Unique tile adds high-quality touch to backsplashes

Unique tile adds high-quality touch to backsplashes

Risa Hamburger of Edina had decided on a neutral-colored stone tile for her backsplash,  until she came across clear Swarovski crystal tiles.

“When I saw them, I just knew they would be on my kitchen wall,” Hamburger says. She chose to have the glittering tiles incorporated into the stone design: “At first, it was a very subtle look, but when the crystals were dropped in, the backsplash became spectacular.”

While the hottest tile choices for backsplashes continue to be stone or porcelain and glass, homeowners like Hamburger are still looking for unique touches. Jesse Diamond, marketing director for Fantasia Showrooms in Minneapolis says the more innovative tile manufacturers are filling this need by finding inspiration in fine art when they design tile.

"Manufacturers are tying everything from fashion to fabrics into the tile — like Art Nuvo-inspired circular swirls," she says.

Picking the best tile for your style is important, but making sure you get the right material to suit the purpose of a backsplash is just as significant. Kathryn Inoferio, showroom manager of Rubble Tile in Minnetonka, where Hamburger chose her crystal tiles, says a tiled backsplash stands up much better than a wallpapered backsplash, since it resists moisture. Sealed stone and glass are a breeze to clean up, and appeal to the eco-conscientious.

"Tile is innately green," Inoferio says. "It's durable and doesn't harbor allergens. It's exciting to be able to show our clients the options out there."

According to Inoferio, customers are using different textures and materials on their backsplashes.

"You see backsplash designs moving in a fun direction," Inoferio says. "The tiles are the same color, but the material or the surface finish is different."

Even metal has made its way onto the scene. She says stainless steel, copper and burnished bronze tiles are extremely popular when combined with glass and stone.

Custom designs have also come to the forefront in backsplash design. Kathy Reed of Hudson, Wis., was inspired by nature when she doubled the size of her kitchen — which offers views of a scenic river — last summer.

"We wanted the kitchen to reflect the beauty of our property," Reed says. "I also wanted something really durable, beautiful and that no one else had."

Her solution was to have her tiles custom made to form a mural of evergreen trees — which can be seen in her backyard.

"We picked out all the colors from our view and had the tiles custom colored," Reed says. "When people walk in here, they just stop and say, 'Wow.'"

Reed wouldn't reveal the cost of her backsplash — she says she spent way too much — but says it was worth it. Hamburger estimates she spent more than $1,200 just on the materials for her backsplash.

Designer tiles start around $10 a square foot, but can be much pricier for the more elaborate or custom-colored ones. Mixed-Up Mosaics, a design company in New York City that specializes in stained glass, makes custom-glass tiles that can cost anywhere from $150 to $180 a square foot.

"Tile is becoming more sophisticated," Diamond says. "The cost isn't an issue because it really becomes an emotional tie when someone falls in love with it."

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