Make a splash in your kitchen with color. Even those who are afraid of using color manage to accept some pizazz when it comes to the design of a kitchen backsplash.
Both practical and decorative, the backsplash is one of the best areas to create unique personality in a small kitchen.
The term backsplash seems to be credited to the American residential market at the end of the 1940s and beginning of the 1950s. With millions of returning GIs creating huge demand from the housing industry, the U.S. was thrust into new ways of building. Architectural designs became part cookie-cutter, part mass production, driven by expediency and practicality. Building had to be quick, cheap and functional.
Besides how heating and plumbing was handled, it was the kitchen that changed the most. With the new realization that instead of being a utilitarian space for the hired help, this room was becoming the casual heart of every home.
Parents of baby boomers wanted space to eat in and plenty of working countertops. Ranges were complicated enamel and chrome designs that were as beautiful as any automobile of the time. Most countertops were ceramic tile and backsplashes typically matched. Popular kitchen color schemes matched the appliances of the day, which included yellow, green, turquoise, pink and brown.
Homes were intimate and simple. The goal was to produce affordable housing quickly enough to meet the demands of young men wishing to begin their lives with wives and children. Today, the emphasis is on individualization and making an effort to personalize our homes.
We now tend to focus on specific elements that might be worthy of a little extra money. These might include a fireplace facade, an entry door, a master bathroom or a kitchen. Realtors consistently tell us that money spent on a kitchen is a solid investment. Kitchens remain the modern hearth, regardless of size or style.
Generally, the appealing aspect of using an upgraded material for your backsplash is that you can manage the quantity and meet most budgets. Additionally, it is extremely practical to install a waterproof backsplash.
For example, you might select recycled materials such as seen in the kitchen pictured, and use it for all of the splash areas in a kitchen. Specified by DeWitt Architects, this Fireclay tile is made from U.S. resourced recycled materials and the finest clay.
If the material you wish to use is excessively expensive, there is always the option of confining it to the space behind a cook top or range. In this way you only use about 6 to 9 square feet of anything, providing your appliance is a standard size.
Options are exciting and range from mirror to natural stone, ceramic tile and man-made solid surfaces. These composite slabs offer strong and pure color such as cobalt blue, tomato red or nearly white. You might run an accent liner through your backsplash to create a linear detail. Again, if you only have 20 lineal feet in your backsplash, you can afford something that might have a healthy price tag. You don't need that much of any one material.
Consider unusual shapes. Think about your favorite colors and use that color as the accent. Combinations of neutral tones and natural wood mixed with an accent color are always attractive.
Be aware that if you select a strong color, there may be an issue when it comes time for resale. I used an Italian porcelain tile on my own countertops that is an unusual aqua because my husband liked the color. It has occurred to me that if I put my home on the market, I might have to prepare for the installation of a more neutral countertop.
However, if you plan on living in your home for any length of time, you might as well get daily joy from your favorite color.
• Christine Brun is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.