass tile is a much eas­ier sell than a dis­tinc­tive color. Kirschner likes de­sign­ing back­splashes that are co­or­di­nated with the coun­ter­top ma­te­rial. By match­ing the ma­te­ri­als in­stead of con­trast­ing them, she says, "you don't run the risk of say­ing, 'What was I think­ing?'"

One way to do this is to use faux-mar­ble porce­lain slab coun­ter­tops in a neu­tral color, and then use tiles or a solid slab in the same ma­te­rial for your back­splash. You can also choose a tile in a slightly dif­fer­ent ma­te­rial than your coun­ter­tops but ex­actly match the color.

Cre­ative place­ment

One way to make tiles in a neu­tral shade like white or gray look more strik­ing is to get "play­ful with shape, rather than color," Kirschner says. If you like sub­way tiles but feel they're overused, choose an over­size ver­sion or a very elon­gated one. To make clas­sic tiles look fresh and sur­pris­ing, try ar­rang­ing long, nar­row tiles ver­ti­cally in­stead of hor­i­zon­tally. An­other fresh twist: Ziskin likes lin­ing up edges of tiles so that they are stacked neatly, rather than off­set­ting them in a tra­di­tional brick pat­tern. Also pop­u­lar right now are hexag­o­nal tiles ar­ranged with the top edge left un­even. It's tra­di­tional to cut a few hexag­o­nal tiles in half to cre­ate a solid top line straight across. But de­sign­ers are now us­ing only whole tiles, cre­at­ing a play­ful, un­even line across the top.

Slabs and steel

Some home­own­ers rarely cook, Howard says, so they can choose a back­splash that's purely about beauty. But the rest of us do give our stoves and sinks a work­out, so we need to be more prac­ti­cal. "If you're in your kitchen a lot and it's get­ting heavy use, I would shy away from mar­ble or a grouted back­splash," Howard says. "Be­cause you don't want to spend all your time scrub­bing down your back­splash."

Ziskin agrees: Lots of thick grout lines can be "a clean­ing night­mare." One so­lu­tion is us­ing a faux­mar­ble slab back­splash (real mar­ble may pick up stains you can't re­move) rather than tiles. That way there's no grout to clean.

An­other op­tion is us­ing tiles but keep­ing grout to a min­i­mum. Kirschner has used stain­less steel tiles with no vis­i­ble grout lines to cre­ate a sleek back­splash in kitchens that also have stain­less steel ap­pli­ances. It's a unique look and easy to clean. Any de­sign that you love can be beau­ti­ful, Ziskin says, "as long as the sur­face is wi­peable and it doesn't stain." — AP

Photo pro­vided by in­te­rior de­signer Jenny Kirschner shows a kitchen de­signed by Kirschner.

Photo pro­vided by in­te­rior de­signer Jenny Kirschner shows a kitchen de­signed by Kirschner. — AP pho­tos

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