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Backsplash behind open shelving? p.s. Is calcite OK behind sink?

Mittens Cat
December 1, 2019

Two part question here, sorry!

1.) Two 3" thick walnut shelves will be installed between our upper white cabinets. Originally, I was thinking I'd take the backsplash up behind the shelves to the top of the white cabinets, but lately thinking maybe it makes more sense to just backsplash the long rectangle under the white cabinets. I don't know exactly what we'll be putting on those shelves yet, but I'd rather they not compete visually with what's behind them. Also, I prefer a lighter look, and it seems unless we do all white tile, a backsplash might feel a bit top heavy if it goes to the top of the white cabinets. Thoughts?

2.) I've seesawed for months on backsplash material and have narrowed it down to two categories: either a stone slab OR a white/cream colored tile that has some subtle texture or dimensional quality. I am not fond of stripes, dots, hexagons, pickets and most other geometric designs. I'd like to keep the overlook demure but not dull. A little color is ok, but I'm no longer looking to jazz things up with cobalt blue, either! :)

Oh, and curious about using calcite or dolomite for the backsplash, since it's just behind the sink (induction cooktop is on island). Counters are Pental Super White quartz.

Any ideas, Hive Tribe? Thanks!




Comments (60)

  • eam44

    I know this makes me so boring, but I love the Frost - and the Powder Blue, of all things. Good golly, what does that say about me as a person? As a tile lover? Probably about as much as the fact that I use a term like good golly... Don't get me wrong, I love Boundary Waters, but it sounds as though it may no longer be the tile you're looking for..

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  • Mittens Cat

    Not boring at all @eam44! I've finally learned to appreciate pulling back from the color lust and letting softer hues do the talking. And I feel very 20th century Luddite not knowing how to do that computer magic on the backsplash designs! Please tell??

    I'd say Good Golly is just what this world needs (no coincidence that the late, great Mr. Rogers has soared to fame recently!).

    @Design Interior South, thanks! We are not going to rush this choice, so very happy to get a variety of suggestions! What material would you use if you had clients who appreciate Organic Modern + Scandi style + Midcentury Modern and are open to a little artistic creativity (while not going too crazy due to possibly needing to sell in a few years...ha ha!)?

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  • eam44

    Well, thank you for that. Honestly, I was certain I would use a blue glazed tile for my bs. Now I'm pretty sure it will be Tusk, totally neutral, but I don't even have cabinets yet, so we shall see...

    I used Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to make those mock ups. It's easy when the space is so straightforward and the images are good.

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  • Mittens Cat

    Very cool! Good skills!

    I think my fear of making a mistake (going overboard with color, etc.) is causing me to be far too cautious. I hope we don't drown in a monotonous sea of white and brushed nickel! Trying to figure out how to incorporate more contrast without punching things up TOO much. I'm happy though that I decided to give myself more time. Don't want to rush this one.

  • PRO
    Design Interior South

    I love the first and fourth blue tiles Eam mocked up with your cabinet color. Beautiful. I would take those to the ceiling across that whole wall. Then drop in two fantastic light fixtures over the island.

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    Design Interior South

    Have you chosen lighting for over island? Are you doing MCM to follow the architectural lines of the home and your cabinets? I don't have the mock up capabilities to do a mock up with the tile all the way up and drop in lights but I do think some of the following lighting would be incredible above the island.

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  • Mittens Cat

    @Design Interior South, thanks! We have three outlets for pendants above the island, 25" apart, so I'm thinking I'd better go with subtle mini pendants to keep it from looking too crowded? Also, due to the unfortunate beam up on the right, the pendants could not be evenly distributed over the 9.5 foot wide island. They're spaced evenly apart, but centered over the left 2/3 of the island (where the cooktop is). I had several designers weigh in and everyone agreed this was the least worst option. And since initially I planned to have the walnut cabinetry be the "star of the show," I wasn't giving much thought to pendants. Now that the walnut stain turned out so yellow (more so than photos show), I hope to draw the eye away from the cabinets. So...back to pendant and backsplash focal points.

    I have been buying (and returning) pendants for the past several weeks...trying to be patient and not rush. After many months of making decisions under pressure, I decided to give myself the luxury of time for the final three choices: backsplash, pendants and fireplace treatment. We will move in (soon) without these elements completed and we're OK with that. I will probably bring in a designer if I can't make up my mind after a few months.

    In any case, yes, we want to honor the era (it's a 1964 ranch home, so on the late cusp of MCM). We have long owned a couple Eames walnut chairs and will spring for a Nelson Bubble lamp, but otherwise we are not married to the style---or the cost of its pedigreed furniture. Trying to keep a fresh style perspective in part because we may need to sell the home in the next several years and shockingly not every home buyer appreciates MCM style. :) We did allow our son to choose tile for his bathroom vanity wall, however, and he went pretty MCM there!

    Right now, the colors are tame, bland, safe. But I think that's probably better for us than the opposite. Along with choosing backsplash and pendants, I look forward to selecting some colorful items for the open walnut shelves that are being installed this week. For starters, I'll use some of the blue Raku pottery my son made when he was small. :)

    BTW, I like all of the pendant suggestions you offered above! My DH is not such a fan of the era, however, and prefers a more demure look.

  • PRO
    Filipe Custom Woodwork

    I always envisioned this for your backsplash or the like...

    https://tilebar.com/empire-white-porcelain-brass-tile.html





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    Design Interior South

    was your sink or is it cook top in the island unable to be centered on the opening in cabinetry where the shelves will be going? Doing that and only doing two larger pendents would have balanced the beam out. Don't fret a second longer about your walnut because the grain is stunning! If you go neutral the walnut will stand out more.

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  • Mittens Cat

    @Design Interior South, wow, thanks, definitely offers a bright focal point! Those are cool and fun but not quite what DH has in mind (he prefers subtle touches).

    As far as your questions above, my DH is the kitchen man. I mostly stayed out of that debate, so I can't recall all the particulars.

  • eam44

    "If you go neutral the walnut will stand out more"

    Design is right, a cool neutral will also make the yellow on the walnut more visible. A warm neutral will make it less noticeable. If you look at the two saturated blues I posted, Boundary Waters (pic 1) is warmer than Slate Blue (pic 4). The yellow in the island finish is more noticeable in image 4 than in image 1.

    It gets much much trickier when you consider lighter, more neutral colors because the white cabinets are cool, so you can't really go warm. That's where color variability among the tiles comes in. It is your friend!

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  • eam44

    Totally gorgeous pendants Design!

  • calidesign

    I think you're smart to coordinate the fireplace tile with the backsplash since they are in such close proximity. If a white tile seems too safe and boring, but you don't want to commit to a specific color, like blue, you might consider using a softly patterned white and beige/taupe tile. It would blend beautifully with your floors and also the wood of your cabinets, but is still a neutral so you can decorate with any colors around it. Seeing your photo with your floors installed makes a big difference. You could also choose an interesting textured white tile, and use taupe grout.

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  • eam44

    Is there a fireplace? Oh my gosh I totally missed that post. Yes, you are right, as is cali, the two must harmonize at least, and while they needn’t be the same tile, I would at least advocate for the same overall look.

    How would you feel about using Fireclay Tile glazed thin brick on the fireplace? It’s $18/sf and it has all the trim pieces and corner pieces you will ultimately need. On the floor I’d consider a brown that goes well with your wood, like Rocky Mountains, and on the wall you can eventually pick a brick with color variation, like Olympic, that will play very well with bs tile in Frost, if that’s the way you decide to go. In fact, if you tell Fireclay that you’re looking for tile glazes that harmonize with their thin brick, they might come up with some great ideas for you.




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  • Mittens Cat

    If a white tile seems too safe and boring, but you don't want to commit to a specific color, like blue, you might consider using a softly patterned white and beige/taupe tile. It would blend beautifully with your floors and also the wood of your cabinets, but is still a neutral so you can decorate with any colors around it.

    @calidesign, that is nearly spot-on what I was telling my GC today! As much as I love, love, LOVE color, especially blue, I just feel a strong jolt of color might be a little jarring to have it in our particular backsplash space. "Softly patterned white" seems just the ticket, so I've been combing through Walker Zanger, Ann Sacks, Heath, etc. (figure I can splurge a bit for 20 SF).

    As for the fireplace, funny because both of those photos are saved in my files!

    I actually don't mind the current (freshly painted) state of the fireplace--excluding hearth, obviously. I see it as a 14-foot marshmallow sculpture! :-D

    But we do need something on the hearth floor, asap. Maybe natural stone tile. It's 18"x47" on both sides. Hmm...

    @eam44, I do love Fireclay brick, and great idea consulting with their designers! Covering that giant white behemoth is definitely a "later day" project though, as cash crunch has hit pretty hard. (How I was ever thinking of $tone $labs, I dunno!)



  • Mittens Cat

    BTW, we do have quite a bit of this slate grey porcelain tile left over (used it on all bathroom floors and walk in closet), so if I can't make a decision soon for the fireplace hearth, perhaps I'll just use our leftover tile for the fireplace floor. At least it would add to general cohesiveness, which I've grown fond of.

    Caveat: I'm not generally a fan of grey, but I love these tiles (they're 12x24). It would be the first use of grey in the main living area (unless you count stainless appliances and aluminum sliders), but maybe that's a good thing, as far as future decorating potential.



  • eam44

    That would be fine. Perfect choice for in front of the hearth.

    Heres what I meant re: fireplace tile. When you said leftover tile, I thought you meant leftover bs tile. Tile from different firings rarely matches, hence the suggestion of brick. You’re making great decisions. Can’t wait to see it finished.

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  • Mittens Cat

    Thanks @eam44! I realized last night that it's sooo much easier for me to decide what I DON'T want vs. what I do want. Also, I must have some aversion to anything classic/conventional like marble, travertine, subway tile... (the list could go on and on). Always keeping my eyes open for a fresh twist on things. However, I do like natural stone when honed, tumbled or otherwise more "organic" looking...the quest continues--with my backup plan being stacked vertical tile as the ever-patient @Beth H. :has generously suggested to me numerous times! :)

  • Mittens Cat

    Yes, warming up to this for hearthstone. Opening my mind to a gray-brown-white palate (11 months into remodel, LOL!).



  • eam44

    Well I think that’s great. And my mind is percolating... There is a backsplash I saw images of years ago. The background was large format slate, and there was an off-white ribbon running through it. It was stunning. Might not be the right thing for you but I’d love to find the image again. Thing is, it would have to be custom tile designed by an artist.

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  • Mittens Cat

    I'm growing intrigued by tumbled stone, like this marble-travertine blend from Ann Sacks. Or this version that's more blue-grey. And I've had a long, hard crush over Sonoma Tile's gorgeous Euphoria in Summer Breeze, though at $75 SF I will have to be satisfied by the little sample I often keep by my side, like a Pet Rock. (Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this? :)

  • calidesign

    I think a lighter stone for the hearth that blends with your floors would look better than the dark gray, especially with the placement of the fireplace. But since you already have the tile, it's easy to lay it out and look at it for awhile. Photos aren't the same as you looking at the whole space in person. You've made great decisions so far.

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  • PRO
    Beth H. :

    Mittens,,,is that the cost of Euphoria?? wow. I love rainforest and VooDoo. the colors are just beautiful.

    well, look at it this way,,,you don't have a ton of backsplash! even at 75sqft,,,,it's doable if you can keep it under 2000 or so. (maybe do the install yourselves. lol) heck, I've seen those tv shows where they flip those houses and spend 3K on a backsplash with handmade tile.

    i still haven't decided on mine yet either. I like the glacier blend from sonoma, and the nickel black blend.


    i just saw their 2x12 Chroma Metallic. what about something like this w/those beautiful gold pendants?


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  • eam44

    Mosaics, like the ones you are considering, are a lot of grout and tiny bits of tile. If that’s the look you want, go for it, but you have a big expanse there, and I think a large format tile would look better, and work better. Totally personal preference, but if you see that tile installed, I think you’ll like it a lot less. It might not be the best scale for the space.

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  • Mittens Cat

    @calidesign, thanks for chiming in on that! I needed to hear that. I think part of the reason I leaned toward the gray tile (aside from practical purposes) is because I am starting to feel I am lacking enough (any?) contrast in the place. Maybe monochromatic is my safe place, hmm. In any case, I'd prefer to use real stone there. In fact, I'd prefer to have my OLD real stone there--big slabs of limestone chock-full of ancient shells and such. Alas, it got demoed before I could stop it.


    OMGOSH @Beth H. :, I have enlarged that photo of Chroma Metalica about 15 times because I can't get enough! Mesmerizing! That was just what I was looking for in my master bath (before I gave up and went with the same tile as in my shower/bath). And, I tend to cringe at gold and brass, but those pendants are just so damn pretty! I did do a bit of Sonoma Vihara glass tile in the guest shower niche (my tile guys cracked two of the pieces, sob!), but after looking at it again today, I was thinking I wish I'd done more. Hmm...! And hey, glad to hear you are taking the "patience makes perfect" route with your BS journey too! :)


    @eam44, point taken! I meant to get to Ann Sacks today to eyeball it in person, but will try tomorrow. Thanks for the ponder!

  • PRO
    Beth H. :

    mittens,,,that chroma is glass. first time I had seen it. it's beautiful.

    btw,,,just came across these from Heath Ceramics (have you looked at their site and all of their tiles?? beautiful) and these reminded me of your kitchen


    https://www.heathceramics.com/pages/kitchen-tile-installations







    and some others,,,





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  • Mittens Cat

    YES! Gorgeous! @Beth H. : Heath was my entry drug as far as tile addiction goes. I fell hard for their oh so Midcentury Modern Dimensional oval, which led me to Fireclay, Pratt & Larson and others (before finally doing the math and realizing--yikes--all that yummy tile adds up to serious $$).

    And funny you should mention it, because I am making my first trip to Heath's LA showroom this afternoon (after trying to get there the past many months!). I also was hoping to get up to Sausalito with hopes of scoring some great tile in their Overstock area. (I think that's one reason why I've put off making a b.s. choice---the allure of possibly scoring some awesome tile at 70% off. Wish they offered that at their SoCal showroom!)

    Anyway, yes, all those photos are ones I've swooned over, especially the top one you shared. Our open walnut shelves will be installed tomorrow, so I figured I'd wait until I had that photo in hand before launching into the final phase of Serious Decision Mode (I lack the visual-spatial skills that so many of you obviously have in spades!).

    BTW, our architect specified open box shelves like the ones in the first photo. We love them, but with our sloped ceiling and weird beam, it felt like adding another geometry would clunk things up all the more.

    BTW, speaking of gorgeous handmade tile, I just discovered Tiles of Ezra (kind of wish I hadn't!!!). ;-D

  • eam44

    Focus on the images that move you. You can buy the tile anywhere, if you know what you’re looking for. There really is no tile that is so unique that you can’t approximate it in another manufacturer, unless it is handmade by an artist with a custom design for your space.

    If this is your first outing to Heath, what you will find is a showroom of beautiful tile and plates and bowls. Standing in a sea of it doesn’t really help. Knowing what things look like installed helps, and there are sample boards. But if you leave no closer to a decision than when you arrived don’t feel bad. It’s not really what the place is about. I’ve never really been a fan of TOE, though, so maybe we are just different. Maybe you’ll have an epiphany.

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  • Mittens Cat

    @eam44, well...it was *supposed* to be my first outing to Heath, but for the third time in three months, I was literally within 20-30 miles of it (in rush hour traffic) and was suddenly called elsewhere. (Could this be a sign that it's not meant to be??) Oh well!

    In the meantime, after reviewing this article below, I'm now thinking maybe I should just get some fun wallpaper to hold us over until I find the b.s. I really want: https://www.houzz.com/magazine/behold-these-bold-kitchen-backsplashes-stsetivw-vs~112030895

  • eam44

    You don’t need wallpaper, but if you think it will help you decide, use it. OB2B ultimately chose a gorgeous bs tile for her kitchen. The way she committed to it was that she made color photocopies of the tile and taped them to the wall. In a few days she was certain. Fast forward to her beautiful bs. Keep in mind the huge investment you’ve made in cabinets, and the fact that you have a sink on that wall. You need a proper bs.



  • eam44

    Would you consider essentially an art installation on that wall? The reason I ask is that in reviewing your comments, I wonder whether you actually like tile for that space. You don’t like special shapes and you don’t like subway tile. Maybe you just don’t want tile there. I know a slab is out of consideration, but what about metal art?

    Ignore the Great Lakes and focus on the background. This is torch blue on 16 gauge stainless steel (but you can also use lesser metals covered with an automotive matte or gloss finish). It could be completely unique, a single perfect piece of art.



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  • PRO
    Brillante

    I'm just hopping on a little late to the game, but @Mittens Cat - I feel like I can TOTALLY relate to you + your vibe. I LOVE your aesthetic. We are in the midst of a major reno, and our kitchen reminds me of yours (although ours isn't an MCM home...it's late 90's) but same vaulted ceiling and interesting angles.

    I LOVE your blue choices (especially those bicycle pendants you shared). And I'm pleased to see you too are doing 3 pendants over an induction cooktop on a centre island. (this was my most current dilemma).

    Have you considered Neolith Estatuario for a backsplash (sintered stone)? It has gotten a bad rap as a countertop material on Houzz, but it all depends on your installer/fabricator. We are doing it as a countertop in our remodel, but I couldn't help picture that here. It wouldn't be as $$ as your fantasy blue calcite slab...

    Oh, and I completely echo 2x'ing+ your budget. Holy smokes. THings ADD up!!! I would love to follow along as your space progresses!

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  • eam44

    And no grout!



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  • Mittens Cat

    @eam44, sooo crazy--I was JUST talking to my GC about "creative" alternatives to traditional backsplashes and he said with a snicker, "Why not sheet metal?" and of course fireworks went off in my brain as I started imagining the possibilities. And then I saw your comment!! Wow! Now wondering about rust, though...!

    As for taking photos first, that is genius! I definitely want in on that plan.

    @Brillante, thanks! I think going walnut + white was always in the back of my mind and I'm glad we went with it. Just wish we had some $$ left over to replace much our 20+ year old furniture. I guess we will always be lifelong members of Team IKEA! :)

  • eam44

    Hah. Great minds think alike! I thought you’d think I’d lost it. But it does look like a space for art. Functional art.

    Rust on steel is gorgeous, but that will need an automotive coating, esp since you have your sink there. And of course you can patinate copper too, but I don’t see the need for that.

    With metal, you can also have it shaped to your liking, so while a big rectangle is an option, so is an irregular shape or a curved top edge as well.

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  • Mittens Cat

    So, out with the metal backsplash idea as DH (a lifelong restaurant worker) said it would remind him of work. Plus, not soft enough for the look i think we're going for. The quest continues!

    In better news, our walnut shelves are finally in and they look good! The stain is a bit more "natural" walnut than the rest of the walnut cabs, which makes me very happy. :)

    Not sure this photo shows how nice they are--they're 3.5" thick. The bottom shelf has two recessed puck lights. Yay.





  • Mittens Cat

    I know I keep saying I was something calm, demure and peaceful, but then I take a look at this Sonoma Tile blend and think YUM (especially with pale blue pendants). It reminds me of abalone or mussel shells. Probably way too busy for what we're looking for (I really wanted to avoid unnecessary geometry), but I may have to buy ONE SF just to keep in a drawer or inside a cabinet! :)


    or in the bluer version...



  • calidesign

    The light version would look amazing on the back splash and the fireplace. The hints of brown coordinate well with your wood.

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  • eam44

    Pretty shelves!

    Glass mosaics look prettier in hand than they do on a wall, and they have that ‘90s vibe... There’s nothing wrong with that, but a swing from sheet metal to tiny little pieces of glass in the space of two hours is kind of a precipitous change in thinking. It may mean you’re not ready to make a choice.

    This might be a good time to go back to your inspiration images, or just think about something else for a while. And maybe when you get back to thinking about your bs again, bring in help, pull your husband off of hardware duty.

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  • Mittens Cat

    No need for forgiveness @eam44. Like a pinball, my brain is typically "all over the place." A similar-mined friend told me recently that we need to say (or write) stuff out loud before we can figure out what we want. Bullseye.

    Feel free to turn off notifications, though! :)

    @calidesign, my tile seller friend just said that Sonoma glass tile is only about $20 SF! I'm going to take the store's large sample board of it to the house next week (which, btw, is our MOVING WEEK. I really should be focusing on packing, which I have not started...eeek).

  • eam44

    Ha! I never turned them on. Good luck with your choice. Be sure to let us know what you finally do.

  • PRO
    Beth H. :

    mittens,,,another poster on here did her splash w/ glass mosaic from Lunada Bay. (they have some beautiful colors too. and tons of shapes) .

    this is the Agate collection behind the stove. The larger Picket is from the Watercolors selection


    http://lunadabaytile.com/LBT_agate.html

    I think the blue glass w/your style kitchen would be beautiful, and not at all reminiscent of the late 90's/2000. they didn't use that type of glass tile.




    similar modern style like yours.

    i love their 1x4 herringbone




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  • Dixie

    I know you don’t like subway tile, but here’s how it works with open shelves similar to yours...

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  • Mittens Cat

    @Beth H. :, my tile store displays lots of Lunada Bay--I've been drooling over it for months (it was a serious contender for master bath until I gave in to a more sedate Porcelanosa). That herringbone is so alluring, I want to get a couple SF and frame it for my wall! Those colors remind me of tidepools in the late afternoon sun. Gorgeous.

    We're just starting to pack for the move so I think I'll plan to try out some large sample boards after I recover from the move. :)

    @Dixie, thanks for that visual. I'm not sure what my resistance to subway tile is all about (a resistance to ubiquitousness?). But if I went that route, I'd stack 'em vertically, as Beth has suggested.

    It's funny (kind of) to look back on all the things I thought I was SO sure I wanted over the past year only to change my mind shortly after!

  • Mittens Cat

    Ack, my tile seller friend did a mock up of both Sonoma blend tiles on our backsplash and both just look waaaay too busy. Back to the drawing board (of subtlety)! :)

  • PRO
    Brillante

    this is SO uncanny! @Mittens Cat - we actually chose Lunada Bay in Cayman Blue silk for our Master Bath with teak cabinets. Not to derail onto bathrooms...but just had to share this uncanny similarity!

    As for your backsplash, you're lucky to have someone to do mockups. That helps so much in the process.

    @Beth H. :I'm so glad to hear you say that about Lunada Bay... 90's is the whole reason we're doing our reno...rounded corner bead, arched windows... bye bye. I'm happy to hear your take on the glass tile mosaic is fresh because that's what I'm hoping for! {although, in this case, for our ensuite, not a kitchen}.

    Mittens Cat thanked Brillante
  • Mittens Cat

    No worries @Brillante. Derail away! That's a lovely tile, especially with teak cabinets. Photos or it didn't happen!! :)

  • PRO
    Brillante

    Well we’re still at the “studs” stage but here’s a pic of our selections. Can’t wait to see it all come together.

  • Mittens Cat

    Lovely! I love that color combo!

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