Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Kitchen Redo: Kitchen Tile


“The kitchen remodel isn’t finished,” Mr. Wonderful said after dinner. 
“I know,” I said.
“We need a backsplash.” 
“I know.”
What backsplash do you want?”
“I… I don’t know!”

Months before, we had painted, sanded and rehardwared our kitchen.  We’d made the space attractively workable but every time I washed a dish in the sink or cooked on the stove—oil, water or waffles splashed on the walls.  It was a daily reminder that we needed to install a backsplash or eat vertically.  Darn gravity.

So I dove into exploring backsplashes.  I looked at stores, I poured over friends’ Pinterest photos, I barged into strangers’ homes to see what they’d done.  I saw backsplashes in tile, ceramic, porcelain, Paris subway, automobile stainless steel and NASA’s titanium/aluminum combo.  The options were dizzying and oddly, transportation related.  These backsplashes were going places.


After doing more research than they did to develop the Hydrogen Bomb, I decided I wanted my backsplash to be: 1) Practical to keep food from sticking to it; 2) Beautiful to look at; and 3) Wouldn’t cost more than our mortgage.  Clearly I had pursued the wrong career.  If I’d really wanted to make a fortune, I would have gone into selling kitchen backsplashes.  Not selling homes or kitchens just The.  Backsplashes.  

Who would have thought a surface to collect dirt and grease could be so expensive?  Not the Parisian subway designers—√©videment—who had installed Paris subway tile on 200 kilometers of underground walls, floors and ceilings.  Imagine how valuable those tunnels were!  If Europe really wanted to solve its debt crisis it should dislodge just half those metro tiles and sell them to idiot Americans who were crazy about Paris.  I’d be the first in line!  Mais oui!

As much as I loved Paris and its M√©tro, I couldn’t install those tiles in my kitchen for two stark reasons: they were white and I was a slob.

Nope, I needed to hide the dirt with a patterned backsplash, which by the way describes 99% of all tile.  I discovered this fact while shopping in a pocket of Los Angeles called the “Broadway of Backsplashes” except instead of having tony New York theaters located one next to another, this pocket of the San Fernando Valley had one backsplash store located next to another.  And another.  After visiting half a dozen of these stores, all their tiles blended together into a brain smoothie of images and impossible tile combinations like “terracotta-white-marble-glass-bubblegum”.  Looking down the street I saw three dozen more stores just like them

So I fled to Ikea because for once, Ikea had fewer options in tile than anywhere else.  In fact the kitchen tile I liked at Ikea wasn’t even for sale at Ikea but some local Home Plus store http://www.bauformatusa.com/.  I didn’t care, I loved it!  The tiles were wide porcelain panels covered in streaky lines and I had to have them!  I raced to Home Plus and grabbed a salesclerk, the one with the smiling dark eyes. 

“I want this tile,” I said.
“Would you—” he said. 
“I don’t want to look at another tile.  It’s taken me months to find this one.”
“But would you like—”
“This is what I want, so don’t try to talk me out of it!”
“Would you like a cup of coffee?” he said pointing to the espresso machine on the countertop. 

Although caffeine seemed like the last thing I needed, he made us both a double shot and handed me a coffee cup and saucer so small they belonged in a queen’s dollhouse.  While we sipped the java he brought out another tile sample, which had a similar pattern to ours but was cut in thin rectangles.  I gasped.  It was clean, simple and would give our kitchen a retro feel and I… I loved it even more!  Incredible!  This salesman knew me better than I knew myself.  And when I told him so, his dark eyes smiled even more. 


“Some people think I’m pushy but I just want to help,” he said with grinning eyes.  And help he did.  I bought the tile he suggested, loaded it in my car and thanked him profusely. 

Now I knew why backsplash sellers made the big bucks: they prevented me from making design mistakes, which kept me from re-installing the backsplash twice.  Not having to go through this backsplash drama again?  That’s worth any price.

Next step: Installing the Backsplash!