Dial Up the “Wow” With Statement Backsplashes

statement wall tile behind le cornue range
Full-wall, art-inspired backsplashes balance the rustic look of the sustainable eucalyptus cabinets and repurposed French farm house wood floor.
large back range hood banded in brass with rivets
Backsplashes aren’t always made of individual tiles. This full-wall installation was fabricated with panels of broken glass.

Did you know that the first backsplashes were simply functional, not decorative? Times sure have changed! Many of the backsplashes I design are inspired by art, created by artists and made of materials that are both functional and stunning. They often become the focal point of a room while serving as a backdrop for other elements, such as a stove hood, sconces, mirrors or wall art.

Why Backsplashes Became Popular

The evolution of the backsplash in America dates back to the widespread availability of indoor running water around the 1930s. For kitchens, they were first designed only to protect walls from splatters of water, grease, marinara sauce and other messy mishaps. In bathrooms, they protected the areas near the sink from splashing water. Because of that, the first backsplashes were typically short, just a four-inch strip that was first attached to the sink—originally farmhouse sinks—and later attached to the wall behind sinks and stoves.  What began as a utilitarian element has gradually evolved into a fabulous design element that sometimes spans entire walls, as in the kitchen I designed in these examples.

Strike a Balance Between Luxurious and Down-to-Earth

For their home in Texas, these clients wanted modern, clean lines, subtle references to the Lone Star State and a comfortable, luxurious feel that suits their upscale-casual lifestyle. A pair of empty-nesters, they love to entertain their friends, their two grown children and four grandchildren. The kitchen is in the center of this wing, so it very visible. I didn’t want it to look like a typical kitchen, but I had to strike a balance between luxurious materials such as this full wall backsplash, and the relaxed lifestyle of these down-to-earth clients.

How Were Those Panels Made?

To achieve a one-of-kind, artistic look for my art-loving clients, I selected these amazing hand-made panels designed by California artist Ellen Blakeley via www.artistictile.com.  To create the design, she first painted the panels in a champagne colored pattern. Then she broke sheets of glass and placed each piece by hand. Because the panels are so large, the installation looks seamless – like one huge piece of art that gleams and sparkles as it catches the light. The colors reference the brushed gold, riveted trim of the bronze range hood and the detailing on the www.lacornueusa.com range.  I continued those panels on all three of the kitchen walls for a unified, breathtaking look.

Choose a Variety of Backsplash Materials and Designs

Each backsplash throughout a home should be unique, but work together with all of the others. This master bathroom is in the same home as the kitchen above, so it had to meet the same goals. For the his-and-hers sinks, I wanted a similar level of artistic flair and quality material, but the backsplash is completely different in material, size, design and color palette. This remarkable installation is made of smokey grey limestone, white marble outlining and glass petals. It has a timeless feeling and a unique contrast between the translucent depths of glass and the elegance of solid stone.The design was achieved using a precision water jet technique that produces intricate patterns. Each section looks like a puzzle piece, and all the pieces are interlocked to look like one seamless panel. For a polished finish, I outlined the installation with a marble pencil liner.

To balance the high energy of the backsplash, I chose a more subdued mirror, vessel sink, quartzite countertop from www.mandmstone.ca. and cabinets from www.woodlandcabinetry.com.  The simple glass and metal sconces from www.shakuff.com flanking the mirrors do not distract from the star of the show.

laser cut stone backsplash title in abstract floral pattern
The intricate pattern of the backsplash is offset by the subdued mirror, vessel sink, sconces and cabinets.
textural beige backsplash tile that looks like a wave
Like waves gently flowing across a pond, this sandstone tile backspalsh introduces motion and energy to the powder room in the husband’s study/entertainment room.

Bring Big Style to a Small Space

Though they tend to be small, powder rooms are a great opportunity to make a big impact during the short time that people spend there.  For his study/entertainment room, the husband wanted a masculine, memorable look in en suite the powder room. Working again with www.artistictile.com, I chose an  organic wave pattern hand carved by artisans onto sandstone, referencing the husband’s love for the beauty and power of the outdoors. To  achieve the tonal differences, the darker waves on each stone are more highly honed than the lighter ones, producing a three-dimensional relief. Rounding out the space, I added a sleek black vessel sink from www.stoneforest.com, and a gray quartzite countertop. Notice too how the open shelving in the vanity gives our client easy access to towels, and allows him to display a valet box.

powder room with metallic tile backsplash
This front foyer powder room sets the tone for the rest of the home – luxurious, artistic and welcoming.
whimsical floral tile backsplash
A whimsical design and splashes of color are perfect for a powder room near the outdoor pool.

Establish the Tone for the Whole House

I have always believed that the front foyer, including the powder room, should tell everyone what to expect of the design throughout the home. My goals for the entire house are summarized in this small space—luxurious and artistic yet warm and inviting. The centerpiece is the highly textured tile backsplash wall by Kelly Wearstler via www.annsax.com.  It has a warm, mocha-brown rubbed finish that intensifies the ridged pattern. The installation is one of many textures that generate energy and excitement, including the leathered quartzite countertop and the pebbly finish of the bronze door handle.

Match the Mood to the Function

The location and function of any room is always a consideration when choosing the furnishings and finishes. This powder room above is just off the outdoor pool, so the playful design of this mosaic tile wall installation and the splashes of color are perfect! I worked with artist Alison Eden of New York, again via www.artistictile.com, to custom design this pattern. It is made of tiny stained glass pieces, meticulously assembled into an exuberant work of art. Whenever I look at this photo, it always makes me happy! To offset all of that energy and excitement, I chose a clean-lined vanity in cabernet red and a simple white onyx vessel sink from www.stoneforest.com. The floating toilet from www.pirch.com  opens up sight lines and makes cleaning easier.

What Do Your Backsplashes Say About You?

For each client’s home, I choose backsplashes that help tell the story of the people who live there. Would you like to know more? Please contact me.

Michelle's Interiors