Backsplash to warm up white-ish cabs & granite

starfish24January 22, 2010

I have been stumped by the backsplash for far too long now. Have looked at so many pictures and read so many of your enlightening posts, but I think the best strategy now is just to ask. Our cabinets are espresso on island and one side of kitchen and an off-white glazed color on a large section of the perimeter (pictures below). The backsplash will go where all the white-ish cabinets are. We love the granite -- mostly white with grays, taupes, and bits of garnet. It looks gorgeous on the dark cabinets but needs some warmth near the lighter cabinets so it does not look so washed out. Am hoping the backsplash can help without overpowering or contrasting too much.

General plan was to have a mosaic (glass -- maybe Sonoma Tantrum) above stove and keep all else simple. Field tiles I've considered either blends in too much with the granite (eg, the light olive green limestone I wanted to use originally) or competes too much (eg, most slates seem too rustic and busy). Seems like a creamy or beige tumbled stone would be too plain, but would their smoothness and uniformity in color make the granite pop more? And, actually, tumbled or glazed ceramic? (I like Ann Sacks and WZ type tiles and what many of you have done with them, but would that be too cold here?) Though I love color (dining room next to kitchen is chocolate brown), I think a really dark or bold backsplash would contrast too much for us here (but I like the warmth of the copper plate above hood! BTW, we can paint that area above hood a different color).

Am striving for an elegant, simple, warm look for the kitchen. Am totally confused! Any advice on color or material? TIA!

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I just wanted to say, your kitchen is lovely. Yours reminds me of mine, but yours is much nicer.

Here is what I have learned: Keep the backsplash simple with the busy granite--let the counters be the star of the show. I too have always wanted something behind the range that was different. But now I'm leaning towards maybe doing the same tile/color but in a different shape there....Field: 2x8 subways matte white, with a framed out area over the range with matte white harlequins in there.

I have decided on the matte because I think it will feature the stone nicely, and also you won't get the glare from the undercabinet lights.

If you want a taupe color, the best one I found (we have decided NOT to use it because I painted the walls this color instead) is the Mandala Tiles--Sinu Collection. I'm not sure exactly of your colors in that stone, but look at Stingray & the French Grey. Both would be lovely. If you went with the Singray, there is a Sonoma tantrum color that matches it very nicely.

Here's the Stingray in a 4x4, avail in other sizes:

Sonoma tantrum rhomboids (see the lighter ones? they match):

So I would suggest if you have a chance to see this tile in person, you should check it out. It has a lot of depth to the color, which would bring out the different colors of your granite. Like I said, we were in love with it, but decided to paint that color, and there was no way to have that much of that color. We are going with the white.

Here is a link that might be useful: mandala tile, find the Sinu Collection

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 2:57PM
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I think the tile I've been considering for same purpose (warming up) would look great, which is Walker Zanger's "Hamptons Beige" color from their line called Gramercy Park. I also think their color called "Brownstone" would be nice, too. I like it in 2x6 just cause most people use 3x6 these days it it's a little more unique, as well as more appropriate if doing a period kitchen which you seem to be doing (?). It's also classy tile (w/ a light crackle) - which you obviously already know - and you have a classy (lovely) looking kitchen! ;)

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 3:29PM
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Hi starfish24,

Is your granite Bianco Romano? It is beautiful. I had been planning a similar color scheme, but am stumped because I couldn't decide on a backsplash that would go well with off-white cabinets and Bianco Granite. I too am afraid my kitchen will look too monochromatic if I do a light/off-white tile.

I did find one in the Sonoma tile collection Stellar called 'Smoke'. It's a crackle tile, but you can't tell it on the web.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sonoma Crackle Tile

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 3:55PM
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Wow! I love the space and the granite takes my breath away!

You mentioned that you'd like to bring in some warmth into the space, which I read as bringing in some hues of yellow and red, light brown etc.

I'd suggest looking into horizontal tile mosaics, or something like slate/glass in subway pattern etc. I'd vote against square glass mosaics (not tiles, just premade mosaics) since IMO they tend to more of a modern look. Your kitchen is obviously traditional.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 4:47PM
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Thank you for your quick responses and your very kind comments. I'm so excited about checking out all your suggestions at the tile place. Part of my problem has been not even knowing which color to go with in order to bring out the taupes and garnet (as opposed to the gray), and your suggestions are doing a great job pointing me in the right direction.

beekeeper -- i checked out mandala after seeing you post about it somewhere else (were you the one who had suggested french grey to someone?), and i loved the tiles, but i could not figure out what color i should consider -- Stingray looks great! Do you know what color that lighter tantrum is? I was thinking of a Sonoma mosaic (with 1x2s, homey :)) in their Salvestrin Blend, but I can change colors in there if needed.

theresse and homey -- not sure kitchen's really "period" or "traditional." It would stress me out even more to try to fit a label! i love that WZ Gramercy tile -- it looks like a slight enough crackle that it would not compete with the granite. So, you all so far seem to prefer ceramic over a tumbled stone, is that right?

pbear -- You are smarter than me in figuring this all out before starting! I often think I should have done that. The granite is White Galaxy. It has more movement and veining than most Bianco Romanos I've seen, but similar colors. Does look busy in close-up pic, but generally a pretty subdued granite. I will check out Smoke -- would it work if that ends up being lighter than granite and cabinets (see? my basic mindblock again: darker or lighter than granite and cabs?).

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 5:56PM
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Another way to warm up things a bit would be to put bamboo or wood roman blinds on the windows. A really large wooden cutting board would also add warmth.

Love your granite, btw.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 6:40PM
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I'm no designer and this is all just my personal opinion. First-your kitchen is beautiful! I was going to suggest a rhomboid pattern just as beekeeperswife did. I think it would be a great design with your kitchen. In your kitchen I think I'd like the combination of the shine in a countertop with a matte backsplash. As I keep looking at your kitchen I am getting visions of redroze's backsplash. I love that it is white but has so much texture from being hand made, I think(Ann Sacks I think). I would keep the backsplash color simple and add wood shades as budge 1 suggested and perhaps some pretty canisters, vases, a bowl, etc. For the wood shade I would do a similar color to your copper tray (love that BTW). I just wouldn't go quite as dark as the espresso stain.

Basically I would keep the backdrop simple and add color in accessories-those can be changed out but not the backsplash!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 8:12PM
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stafish--the sonoma tantrum is either tweed or platinum.

have fun looking at the store.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 8:14PM
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What about a simple 4x4 or 6x6 tan flashed cream colored tile-- something with a handmade look, and copper accents to bring in your piece on the hood?

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 8:14PM
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Some nice handmade tiles I've seen are by trikeenan, they have some nice muted blends, lots of taupes, mushrooms, greeny-yellow-creams. Here are some from their website.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 9:27PM
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Wow -- those trikeenan tiles are beautiful. I guess handmade tiles are the way to go here. The subtle variation in color is just enough to provide interest without detracting. Yes, redroze's Ann Sacks Heaths did point me in that direction. Her kitchen is gorgeous. I also love the moss green AS tiles in momto4kids' kitchen (see below).

beekeeper -- I looked back through your old posts...maybe I should paint, too! Can you give me a ballpark price on the Mandala tiles? Have you installed your biscuit tile yet? Your kitchen is beautiful -- love those floors!

And are you and megpie thinking rhomboid to break up the linearity? I know i need to do that. (Below is the salvestrin blend i was considering, but maybe too washed out and maybe just too linear.)

Bill V and others -- i was considering a copper liner outside the mosaic, but I hear copper accents will, not surprisingly, patina over time. Not sure I could handle that. Has anyone else had this experience in a tile or accent?

And, yes, still need to get to light fixture, window treatments and decor -- those will help, as you are all suggesting. Thanks for the motivation!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 10:35PM
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Not if you use something that's not true copper. These tiles are actually plastic. Not a bit of metal to them, but you'd never know it to look at them, even close up:

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 12:07AM
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neat copper nook there, Bill. While I have you, any suggestions on the creamy-tan handmade-looking (as opposed to real handmade) 4x4s or 6x6s?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 12:33AM
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You have a gorgeous Kitchen!!!!!!!

I like the idea of tiny tumbled tiles but you really
could do anything. The tumbled tiles marble or travertine
might add a bit of texture and earthiness that would
compliment the brown in the other room you mentioned.

Google images spice drawer

Subway tile

Cappaccino glaze on maple

Tianon Hood by Francoise

Google images

Toulouse by Francoise Hoods

William Hefner

Designer Brooke Giannati

NVG counters

Kitchen Ideas blog

Fox Kitchens

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 8:16AM
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I wish I could give you a name and color. This is the kind of thing I'm talking about, though:

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 8:24AM
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Love those trikeenan tiles. I'm going to have to take a look at those in person. I'm still trying to figure out a backsplash as well.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 1:49PM
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I love all those kitchens you posted photos of, boxerpups! Not making it easy to narrow down my choices though . . . . I'm going to have to take a mule along with me to pick up samples on Monday. I love the lighter tile especially when it contrasts with the counter, as in the costa esmeralda granite pics above, but I am afraid my granite is too light and will not be set off enough. Will post pics of samples once I get them. Love all these suggestions in the meantime though. Thank you.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 5:01PM
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Whatever you do will be simply amazing with the elements
you have already chosen. I think lighter with your granite
would be beautiful. Don't be afraid to go lighter than the
counter it will look fantastic.

Ps. Sorry to add so many more choices, I just love
looking at kitchens and sharing ideas.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 6:42PM
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Starfish24, yes I personally think your kitchen looks pretty classy and that ceramic goes with that really well - but especially if it's the kind that's not just basic subway white 3x6 tile but something more handmade and/or w/ a different color (or colors) while still being subway. Tumbled tile is very nice but (once again this is just my personal taste) my first instinct is that it feels too...rustic? While also simultaneously being too ornate which I know makes no sense. I think it looks great in many kitchens but I keep thinking your kitchen should have something softer or sleeker looking? I was also thinking a glossy minibrick in a light color would be really nice. Yes the WZ Gramercy Park tile has a light crackle - not too heavy - and glaze that's really beautiful. I got samples that I'm very impressed with. Even just their off white color (bone?) is SO gorgeous.

Petepie1 - I love those tiles. So beautiful!

Bill Vincent - that copper effect would look great in Starfish's kitchen near her stove me thinks!

Boxerpup - that second example seems it would be lovely for Starfish's kitchen but I couldn't see the lower examples - maybe cause I have a Mac.

Well you've got excellent pictures and advice here...can't wait to see what you choose! HOW I wish I could have such a nice, completely remodeled kitchen!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 7:18PM
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Honey, it's been a long time me! Had to put backsplash on hold for, oh, about 15 months, because I was so sick of the whole renovation. Now, I'm sick of the unfinished look. Theresse, you have hit the nail precisely with your head (as an old teacher used to say) on the tumbled being slightly too earthy and slightly too fancy, for lack of a better word. With the limsetoney-looking hood there, I think I just need a sleeker texture in there somewhere. A year ago, I couldn't get enough natural stone -- now I just want low maintenance.

boxerpups -- Confusion or not, I love looking at all the pics -- thx for taking the time to post them!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 8:50PM
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A soft grey would be nice. A matte honed, natural stone.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 11:34PM
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Your kitchen is astonishingly elegant starfish24. If you are serious about "warming it up," you might consider how terrific the red cassarole and the bowl of fruit (?) look on your counter. It might be worth your while to look for tile in the dark melon to terra cotta to russet range to see whether there is a color that could highlight the garnet in your counters without straying to much into the bluer -- i.e., cooler -- reds.

Because your backsplash area is unusually large, if you find a color that works with the granite, you might want to incorporate it -- e.g., as part of a frieze -- into a composition based on the understated taupe or mushroom tones.

I haven't found examples that are exactly a propos, but you might want to check out the following on the finished kitchens blog:
-- DianneN's, to show a varigated rosy tile with white cabinets (although her countertop is quite different from yours;
-- jeanar's, for a denser rosy tile with white cabinets (although her countertop is black);
-- melnnoa's, to show how a contrasting color can be used for a freize that has a bit of weight but is not overwhelming.

There is a kitchen nearly as elegant as your that pops classic white cabinets and black counters with restrained touches of red in pendants and range knobs (there is a slide show with the article).

Best wishes. I can hardly wait to see what you decide.

Here is a link that might be useful: Recapturing an Era

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 12:04AM
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I would keep it simple, perhaps with a light creamy crackled subway tile or a small creamy mosaic and then adding some color mosaic under the hood, and I would warm it up with accessories instead. It does look warm with the range hood.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 11:42AM
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domengineer -- do you think using a gray stone would bring out the gray, or bring out everything but the gray?
honorbiltkit -- I love red accents (thank you for your gracious comments!) The link you provided is very in line with our taste and, in fact, much like our last house. Love it. I am checking out your frieze ideas -- by that do you mean a listello type accent in those mushroomy colors?
Kitchenconfidential -- thank you. It's funny that sometimes you don't see things until you post them as s picture. I agree that the hood stone does warm up the lighter colors a bit. Am now leaning toward the light creamy tiles with added bright accessories.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 10:09PM
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What about a honed white marble 3 x 6, rather than tumbled?

    Bookmark   January 25, 2010 at 9:34PM
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I keep thinking that you should bring out the plum colors in that gorgeous granite. What if you did the stingray mandala tiles with a strip of plum glass tiles as a "liner" of some kind? These are plum colored glass with a copper sheen ... I think they are so pretty!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2010 at 8:31AM
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basianov -- I'd love to bring out that plum/garnet in the granite! And I think the copperish colors in your picture above would complement the existing colors all around quite well. I'm not bold enough to do a liner with such a sharp contrast, but maybe I could find some other way to incorporate those tones in.

petepie -- Thanks for the thought -- we have honed marble elsewhere, and I do love that look. I agree that tumbled might be too rustic for this kitchen. I did manage to make quite a mess cooking on the stove this past weekend though (outdoor grill not working!), so I worry a bit about upkeep. Also, I checked to see how some of our honed crema marfil would look as a backsplash, and it's definitely too light. Makes the granite look too gray and washed out.

Am hoping to have good sample pics up soon.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2010 at 7:35PM
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I feel your pain, we have cream cabinets with giallo ornamental granite, and even though it's a beige-ier granite than the bianco romano, a lot of the marbles look too light and bright next to it -- it really has a grey/green undertone. Some of the tiles I've considered are a handmade (like the trikeenan) in a beigey/green/yellow color (look at their bamboo and moonstone colors, also Grazia essenze tile in magnolia or primula), a glass 3 x6 tile (again in a pale cream color - AKDO bali beige, daltile cream soda), a honed slate (elon 3x6 in golden sand). The search continues!! Maybe some of these suggestions will help you (but you're probably trying to stay away from any yellow/gold tones, more towards the taupes).

    Bookmark   February 3, 2010 at 9:21AM
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I think you're on the right track with a light ceramic in a rich glaze. I could absolutely see a very light mushroom or taupe working. Since you mentioned the WZ Gramercy Park, and another poster suggested a colored accent, I'll risk boring you'all again with a picture of my WZ Gramercy Park backsplash (in Bone China) with the colored WZ accent strip. Just a small amount of color...

    Bookmark   February 3, 2010 at 11:29AM
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Starfish, you've probably made your decision by now, but did you see that you can get the Sonoma Salvestrin blend in the rhomboid shape (it doesn't have to be the 1x2 bricks)?

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 9:06PM
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I vote for the gray tone too. Not sure if it will really "warm" up the kitchen since gray is normally in the cooler tones but I do think it would look nice with the granite and complement the sophisticated look you have.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 12:48AM
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sweeby -- not boring me at all -- thank you so much for posting that photo! I did just get some Gramercy Park samples (waiting for more) but the 2x6 size was my main concern, ie, would it be too busy? But your basksplash just looks so elegant and sophisticated - just the right amount of texture - with the trim pieces above and the gorgeous accent strip. Beautiful!

petepie -- Yes, I have seen the rhomboids (they also can do 1x1s), but I think I've moved away from that blend (after almost ordering it twice) because I've fallen in love with these glazed tiles! Not that I've found the right color. I keep trying to take pics of my samples to post here, but they don't seem to get the point across. I'm now waiting until I have more samples to show. (And I got a nice chuckle out of your comment re probably having made my decision by now -- I wish!)

firsthouse -- thank you. I did bring home some gray samples, and, you're right, it cooled the place right down. I was confused about this before -- whether a grayer backsplash would make the granite actually look warmer because of the contrast, or whether the whole look would just appear cool and gray. Based on the samples I have so far, it seems to do the latter, so I'm leaning toward warmer-toned tiles.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 9:17AM
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Hey starfish, did you see the tiles I posted when looking for backsplash ideas for my kitchen? They were an Italian Crackle (subtle) tile, very slightly beveled, more like a pillow. The white had a gray undertone to it. It was leading the choices with the votes here on GW, until my luck changed and I won a really nice backsplash.

If you can find someone who is selling this near you, I think you might like it. The local guy near me sold the subways for $7.50 sq foot. I think you would have to call around to find someone who carries it because there are no links on their website.

Here's the sample board from my kitchen. It's very tall, I can't stand it up under anything in my kitchen.

Here is a link that might be useful: Vallelunga Rialto

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 10:14AM
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After years, we found a ceramic subway that we liked and that seemed both slightly modern while era-appropriate to the cabinets. It's greenish, with a slight iridescence.

Behind the range we wanted something different that was easier to clean, and we fell in love with these honed slate tiles, to which we added the purple glass accents.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 3:43PM
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beekeeper -- I totally missed your big win -- congratulations! I love arabesques (keep looking at Ann Sacks ones), and they're going to look perfect in your gorgeous kitchen. The texture is terrific. I'll look for your Italian tiles -- have not seen that line yet.

mondragon -- love the slate behind your range, especially with your floor, and the small ceramics were a nice way to bring the slate and counter together.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 5:11PM
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Mondragon, really like your ceramic tiles too. Who makes them? And what size are they?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 8:18PM
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Starfish I'd like to know what you decide to do for backsplash and see pictures. We have the bianco romano and I'm not sure what to do for backsplash. I had my hear set on 2x8 matte white subway tile, but not sure if I should add and color.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 10:04PM
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Petepie: I found a PDF from Artistic Tile that shows the small subways. They're 3cm by 9cm, so 1 1/4 x 3 1/2.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 11:06AM
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!!!! just read this whole thread [over two days with all the googling it lead to :) ] and was expecting to see a nice gorgeous finished picture at the end! where is it?? what have you decided- and i no you cant say you havent picked one yet because its almost 3 years later! we moved in about a month ago and everyone is going crazy from me that i havent picked bs yet because that means i didnt pick paint color yet either.. anyways i have espresso cabs, bianco romano granite, and cool gray tile floor-would LOVE to see what you picked out! please post pics!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 11:12AM
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omg -- I am so embarrassed. I can't believe it's been almost three years. I know it's ridiculous, veevs, but I still have not put in a backsplash! I collected so many sample tiles (all of which are still sitting on my laundry room counter), and then I just got overwhelmed! And then tired. And then bored. And then we moved on to other major house projects (front entry, portico, landscaping, etc.) and other decorating (window treatments, etc.). And then I just became very zen about the whole thing and decided not to stress about it, to enjoy the paint for now, and to just pick out other kitchen things first (eg, got the bamboo shades budge suggested). In fact, it's funny that you're reviving this thread now, as I await delivery of the chandelier that I finally chose for over the island. I'm hoping that getting that up next week will provide a sudden epiphany re the backsplash. I hope to return to that project this fall/winter. Of course, I'm still happy to hear suggestions and welcome any photos! Sorry the thread was such a tease...but there will be a happy ending one day! In the meantime ... enjoy your kitchen and the many delicious meals you will share with your family ... and tell them all just to be zen :)

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 12:06PM
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Very funny. We are putting a backsplash in right now - 2 years after finishing the kitchen. I'll post pics when done!
I was getting so unsure of what I wanted - every time I went to the tile store I found something else I liked, and then worried that a busy tile would be too much/compete with our giallo ornamentale granite. So, we painted the walls a nice taupe color (I couldn't commit to something as permanent as tile in a brown color), and two years later I still like the color, so we're going with a taupe glass brick (American Olean Legacy glass 2x4 in Dune). So I say don't worry about making a decision now - tile is too expensive and too permanent to rush a decision.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 3:11PM
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I would love to know what brand of cabinets you have and what the actual color of the off white glazed cabinets is called. I might be interested in copying your cabinets and granite. Since you've had the cabinets for a few years, do you find that the off white requires much maintenance (e.g. do they get dirty around the handles, etc.)? Thanks, and good luck with your backsplash. Once you pick it out, please post pictures.... I might want to copy it as well.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 6:00PM
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petepie -- I, too, have been thinking that glass tiles are the way to go in here. I think I will enjoy their elegance and the way different types of lights (undercabinet, candles, etc.) will bounce off them. Will start collecting samples of those now....

cindyinct -- Custom cabinets by Mouser. LOVE the finish, glaze, craftsmanship. They've held up beautifully and are very easy to clean when necessary -- nice slick surface that everything wipes off of. I need to dig out the exact name of color but will get back to you on that.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 7:08PM
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Starfish and Pete - it is time to get out of the ABB club.
Starfish - your stunning kitchen is begging for Motawi tile. It is a hand made field tile from Ann Arbor. I think it would look great!
That being said - it is very pricey! I have a couple friends with it and they love it - but was out of my price range!

The other option - is glass - but you figured that piece out - I wanted back painted glass or glass tiles but couldn't make friends with our kitchen.

Check out Glazier glass - they have a zillion colors - also Bear Glass in NY.

I will be watching - as the unofficial chair of the ABB club!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 9:18PM
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i'm sure that if i had a glass or two of wine (jumps starts the creative juices), i could figure out ABB, but ... until then?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 9:24PM
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I'm thinking it's "all but backsplash". But grout is going in tomorrow, so I will have broken out of the ABB club by the weekend!!!!!! Good luck starfish!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 11:23PM
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A play on ABD.
Living in a university town lots of all but dissertations.
It is used a lot on GW threads.
We want you as an alumnus of this club!

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 6:06AM
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Glad to see this thread revived. Starfish, we all want to see your finished bs. Think ABB alum...

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 8:41AM
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