Looking to make a splash? Consider colourful glass mosaic tiles for your kitchen backsplash. Although today's ubiquitous white subway tiles remain on trend (if you just installed them, don't worry: they'll look great for years to come), if you're designing from scratch this year, consider taking a pass on that trend and trying something newer, something edgier, something eminently funkier – but versatile and sophisticated too.
And that's mini mosaic tiles in a look-at-me hue like cherry red, royal blue, mineral white or even the deceptively neutral "colourless" natural glass hue. Making their presence known in a number of designer booths and installations at this year's Interior Design Show, held in Toronto this past February, miniature glass mosaics are a bold alternative to the subway tiles so popular in the 00's. Their translucent finish also offers a lighter, more modern feel than opaque ceramic or natural stone tiles.
Available in intriguing shapes, including 5/8-inch-by-5/8-inch squares, 1-inch-by-1-inch squares, 5/8-inch-by-2-inch rectangles, tiny "penny-rounds," ovals, or even "shards" of thin, long tiles resembling mineral crystals, these pretty wonders are usually sold as 12" by 12" "tiles" adhered onto mesh backing for easier application. Just apply them with organic mastic (a latex- or petroleum-based "mortar" for vertical surfaces – conventional thin-set mortars take too long to set), and grout when dry.
Because the tiles have a repetitive pattern (all those tiny grout lines!) and, in many cases, eye-catching colours, they work best in a clean, streamlined contemporary kitchen. Consider them a natural if you have flat-panel cabinetry in a high-gloss lacquered finish. (Or, if your paste is more transitional, they also work with plain Shaker-style cabinets.)
To avoid sending mixed design messages, skip basic-issue white appliances in favour of appliance panels, or stainless steel or black finishes – unless your idea of white is conveyed via luxe revival whites as shown by Aga.
Although pricing varies, expect to pay between $15 and $18 per square foot (not including installation). They're a great pairing to high-end European kitchens, and a nice way to add an upscale feel to less expensive IKEA knockoffs of the aforementioned kitchen designs!
If you move on this look now, you're acting on the trend at its early pre-mainstream phase. It's popular enough that you can find options at Canadian specialty retailers like Saltillo Imports (saltillo-tiles.com), but not so popular that the look is being trumpeted in big-box store catalogues and flyers. (Yet. The Home Depot does now carry one-inch-by-one-inch glass tiles.) While individual tastes vary, it's safe to estimate that if you install a backsplash of mini glass tiles today, they'll feel fresh for at least a decade.
For more useful tips and tricks on backsplashes, check out The Home Decorator's Tile Bible: A Complete Guide to Using and Choosing Tiles by Morwenna Brett. Copyright 2008 Quarto Inc. Published by Firefly Books Ltd. $29.95. Reprinted with permission.