The 256 Project was recently contacted by a lovely lady named Pauli, who owns a condo in Chicago and is looking into putting up backsplash in her kitchen. Pauli asked, “What do you think about backsplashes??? I’d really like a grey, but I’m not sure if that’s out of style now. My cabinets are cherry, appliances chrome and countertop is black granite with some specs of green and silver/white in there.”
Yeah!! I love a fun project with beautiful results! And so #ProjectPauli commenced. Here is the e-design process we went through.
First, I needed to know and see a few things, so I sent her these questions:
- Do you plan on keeping all other elements of your kitchen the way they are for the next five years?
- Can you send me a picture of your kitchen as it is and a picture of your living/dining rooms?
- Low-budget or this is where you want to splurge?
The answers to these questions are important because they’ll help me understand what look she’s going for in her kitchen and also connect the look to adjoining rooms so the backsplash doesn’t seem out of place in terms of style. And, of course, budget is always an important piece of information.
Pauli’s answers were very helpful. She plans on making other changes in the near future but nothing drastic (upgrading appliances, refacing but not replacing the cabinets and possibly extending the countertop but not necessarily changing the color) and she had just gotten a new sink and faucet. She said this was to be a low-budget project “like I’m buying the pieces from Home Depot or wherever and doing it myself.”
She also mentioned that she has a slight rustic feel at her place with a reclaimed wood kitchen table, old window panes and a lot of unique pieces and she didn’t want to add to that.
Short answer to her first question about backsplashes: I love them! They aren’t necessary, but they are a fun way to bring in color, texture, pattern and personality into a kitchen and, really important, a tile backsplash can make kitchens easier to clean.
Gray is definitely not going out of style. It may not be the dominant kitchen color in terms of 2017 trends, but gray, as well as grayish white and a warm white, are the kinds of neutrals that will work really well with just about any future color scheme and kitchen design style. Gray is also modern, which would fit in with a city condo, like for #ProjectPauli.
This image from HGTV.com shows that you can go modern and have fun with shape and still look good with cherry cabinets:
The most important takeaways from her responses are that she may change the bulk of the color in the kitchen in the future (by refacing her cabinets) and that she may do the backsplash on her own. A neutral color is the best approach to match cherry cabinets with black countertops and transition to match whatever color the cabinets may be in the future. And the best approach for DIYing a backsplash is to install tiles that come on mesh squares to avoid having to measure, cut and apply individual tiles.
Just because you are going neutral doesn’t mean you need to go full neutral. As in, you can go neutral in color, but you don’t have to go neutral in texture and shape, which I mentioned in my previous backsplash post.
Once I decided to head in the neutral-tile-on-mesh direction, I began my search. I thought #ProjectPauli called for a couple of potential tile styles: the classic subway, a fun shape, or a combination of the two – a classic style with a fun twist.
I sent her a list of options in these categories with these as my recommended favorites:
Even though it’s a classic and simple subway style, the texture of the marble stone really comes through. I prefer larger format subway tiles (as in, each tile is larger than 2″ x 4″ as these are) but those are hard to find on a budget and don’t come on mesh backgrounds, making them harder to install for DIY.
This fractal shape is a unique – but not too crazy – design that will help the backsplash stand out. The fact that it’s white will go with any kitchen.
I’m a fan of styles that play off other styles and this is a cool spin on the classic subway tile. This shape has a little “wow” to it. It’s not of an era and it’s not trendy so it won’t date a kitchen in a few years.
Considering the darker colors in her home and the slight rustic feel she has going there, I cautioned not to go too white by suggesting she go with a light to medium gray grout. That tone of gray will add a soft color, and help each tile pop without the grout being too stark against the white. A white title with white grout will create too much contrast in that one area of her kitchen.
I also suggested a couple of other tile options to consider, both with light to medium gray grout in case she thought the first few options were too white:
“REGINE!!! Thank you for finding all of these for me… Wow, there are SO many options. I can’t believe it. I was initially looking at subway tile, but I’m liking these other options better.”
She picked the play on subway tile as her favorite.
Pauli also said that she’d never thought about putting gray grout in and was thinking of resurfacing her cabinets to be gray in the future, but that’s a big IF that ever happens. And then she asked, “If I didn’t put grey grout in the first option, what other color would you recommend? Off white?”
I think a light to medium gray would be best. Cream would also be good, it would still make each tile pop, but I have the feeling gray would go better with whatever she decides to do in the future as well as go well with what she has now. Also, it looks from the photos as if she has a grayscale color palette in the apartment, and white tile with cream grout might seem a little off compared to everything else.
I recommended that she get a sample to see how it worked in the kitchen before she committed but I’m really happy she chose that tile because I love it too. Hopefully her DIY project is a success and we get to see the finished results.