Backsplash already out of date before installed or timeless

Whit461February 4, 2013

We are down to one of the last decisions, and have some time, but not much. Doing kitchen remodel in an historic Colonial Revival home, in an historic district. Home is white, inside color scheme is blue and white, with some soft browns like the wood floors throughout. Remodel kitchen will blow out 2 walls and make kitchen open to DR. Getting white MS cabinets, honed Carrara counters. No uppers. U shape with wall cabs on side. Stainless appliances. Sounds like a million other remodels, doesn't it. DW is concerned that the 3x6 white gloss subway tiles for a backsplash around the U is already boring and out of date. We love it, but is she right? Read a great thread or three about if subway tile is "timeless" or already screaming remodel in 20XX. She is thinking about other options including sheet glass ( which I can't find any good pics of) but I think that will be too plain looking, not enough pattern for the eye. Want to think of options. Ideas, stay predictable?

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Sophie Wheeler

None of that is true to a Colonial's bones. You're putting in a 2010's mass produced trendy look. It was fresh and original, very expensive and upper end 15 years ago when Peacock started doing it. Now, it's being done in modest homes in the flyover zones. The very definition of a mass produced fad. But if that's what you want now, don't worry about it. Kitchen remodels are still uncommon enough for most of middle America that you will probably be the first on your block with the look.

If you prefer to do something that will stand up better and won't look dated in 5 years, then look to the heritage of the home. A traditional raised panel door in a medium wood. No marble anywhere. 4x4 tile or 6x6 tile if the same material wasn't used for the 4" backsplash as the counter. A Colonial is one of the very few essentially American forms of architecture. And it really doesn't make sense to try to recreate an Edwardian scullery in one. Unless that's something you really want to live with for the next 20 years and don't care about trends because you truly love it and loved the look before it became popular. Although, where you would have even been exposed to that look before it became popularized, I don't know.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 7:23AM
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We love it, but she thinks it's boring? Which is it? If you love it, do it. If you think it's boring, find something else.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 8:07AM
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Delft tile backsplash would be true to a Colonial period home, and go with the blue you said you've used in your home. It might not go with the marble counters and stainless appliances, depending on what the rest of the kitchen and home look like. Also the sheet glass your DW is considering is very contemporary. Subway tile has been used for more than 100 years, and will continue to be used. You should pin down the look you want and keep with that theme. If you want a traditional look, stick with that; if you want an open airy more modern look, stick with that.

You will make yourself crazy worrying about what will look trendy in 10 years. Anyway your appliances will be the first thing to look dated - they're like computers, phones and TVs now, that within 5 years of purchase, look dated compared with the latest and greatest in the stores right now (think what was your cell phone 5 years ago). So stop worrying about trendyness, and get what looks nice to you aesthetically.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 8:28AM
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There are some beautiful subways in Carrera that are beveled on the edge that I think add some interest to the tile and is definitely not boring. Also the smaller subways in Carrera seem more modern if you will. I think the look your are going for is timeless and pleasing in a number of different decor styles. Have you seen Beekeepeers arabesque tiles? An interesting shape in white on the backsplash. ...There is nothing like the beauty of Carrera. We have it in a bathroom but I must admit to worrying about it more than I'd like. But when they put it in it was breathtakingly beautiful and I was sort of speechless. It just glows and feels so soft. Sounds like your kitchen is going to be beautiful! Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 8:35AM
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What's going to scream remodel in 20XX is blowing out the dining room in a "historic" colonial revival home. At that point, I'm not sure what difference the backsplash makes anymore.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 8:42AM
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Listen to your house, it will tell you what you should do.

Follow your heart and you will be happy with whatever choices you make.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 8:54AM
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First of all there are many period homes that have a modern kitchen. Nothing wrong with that. Colonial homes didn't have stainless appliances, dishwashers orwarming drawers either. To suggest putting in 4 x 4 tiles for backsplash and counter which everyone rips out as soon as they do a kitchen renovation is ridiculous. You can use blue and white porcelain accessories to bring some blue into your kitchen. You're not doing a true period kitchen. Do what makes you happy and borrow a bit from each era.

Where do you think Peacock got the look from? It was around before him! The look is popular because it works and looks good. It looked good then and it looks good now. How many kitchens from 15 years ago now look dated? Peacocks kitchens done then look like they were just finished. It's a classic for a reason!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 9:10AM
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You've gotten some strongly worded responses here, so I will attempt to temper that and say that IMO a modern kitchen in a Colonial home is no problem at all. Plenty of historic homes have modern kitchens, and even if the white on white theme is super popular now it has also been done for ages. The kitchen is the one room in the house that is more about function than pure aesthetic, so to me it makes sense to defer to a more modern approach if needed. I mean, what if you don't want to be beholden to cleaning kitchen dirt out of nooks and crannies in your cabinetry?

I will provide just one data point, which is probably not worth much, but I'll toss it out anyway. We grew up in a Southern Colonial style home in a strongly historic location. The home's interior was Americana-tacky when we moved in (plaid wallpaper, mustard yellow appliances). My decorator Mom redid the whole house in painstakingly beautiful Colonial style, which of course worked perfectly with the house. It was all the same colors you mentioned. But the kitchen was a strong departure and was ultra-modern for its time. She put in high gloss white, slab front cabinetry - and this is like 1974 when probably no one had heard of such a thing! It even had pullouts for all the lower cabs, which I think none of my Mom's contemporaries had ever seen. So the kitchen was sleek and modern, but it did include handpainted accent tiles, not quite Delft but certainly Dutch. These were small accents in deference to the house's style but the kitchen was undoubtedly modern.

To get back to your original question, I think subway tiles would be fine but also perhaps a bit boring. Sheet glass is definitely too modern. I agree with the suggestion of marble tiles or something else with a bit of interest in it. You are asking good questions and even if you go with plain subways you certainly won't be committing any crimes!

Good luck with all the decisions. :)

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 9:39AM
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If you love the gloss white subway tile, then do them. What I would suggest is using a lgr. format, say 4 x 8 tiles.

Also, I would suggest that you buy one of those inexpensive wet tile saws and learn to install them yourself. That way, you won't feel like you're married to whatever you choose because you'll know that you can change it whenever you tire of the look.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 10:05AM
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If you did a 4x4 shape instead of a 3x6 subway, it would be less specific to the 2010s.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 10:37AM
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What about considering a subway but in a less often used size, like 2x4, 2x6 or 2x8?

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 12:39PM
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There really is a lot of passion out there. But my Dad told me never ask a question you were afraid to hear the answer to. I really appreciate your feedback.

Though we live in an historic home, it is not a museum, and we are not restoring, just renovating. Sorry if I'm upsetting anyone.

Thanks for the support in telling DW that the painted glass backsplash is just not going to work. Frankly it would be very expensive, as well.

We think the look we are going for will be a standard for a while. I would also agree it is predictable. But we do love it, especially with what we have now, which is a 8'x13' kitchen that has a walkway through one side.

I LOVE the idea of using a different size of subway tile, maybe even material. I think this is the direction we will go, and I think the 2x8 or something like that would fit the design, but be a little more interesting.

I'm glad I didn't bring up the discussion about black and white Marmoleum tile on the floor!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 12:59PM
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