Sometimes I get the urge to create. I just have to do a project. I had already set aside time this weekend to make bookshelves for our living room, but the below zero temperatures, snow, and wind decided to get in the way of that. So with the prospect of facing a few days of being snowed-in I knew I needed another project to keep me busy. So I did a little challenge. Change something in the house, using only the supplies that I have on hand that could be completed in a few hours. I was washing the dishes and it came to me....backsplash! If you have some paint and a few hours, here's how to do it...
I should make it clear that ultimately I would prefer to have a real tile backsplash. In fact, I tiled the backsplash of our RV last summer and an amazing hack to make it super easy. So I could have tiled if I wanted to, but I didn't for two reasons. One was that we are saving for our wedding and I am trying not to spend too much on home projects. The second is that we will be redoing this kitchen at some point (hopefully) in the near (hopefully) future, so it seemed a waste to put tiles up just to knock them down.
We originally used peel and stick subway tiles from Amazon. While I didn't hate them, I didn't love them either. I don't think I would recommend them. At the time, my fiance was set against having something else "white" in our kitchen and really wanted grey subway tile. I don't think he loved the stickers either. They didn't hold up well and didn't look as realistic as some others available. They do have some beautiful ones out there, but these weren't it. I have a very dark kitchen, so I am trying to keep things as light as possible and I don't think the color helped either. If I'm being honest, when they started to peel away I was kind of happy. Every day we'd go by and slap the sticker back on, but eventually it got to a point where they needed to come off. I had a very cathartic moment of ripping them down.
We haven't done any actual renovation on our kitchen. I painted the cabinets white the day we moved in (no really the very day). I also painted the red laminate counter top to look like marble. So it's not too much of a stretch for us to have a painted backsplash. I started rummaging around in our paints and found some leftover white paint. My initial plan was to use a farmhouse stencil and stencil the backsplash, but I have been wondering what full sized subway tiles would look like in the space. Since this is going to be temporary, I figured it was a good chance to test out the look.
Okay so what you actually care about, how to create the tiles. My backsplash was already painted Sherwin Williams Sea Salt (as is the rest of my kitchen). It reads green, grey, or blue depending on the light and is really a lovely color. I decided that instead of painting everything a grey grout color, I would just have that be the grout color. You will need to paint the wall that you are "tiling" the color you want your grout to be. The fun thing here is that you can do lots of combos that you can't with real tile.
Once your wall has dried it's time to create your grid. I used 1/4 inch painters tape. If you don't have any you could cut a real roll down, but honestly that could be tricky to get it to be straight. You can actually get 1/4 inch rolls for a very affordable price on Amazon. They come in packs of 3 and are handy for lots of projects where traditional painters tape is too thick.
So the first step is to create your horizontal ground lines. I measured a real subway tile and it was 3 x 6, so I measured 3 inches from the counter top and marked the wall all the way across. I then put the tape across, being careful to line the bottom of the tape up with the mark.
I then measured 3 inches up from the top of the tape, this is very important to ensure even "tiles." You essentially want three inches between the pieces of tape (aka "grout lines). I initially used a tape measure, but found a speed square much easier to work with. A ruler would work well too. It will look like this when you're done:
Next comes the tedious part, the vertical lines. Since subway tiles are a traditionally staggered pattern, you'll need to do each row one at a time. I did try to tape the whole length and then cut out the sections that I didn't need, but it ended up being more complicated than it was worth.
Start on the bottom row again, this time measure six inches in and put a mark. Tape to the right of the mark. You can use a butter knife to square off the tape so that it is just taping where the tile would be.
Next, starting from the right side of the tape, measure another six inches put another piece of tape, do this until you go across the entire row. Again you want there to be six inches in between the tape (grout lines).
Once you get the bottom row completed go back to the beginning. This time measure 3 inches in and put a vertical piece of tape. From here, measure six inches and tape and continue to do that across the whole row. This will create the staggered pattern that subway tile has
For the third row, start at six inches, and the next row start at 3. Do this until you have done all the rows.
If you have outlets or windows, you should treat the pattern as if it was going right over them, in other words do not start and stop around objects. This will give you a more realistic look.
Once everything is taped it should look like this:
Now it's time to paint. Using the paint color that you want your "tiles" to be (it obviously needs to be different than the base color), paint over the whole backsplash.
Let it dry and pull the tape off (don't let it dry too long or you'll have trouble removing the tape, I actually wait until it's about 3/4 dry and then take it off). Ta-da! You have "tiles"!
You will probably need to take a small brush and touch up some of the grout lines or tiles. If you're a perfectionist. If you're like me you can just put canisters and cutting boards in front to distract from mistakes. Let's be honest, it's not perfect but you're the one who's going to be looking at it 99% of the time. If you're friends come over and point out your painting mistakes, give them a few glasses of wine and they won't even notice. Or turn the lights on low, that's my go-to for disguising non-perfect DIYs and messy homes.
I would love to see if you try this in your home. Maybe someday I'll get adventurous and try a herringbone pattern, or you could and just let me know how it turns out! What's your next project that you are working on?