Splash Act

Do you remember when a backsplash was, well, a backsplash? Generally no more than four inches high and strictly utilitarian, it was meant for protection and rarely received more than a second glance, let alone the occasional grateful nod for keeping the area behind stove and sink free from grease, grime and cooking experiments gone awry. My, how things have changed.

 
Tessera Red glass tile.

Tessera Red glass tile.

Courtesy of Oceanside Glasstile

Sound the trumpets: Backsplash design has at long last “come into its own,” says David Kiljanowicz of The Kitchen Company in North Haven. In fact, “I’ve seen people give more attention to their backsplash than their $100-a-square-foot granite countertop,” says Andrea Brewster of Tile Spaces in Woodbury. “It’s become a huge focal point.”
We asked kitchen experts from around the state for their take on the latest products and styles to make a splash, whether it be via the thoroughly modern shimmer of onyx or the rich patina of copper, the eco-chic of recycled glass or the latest ceramic tiles in colors sure to drop a few jaws. 
 

 “We tell people that the backsplash is a place where you can really have some fun with the kitchen,” says Bob Blanco of Shore & Country Kitchens in Fairfield. “It’s your chance to make your kitchen your own.”
Stone age
Now about that granite. This most durable of stones may continue its reign supreme as the king of kitchen countertops but when it comes to backsplashes, granite can be, well, a bit “overbearing,” says Tyra Dellacroce of Connecticut Stone Supplies in Milford,  if not quite “dated” (as in stuck in the ’80s along with big hair). 
“Marble is without question the current trend,” says Dellacroce. “People want a ‘clean’ look that is less busy.” And so white marble countertops (like Carrara, Calacatta, even Statuary) with complementary backsplashes are very much in demand. You might choose a big ol’ marble slab that runs from countertop to the base of the cabinets, tiles in any number of shapes and sizes, or an intricate mosaic that, thankfully, comes in preassembled sheets. Finishes can be polished (smooth and reflective), honed (smooth and matte) or textured (brushed, sandblasted, leather and more).
Want more? Limestone’s consistent color and texture make it another top choice, says Dellacroce. Look for it in Crema Luna or Ephesus Dune: Today’s hot colors for cool stones are creamy whites, pale grays, pale greens and dark grays—as opposed to the yellows of five years ago, says Dellacroce. Witness the Modern Bursa Beige mosaic in the new Moment Collection by Bridgeport-based manufacturer and distributor AKDO. It combines Bursa Beige and Emperador Light Turkish marbles with Ephesus Dune limestone—stunning.
For a “rustic ‘Old World’ look,” Monica Mauri of New England Tile & Marble in Fairfield likes travertine, which also happens to be the stone that Tile Spaces’ Brewster uses the most—most often in 2-by-4-inch bricks. “Slate is another good option,” adds Brewster, for both its “natural cleft surface and the fact that it’s relatively inexpensive.”
As for that onyx we mentioned, it is one “gorgeous stone,” says Enid Pierce of S.J. Masters in Canaan and Avon—and one that will definitely make your kitchen stand out. Just remember that it is “much busier than marble and has quite a lot of movement and color,” says Pierce. It will compete with a granite countertop. “You can’t have two stars,” points out Dellacroce. “If you go with onyx, it has to be the jewel in the ring.”
 

Glass houses

Caspian Blue, Bali Beige, Arctic White, Icelandic Blue, Seashell . . . the colors in AKDO’s signature line of glass tiles are vast and varied, and the style options equally compelling: circles, ovals, clear bubbles and frosted bricks, to name but a few.  
“There’s loads of excitement surrounding glass tile today,” says AKDO’s Christine Spiegel. “It’s becoming a huge trend”—and for good reason. “Glass is one of the easiest products to clean and maintain and it can be around heat,” says Spiegel. Also, “it complements stone countertops, allowing that granite to shine, and can be very cost-effective.”
In a word, says Brewster, glass is “cool”—and it knows it. (Just turn on HGTV and you’ll see the star it’s fast becoming.)
And buyer take note: “The knee-jerk reaction is to think of glass as strictly ‘modern’ or ‘contemporary,’” says Dellacroce. “That’s not true. You can accomplish a wide variety of looks with glass because the lines out there are so different.”
AKDO’s “shattered” border tiles in colors like Mojave Brown and Shannon Sage lend themselves to a more rustic and decidedly casual look. Artistic Tile offers a 12-by-24-inch tile that’s “almost ‘slab’-looking,” says Brewster. And most definitely “exquisite.” You can order it in silver, copper or gold in either smooth or antiqued leaf.
Cool new looks at Greenwich’s Ann Sacks include rich and warm “antique” Burlwood from the hot new Obsidian Collection, cut from the cooled lava left behind after a volcano does its stuff, and the Gilt Collection, created by acclaimed designer Michael S. Smith, which fuses pure gold and platinum leaf with faceted art glass—very ooh-la-la.
Oceanside Glasstile, carried by S.J. Masters, is where things get eco-chic. “Glass works well [for a backsplash] because you can easily get all the little parts and pieces you need to make up any design you want,” says Pierce, referring to liners, decos and trim; mosaic or field tile; iridescent, noniridescent or matte. Since Oceanside uses up to 97 percent recycled content (depending on color), you can feel good about being green. Ah, how great Moroccan Desert Blend (70 percent recycled content) would look on our backsplash. 
 

Show your metal

Of course you’ve got stainless-steel appliances to go along with your granite countertops—it’s practically a requirement, is it not? But metal—whether stainless or copper, nickel or bronze—on your backsplash? Now we’re talking.
“Commercial kitchens have always had quilted stainless-steel backsplashes,” says Andrea Brewster. “They look great [in a “Next Food Network Star” kind of way] and are very sanitary.” Yes, you can do a solid sheet of stainless, but your options go well beyond this. Consider, for example, the Metallismo Collection by Walker Zanger at Stone Depot in Hartford and Middletown. It features stainless mosaics in all sorts of funky shapes and sizes: oval, elongated octagon, rhomboid, brick. Daltile’s Metallica Collection, which you can find at Cortina Tile & Marble in North Haven, features mosaics in brushed stainless hexagons that are quite the lookers.
As for copper, it’s easy to fall head over heels for Maniscalco’s copper Perth Penny Rounds. Available in brushed, polished or antique finishes, these versatile mosaics can be used for either contemporary or ‘antique’ kitchens, says Brewster. (You can also get your “pennies” in stainless—brushed, polished, stipple, black or bronze.)
Saint-Gaudens, whose founder started as a jewelry designer, is known for the detailed bronzes in its Metal Arts Collection, cast in a foundry and solid through and through—from tiny 1-inch accent squares on up. Look for these beauties at Bella Pietra in Darien.
And then there’s the tin reminiscent of the ceiling at your local sweet shop. “It’s a neat look,” says Brewster. It also comes in sheets, so is easy to install. You might even be able to do it yourself.
 

Ceramics class

It may be a basic, but “ceramic tile is still very popular,” says Connecticut Stone’s Dellacroce, and the industry has exploded in terms of options. “Stronger, bolder colors like we haven’t seen since the ’70s,” she says, are a trend—bright blue, bright green, chocolate—“happy colors that are definitely ‘today.’”
Let’s not forget about the imports. Delft tiles from the Netherlands as well as bright handmade Mexican and Spanish tiles remain popular as accents, according to S.J. Masters’ Enid Pierce. Just don’t get any ideas about a mural for behind the cooktop or sink. A pattern made from ceramic mosaics is a decidedly more up-to-the-minute and neutral option, says New England Tile’s Monica Mauri.
Finishes, glazes and styling create seemingly endless options, according to Pierce. Consider that Pratt & Larson (carried by S.J. Masters) boasts some 14 different style lines, four distinctive glaze lines (Pierce recommends the Craftsman), 300 colors and 1,000 different sizes and shapes.
No worry if lots of choice is not your thing. “People still love subway tile for traditional Connecticut homes,” says Dellacroce. Try a hip new twist by varying rectangle size (a 2-by-9 or 2-by-6), or keep it classic with pure white or biscuit 3-by-6 subways, says Andrea Brewster. “It’s a simple and timeless look.”
 

In the mix

Still can’t decide? Join the growing crowd that likes to “mix it up,” suggests Shore & Country Kitchens’ Bob Blanco. Limestone with metal. Ceramic with glass.
“Combining materials is big,” agrees Pierce. Witness Oceanside Glasstile’s Geologie Collection, which pairs earthy slate with luminous glass tile. Combining “the natural beauty of  stone with the glamour of glass is a trend that’s going to have legs,” she predicts.
AKDO’s Fusion Collection is another that can help ease you into glass, says Christine Spiegel. “It offers the solidness of stone with a new look that’s a bit more fashion-forward.”
Consider, too, Ann Sacks’ Serpentine, which pairs German silver with semiprecious milky-white serpentine. Talk about a striking couple: The glossy German silver is an alloy of copper, zinc and nickel that, due to its durability, was often used in early automobiles, including the original Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, while serpentine is a stone used by sculptors, but is extremely rare in white.
Oh, the possibilities. . . .

Splash Act

Reader Comments

comments powered by Disqus
 
Edit Module
ADVERTISEMENT