by: Fred Albert Houzz Contributor.
Grout is out. Continuous sheets of glass, stone, metal and porcelain are saving cleaning time and offering more looks than ever
Ask a kitchen designer about the future of backsplashes, and the response will be “seamless.”
Seamless materials, that is. High-maintenance surfaces are on their way out, being replaced by continuous, easy-to-clean finishes without joints, grout lines or any other places where grease and grime can collect. And the benefits aren’t just janitorial. When paired with hidden outlets, these new uninterrupted surfaces offer a wealth of design possibilities.
When it comes to kitchens, Robert Berkovich’s clients are saying “ABG” — anything but granite.
Once considered the height of chic, granite has become so common during the past couple of decades that homeowners are eager for something new, reports Berkovich, the Palo Alto, California–based owner of European Cabinets & Design Studios. For his clients that usually takes the form of a quartz composite like Caesarstone, which he uses on the counters, then continues up the wall, for a look that’s modern, seamless and virtually maintenance free.
Calacatta marble counters have become very popular in recent years too but can be difficult to maintain, as the surface is prone to staining and etching. By running the material up the wall, you get the look without the labor.
It’s a more modern way of using stone, observes Mariette Barsoum of Divine Kitchens in Wellesley, Massachusetts. With stone tiles, you have veining that goes in all different directions, she says. When you use a single slab, you have more control over the overall effect. Depending how you orient it, she says, “you can create completely different looks.”
In this kitchen the Carrara slab backsplash works with the space’s more traditional feel. “Carrara can go both ways,” Barsoum observes. The designer says this look is not as successful with a “busy” stone, such as granite, where the amount of veining can prove distracting.
Here sliding doors were fashioned out of marble, offering a new take on the old-fashioned appliance garage. Efficient LED lights illuminate the recesses when the doors are opened.
Marble isn’t the only stone that works on backsplashes. In this Stinson Beach, California, kitchen, limestone counters extend up the wall, creating a warm, uniform backdrop that enhances the look of anything set in front of it.
If you like the look of stone but prefer something more decorative (and don’t mind a little grout), consider laser-cut marble, as in this Chicago-area project by Airoom Architects-Builders-Remodelers. The laser’s precision makes nearly any design possible and allows for tighter joints, so there’s less grout to keep clean.
Glass tiles took off in the first decade of this century. Now glass sheets are gaining ground, says designer Julie Cavanaugh of Design Matters in Los Gatos, California. When the glass is back-painted, you have an unlimited number of colors from which to choose — and a surface that’s supremely easy to clean.
For the California kitchen shown here, Griffin Enright Architects used Starphire glass, which doesn’t have the green tint normally present in glass, so the color reproduction is much truer.
This glass backsplash in Vancouver is more understated, allowing the ruddy glow of the cabinets to take center stage. The monochromatic backsplash also makes the kitchen look bigger.
Prefer something a bit bolder? In this Washington, D.C.–area space, clear glass was affixed to a red wall with silicone adhesive, for a look that blends seamlessly into the adjoining dining area.
Actual money plants were sandwiched between translucent panels from 3form in this Menlo Park, California, installation. The company makes variations in both glass and resin, utilizing grasses, flowers, abstract patterns and the like. “Used the right way, it’s heat impervious, it’s easy to clean, and it comes in large formats,” says Julie Cavanaugh, adding, “It makes a lovely design statement.”
How about textiles? Here an exotic piece of fabric was laminated between sheets of glass for use as a backsplash.
Cavanaugh predicts we’ll be seeing more backsplashes made from metal laminates, which are similar to conventional plastic laminates but have metal skins. Long popular in commercial applications, they’re now finding their way into the home, as in this North Carolina kitchen by Lee Tripi Design, which uses a product called Chemetal. This metal-topped laminate is easy to bend and shape, and is available in a variety of finishes.
Thanks to the advent of undercabinet power strips, “backsplash acne” (outlets installed every few feet across the face of a backsplash) can be a thing of the past, freeing designers to create unbroken expanses of color or elaborate, uninterrupted designs. The only downside: You have to unplug appliances if you want to avoid seeing the power cords dangling from above.
If you want to keep appliances plugged in but outlets out of sight, a company called Trufig has just the thing: an outlet that’s recessed into the backsplash so it’s flush with the surface. The face plate is designed to be painted, so a trompe l’oeil artist can disguise everything but the holes.
With nothing but the beauty of the material to distract you, these new backsplashes let you focus your attention on cooking, not upkeep.
Flush-mounted switch plate: Trufig