Making a Splash in the Kitchen with Natural Stone Backsplashes
Most homeowners focus on cabinetry and appliances when updating their kitchens and may forget a key focal point that can make a strong statement: the backsplash. Using natural stone for kitchen backsplashes is not only functional, it adds an element of elegance and architectural detail in the space just above the kitchen sink or stove.
Backsplashes can provide an instant opportunity to create a statement, especially if the countertops are visually quiet, according to Lauren Coburn, owner of Lauren Coburn, LLC. Alternatively, a quiet backsplash can draw the eye to a countertop with more movement and visual interest.
April Graves, vice president of Aria Stone Gallery, agrees that backsplashes have the potential to be an extension of beautiful countertops. They are an effortless and elegant way to complement the rest of your surfaces, as well as cabinetry, flooring, and décor. She adds: “Backsplashes can act as a vital accent to your space by providing pops of color, exciting patterns, and interesting finishes. The mixing and matching possibilities are endless!”
Coburn recommends considering the countertop and rest of the kitchen space when choosing a backsplash. “The ‘art’ in the kitchen has to be carefully chosen and minimized visually,” she notes. The biggest mistake people make, according to Coburn, is creating too many focal points.
She advises clients to consider choosing either a busy backsplash or busy countertop (such as one with veining). Choosing two materials with competing movement can make it hard to focus on either. “Your eye doesn’t know where to go,” Coburn notes.
Graves likes to remind clients that if a stone can be used on a countertops, then it can certainly be used for a backsplash. “Marbles and quartzites usually make the greatest impact on a space, since they come packed with personality, color, movement, and elegance,” she shares.
Context is important. The color and movement of the stone should be taken into consideration, as well as the design of the kitchen. Coburn recently creating a full-height marble backsplash for a client, carrying through the veined marble she included on the countertop. “I always love the same natural stone as the countertop extending up the backsplash,” she says. “It’s seamless, elegant, and architectural.”
What to Consider When Selecting Natural Stone Backsplashes
There are a few other things our expert remind homeowners to consider when selecting natural stone backsplashes. Several considerations deal with practicality.
To avoid disrupting the backsplash visually, Coburn suggesting using plug molds versus outlets. These can be installed by an electrician. “You can plug appliances into the plug molds concealed in the cabinets above so you don’t have outlet plates on your backsplashes creating disruption in the design,” she explains.
“Leaving outlet covers off the backsplash creates a much more seamless and simple look and makes your backsplashes pop without interrupting the movement.” Plug molds also make it easier to clean a backsplash when oil or other things splatter while cooking. Coburn also cautions clients to consider that any backsplash must hold up to heat if it is near the stove. Many people make the mistake of not checking with the vendor on heat requirements. Most natural stones are naturally heat resistant.
Graves likes to share with clients that soapstone is 100% heat resistant and nonporous, which makes it particularly well-suited for busy areas like the kitchen. According to Graves, any type of stone can be used for a backsplash, as long as they are protected and treated with love and care.
Other things homeowners should analyze is how much space is needed between your backsplash and sink faucets or knobs before installation. “Consider where your plumbing is located, how large your sink and cooktop are, and the amount of space you feel comfortable functioning with, so that once your backsplash is installed you don’t feel like your hardware is crammed against it,” says Graves.
If installing a natural stone slab backsplash, another thing to consider is the thickness of the slabs. “Although 3cm materials will normally work well for a backsplash application, it is important to consult with your contractor before installation to be sure your walls are structurally sound enough to support the weight of such a heavy slab,” says Graves. “If 3cm stone is not an option, or you do not prefer your stone to jut out from the wall as much, it is possible to have a fabricator mill down your slab to become thinner.” A reputable natural stone fabricator will be an important resource for any stone installation.
Trends in Natural Stone Backsplashes
Bookmatched natural stone backsplashes are still as popular as ever, and continue to take the design world by storm, acting more as a feature wall as opposed to a backsplash, even if technically they perform the same function, according to Graves.
“We always love the way large bookmatched slabs tie a space together and add a sense of direction, while also creating a beautiful, organic focal point,” she says.
Another trend is to use the same stone for the countertop and backsplash, creating a smooth transition from surface to surface. Graves notes that using that same stone as a floating shelf will likewise add an open, yet streamlined element to the space.
Good lighting is always something to consider when showcasing your backsplash. “A common trend we have seen a lot upon installing stone is backlighting,” says Graves. “Some stones are particularly translucent and show brilliant, vivid colors when an LED panel is installed behind it. Onyx is a perfect example of a stone that backlights beautifully.”