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Backsplashes take center stage in the modern kitchen, and play up major style in small spaces. Below is a list of some common questions about backsplashes and how to choose the right design for you. (Please keep in mind this post is not meant to give installation instructions, or serve as a design consultation. I recommend discussing your project with licensed professionals.)

Why might I need a backsplash?

Backsplashes serve 3 main purposes:

1) As their name suggests, backsplashes shield your walls from gross splatters. They cover the area behind the sink or stove, and protect from water, grease, and any other sticky substances that may bubble over a saucepan on the stove. They provide the perfect solution for quick cleanups during meal prep.

2) They cover gaps and inconsistencies in the walls. This is particularly helpful with the installation of granite countertops. Since the stone is cut in a straight line, it may not always create a flush seal to the wall (due of slight structural inconsistencies within the walls.) Backsplashes come to the rescue and meet the countertops, edge to edge, to hide any unsightly gaps. They create uniformity and a flawless look.

3) Lastly, backsplashes are aesthetically pleasing and create visual interest in the kitchen.

What's the maintenance like?

Porcelain and glass tiles require little maintenance and are impossible to stain. On the other hand, some natural stone materials (such as travertine) are extremely soft and porous, and require a sealant once or twice a year. But don't let that scare you away, because sealing tiles is a relatively painless process. (Brush on the sealant and saturate the surface; let it rest for the recommended amount of time; buff the surface to remove the excess sealant; and give yourself a pat on the back). In the long run, backsplashes help keep things clean without requiring a lot of maintenance, so the pros outweigh the cons.

What's an example of a popular backsplash style?

According to Trulia (a mobile and online real estate resource), subway tile takes the cake. How'd they figure that out? Over the past year, Trulia pulled data from home listing on their site to determine the most popular home design features. Subway tile has long been considered a design staple, so its continued popularity makes it a "safe bet."

Are there any rules-of-thumb for choosing a backsplash?

Ultimately, there's no right or wrong answers when it comes to your prospective backsplash. It's all about your personal taste and budget. There are countless options including: colors, shapes, styles, materials, and designs. This is both exciting and probably a little overwhelming, so I recommend purchasing multiple samples and taking your time to choose.

When it comes to style and materials, my personal favorite is "random sized polished mosaic tile." These tiles come in interlocking sheets that are relatively simple to install. It's almost like doing a large puzzle on your kitchen wall.

You can even think outside of the box and showcase your creativity. Consider unique backsplash materials such as pennies, reflective surfaces (mirrors or stainless steel), reclaimed wood, vintage wallpaper, river stones, or wine corks. The backsplash is the perfect place to add a touch of elegance, a touch of fun, or a touch of paint, and let the beautiful results speak for themselves.