Make A Splash!

Where once there wasn’t much variety when it came to kitchen splashbacks, developments in technology and an embracing of creative trends has seen an explosion in the range of materials, colours, textures and patterns available. Rachael Harrington looks at the options to help you find the right splashback for your kitchen.

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A splashback is an essential ingredient in the recipe for the perfect kitchen. A splashback acts as a barrier, protecting a wall from heat, moisture, grease, food debris, and other potential sources of damage.

As well as being essential from a practical perspective, they also play an important role in the design of your kitchen. There is a wide range of materials to choose from, each with its own benefits, and each creating its own distinct look. A splashback can be the focal point of your kitchen, creating an eye-catching feature, or, if bold isn’t your style, a splashback can also be soft and simple, blending in with other kitchen materials to create a uniform, streamlined look.

Splashbacks don’t just work in new builds or entire kitchen renovations; a new splashback can instantly update an existing kitchen, breathing new life into tired décor. Installing a new splashback is one of the easiest ways to give your tired kitchen a facelift.

BACK TO BASICS

As well as aesthetic considerations, when choosing a splashback you can’t forgo functionality. While all splashbacks will get a little dirty from time to time, some are easier to clean than others. If it’s important to you that your kitchen is always looking pristine, then you’ll either want to choose a material that is simple to maintain, or be prepared to spend some time cleaning!

Given that, on average, people keep their kitchen for 20 years, you should consider the durability of your splashback. Do you intend for it to last the life of your kitchen? Or do you plan on updating it as fashions change? The durability will vary according to the material that you choose, with some more being hard-wearing than others.

Splashback materials also vary in terms of cost, so your choice can be limited by your budget. Cost and durability should be considered together, as an expensive purchase could be justified if you intend to keep your splashback for the life of the kitchen. If you think you might update your kitchen in a few years, then a more modest budget for your splashback may be suitable.

TILE STYLE

Tiles are the most traditional choice and, for a time, were almost the only option. While there are other materials now available, tiles are still used for splashbacks. Tiles can complement a range of kitchens, though they particularly look at home in provincial and traditional designs.

Tiles are a popular choice as they work well where there is water and high levels of humidity. Choosing a tiled splashback offers almost limitless design options, as there are many different shapes, sizes, colours and patterns to choose from. In terms of cleaning, most tiles will easily wipe clean, but it can be difficult to keep the grout clean of dirt, mould and stains. Tiles nowadays, however, often have minimal grout lines, which drastically reduces this issue and simplifies maintenance.

Some tiles can break or crack over time, so it is a good idea to keep a few extras on hand. Splashback tiles are most commonly either ceramic, porcelain or glass.

MOSAIC MASTERPIECES

Taking it one step further than ordinary splashback tiles is mosaic tiles. These are ideal if you’re looking to make your splashback a standout feature of the kitchen. Mosaic tiles can be laid to create a variety of looks, such as a mosaic mix, mosaic gradient, patterns, or even a mosaic mural. A popular choice in terms of mosaics is Murano glass tiles, which come in a wide range of bright, vibrant colours. As mosaic tiles are commonly small in size, it does mean that there is a lot of grout to keep clean.

TOP OF THE GLASS

Glass splashbacks are continually increasing in popularity, and with good reason. They are extremely hygienic, easy to clean, and will keep their lustrous appearance for many years. They also offer versatility in terms of design. While a few years ago plain clear glass splashbacks were popular, nowadays there is endless variety to choose from. Glass can be plain, textured, coloured, satin (non-reflective) finished, and even printed. Where once wallpaper was installed behind clear glass to create a pattern, now printed glass opens up a host of design opportunities. Custom-made designs can capture any image, pattern or graphic on glass, creating a truly personalised splashback.

New innovation has also led to the development of LED splashbacks, which use LED lights behind a sheet of glass. These can be fitted in exactly the same way as a normal glass splashback, but offer something unique. They can either be supplied as a single colour or can be set to periodically change colour.

A glass splashback can also be made to multitask by doubling as a window. This brings all the benefits of glass splashbacks, while opening up a space and bringing in light from the outside.

Clear glass can be used to capture a view, or frosted glass can offer privacy, while letting in natural light.

STEEL THE SHOW

Stainless steel offers a modern, clean finish, perfect for contemporary kitchens. It looks very sharp and sleek and works well with modern appliances, which are often also stainless steel. This creates a streamlined look and won’t interfere with an existing colour scheme.

While it’s easy to clean spills on stainless steel, the surface will show smudges, fingerprints and watermarks and may not be ideal for busy kitchens or families with young children, as it can be tricky to maintain a flawless look.

SET IN STONE

A streamlined, seamless look can also be achieved through stone. A stone splashback can be a continuation of the benchtop surface, thus creating a soft and smooth transition from the benchtop to the wall. Stone splashbacks don’t have to match the benchtops, of course, and can be a feature in themselves.

Natural stones like granite and marble have the added benefit of being stain-, crack-, scratch-, fade- and heat-resistant, so they will stand the test of time. When installed with the benchtop, a stone splashback will have minimal joins and grouting and will be easy to clean. This durability comes at a price though, as natural stone is at the higher end in terms of splashback cost.

MIRROR, MIRROR

A common interior design trick for maximising a small space is the strategic use of mirrors, and this includes in the kitchen. A mirrored splashback can really open up a small space and create a sleek, shiny appearance, similar to that of stainless steel. Mirrored splashbacks have previously held a somewhat negative reputation, as they couldn’t stand up to the moisture, heat and general wear of the kitchen as well as glass can, however, technological innovation has led to the development of more advanced toughened mirror materials, which are much more durable than ordinary mirrors and therefore suitable for application as a splashback.

PAINT THE TOWN

Paint is perhaps the most economical choice of splashbacks. It also offers huge variety in terms of design. Colours and patterns are only limited by your imagination, so it can be easy to create a paint splashback to suit your aesthetic needs. However, paint doesn’t win many points when it comes to durability and resilience. In order to serve its purpose as a splashback, the utmost care must be taken when choosing paint products. The paint needs to be both waterresistant and safe and easy to scrub. If you use a paint that can’t dispel water, it can seep into the walls and create a whole range of problems.

Although paint can seem like a very economical option, if not done properly, it can cost you in the long run.

INTO THE WOODS

Timber panelling is another possibility that is not often considered. The natural beauty of timber can create a stunning feature in your kitchen. Without being as vibrant as something like a coloured tile, a timber splashback brings the warm colours and patterns of natural wood and can beautifully complement a rustic or traditional kitchen. Great care needs to be taken when sealing timber splashbacks, to prevent deterioration, staining and rotting. Like paint, timber needs careful consideration when it is installed, as it isn’t highly regarded as a splashback material.

Whether renovating an existing kitchen or starting from scratch, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of choosing the right splashback.

Not only will the right splashback keep your kitchen clean and hygienic, it will provide that ‘wow’ factor that will turn your space from something ordinary into something special. As well as aesthetics, keep in mind a splashback’s durability, maintenance and costs and you will no doubt find the perfect finishing touch to your kitchen.