Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Painting a Tile Backsplash {and more easy kitchen updates}

In my dreams, I have a lovely white herringbone subway tile,
and a maid that keeps it all clean after my personal chef prepares dinner.

In reality, I have this. 

A pinkish travertine that was never sealed and has collected it's fair share of flesh wounds from flying ketchup squirted onto hot dogs and frozen chicken nuggets.

I've tiled backsplashes before (in our second and fourth house), and no -
it wouldn't cost that much to do. $75 maybe?
But I have NO money right now, nor do I have the time (read: energy) it would take.

Does that mean we've got to live with this in the meantime?

One Saturday this summer the urge struck and there was no turning back. 
I wasn't ready to demo, but that didn't mean things couldn't be improved. 

What's the worse thing that could happen? I could hate it?

I already hated it.

One coat of primer.

Two coats of paint. The bottom edge was all jacked up, so after putting down some tape,

a line of paintable caulk made everything nice and even.

Behind the stove was especially icky, and although I did my best (translation: two seconds with a scrubby sponge and some Dawn), there must have still be lots of grease and oil left over...

because that's the only spot that the caulk has "cracked." 

Tip: take your time and use some TSP or another heavy duty degreaser so your crack doesn't show

But who cares?  "Not I," said the Hen. THERE'S NO MORE PINK.

Aside from that one spot, two months later it's holding up great.

By painting it out, it not only made the kitchen FEEL cleaner, but it made the tiles kinda go away visually. Which was...uh...kinda the whole point.

Like every house should, this kitchen has evolved over time.
 Simple, inexpensive things have made a big difference from what it looked like on move-in day.
Remember that? An all white kitchen?

"There is no flavor. There are no spices. Where are the chips?"

A week later it got some personality by adding paint, cabinet hardware {from Ikea}, and blinds.

A year later the walls got changed to muted green, and the bottom cabinets got painted out to blend in the dishwasher and (soon to be removed)(I've been saying that since we moved in) trash compactor that has been used exactly zero times.

Then the doors came off.
It's been almost four years since that FREE change, and I could never, ever go back.
The soffits got covered with bead board to make the cabinets appear taller. I'd love to tear them down all together and do some simple shelving instead, but that would require money AND retexturing the wall. Which would take more work than my ten minute attention span allows. Boo.

Oh - and that little connector piece above the sink met my good friend Mr. Hammer and went buh bye. Also free.

Luckily, little things can have a big impact.
Good news for those of us with little budgets.

{total invested = easily less than $200}

Now who wants to come and make dinner?


  1. Great changes! Love that its an iterative process in your kitchen, that's how I'm rolling in mine too. I really like how the painted backsplash now blends seamlessly into the bead board on the inside corner by the blender ... I just shake my head at some of the awkward ways tile installers choose to end the tile. Now you have a very cohesive feel.

    1. The end of that tile drove me CRAZY - it had to be fixed. When we had to replace the paneling in the dining room nook from water damage, I brought everything up to that height to at least minimize the awkwardness...it didn't bother anybody else but me. Glad someone gets it! :)

  2. Painting the tile was a good choice! It looks so much better. I love your kitchen!! I'm intrigued by the idea of removing cabinet doors but I don't think it would look right in our house. Plus, that would require me keeping things neat and tidy, which is a total laugh. It looks fantastic in your kitchen, though, and everything is so orderly. Yes, I will come make dinner in your kitchen!

    1. The two cabinets on the other side still have doors (one is a cereal cabinet, and one holds glasses/mugs/plastic plates), but even with the kids always putting the dishes away, this side doesn't get "messy". Maybe it helps that they can see where things go?

  3. It looks great! One of the first things I did in my kitchen was paint the backsplash with chalkboard paint. I've written on it with chalk maybe twice, but my goal was that it not be speckled yellow Formica anymore.

  4. Ill come make dinner! Why cant we have just like a salad? Next time im n texas, im so there. When theres less crying going on n my house (& it stops smelling like pee) im gonna send u pics of my kitchen so u can tell me what to do. Yes?

    1. I'll let you in on a secret. Ready for it? As soon as the kids are old enough that they don't pee everywhere, they'll beg for a dog that will. Some of my biggest projects have been done with a baby on my hip, while two (or three or four) other kids eating a box of cheerios that got dumped on the floor :) All of that to say: you know my email address.

  5. What a difference a few little changes can make. We are trying to decide what to do with out "back splash" I put it in " " because it isn't really back splash as our sink is in the island, but I digress. We remodeled many years ago and never did anything but paint it white, now we want to do something a little different. I'm looking at glass tile, but not sure hubby wants that look. We'll see. Yours looks great!

  6. paint is an amazing thing...now we're not twins...we shared the same tile hahaha
    i painted the pantry door black last year. I WANT TO DO ALL THE DOWNSTAIRS DOORS BLACK NOW. hubs doesn't agree...maybe one night i'll slip him a mickey and do it while he's out

  7. Somebody give this lady her own tv show already, she's brilliant and thrifty and savvy! I'd watch that show! xoxo

  8. I love it SOOO much! You have such a good eye for design!

  9. Beautiful transformation over time- lots of smallish changes= big impact!

  10. Lovely...but I can't believe you took off the DOORS! :) Does it look that wonderful everyday?

    1. There's nothing to get messed up. The kids are in charge of putting the dishes away, and since they can see where everything goes, the don't just shove it wherever. If it wasn't so low maintenance, there's no way it would've lasted more than a week :)

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  12. What kind of paint did you use? I have hideous brown tiles in my kitchen and I would love to do this! A lot of people seem to use oil-based paints for this type of project - is that what you did, or did you go with latex? Thanks!

    1. I just used regular old latex paint leftover from the bead board wainscoting (in a satin finish). Yes, oil based would definitely be more durable, especially if you've got slick tiles, but since these were rough and unsealed already, they soaked it right up. It's been about 9 months since I did it, and aside from some cracking where I put the caulk along the bottom (as shown in the post), I haven't had any problems.

  13. Hi, I spent $100's on mosaic tile when I already have enough stone tile to do the back splash sitting in the corner of my dining room that I got at a tag sale for 40 bucks! lots of stone tile. the only problem putting it up is the electric outlets so I'll need to rent a tile cutter and already have the grout. I need to try to return the $$$ tile so I can put up the stone tile I have, let it cure, prime it and paint it white. I have a small kitchen and painting the kitchen white with bluish details and redoing the counters for 20 bucks. :-) So glad that I found your blog and photos!

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  15. What a great transformation. I am thinking of painting my hideous back splash something that will not clash with the cabinets and counter top. Thanks for making me believe I can do it too!