Choosing backsplash tile, part II (Or: Reality strikes.)

Disclaimer: this is a long-winded and overly emotional post about kitchen tile. The short version: expensive tile from Japan FTW!

It turns out, renovating a house isn’t … fun.

Not unless you have a gajillion dollars and an architect on call and probably an interior designer that shows up to appointments with lattes and a bag of chocolate croissants.

Yeah, no. Maybe in another life.

What I’ve learned is this: renovating a house is a lesson in facing reality. It has four parts: 1) need vs. want; 2) compromise; 3) processing disappointment; and 4) the time-quality-cost (or “triple constraint”) triangle.

A little explanation on number four, if you’re not familiar — you can’t increase one arm of the time-cost-quality triangle without reducing the others. You can have it cheap and fast, if you settle for lower quality. You can have great quality, quickly, at a high price. Or you can have excellent quality at a good price, if you’re able to wait.

We are bedeviled by this triangle, mainly because we don’t live inside Dwell magazine we have limited cash, and limited time to make the most of the cash we have. (No, I cannot reasonably spend another minute googling “large area rugs under $300.”). So there has been lots and lots of compromise where the “cost” arm wins big. No quartz countertops. No select-grade wood floors. No soaker bathtub. Tons of DIY. Etcetera.

Monday was Tile or Die Day. With a two-week delivery window, and three weeks until we move in, it had to be done. I was resigned to accepting the most basic, white subway tile available and moving on, because it was also Carpet or Die Day. Choosing carpet sucks away my will to live, because I dislike carpeted rooms in general — so I’m paying for something I’ll inevitably resent. Thus, I was all set to spend a bunch of money feeling pinched and hateful.

(How many of you want to work on a renovation project with me right about now? Yeah. Me either.)

And then I walked past the tile clearance display. I turned to the spouse and said, “Look at that. I love that. It reminds me of everything happy about my childhood.”

Those words tumbled out before the impression was clear in my mind. Who has a visceral, emotional reaction to kitchen tile?

They are earthy, polished, glazed ceramic, the dimensions a balance between light and grounded. They remind me of the thick, stoneware dinner plates from my childhood. Those plates were made by a family friend and potter by trade. He had a huge, braying laugh. We used to trek, with his kids, down to the mucky drainage ditch behind his house and look for salamanders.

The tiles remind me of vegetarian feasts. Of teapots and sunlight and incense. They remind me of the smell of a hot slide projector and the sound of Tangerine Dream at my parents’ parties. Our giant backyard garden.

But … on clearance¬†this tile was $7.50 per square foot. Twice what basic tile costs. And they had only half of what we needed–the rest would have to be ordered at full price. A very full price.

We’re doing it. We’re getting that tile because part of this project was about trying harder to surround ourselves with things that make us feel healthy and happy. Rooted and aspirational.

Triangle, meet rectangles.

Cepac tile

Choosing backsplash tile

We can’t mount our range hood or open shelving until we’ve chosen and installed our backsplash tile. Assuming we’re doing tile. We’re doing tile. Aren’t we? Are we?

Should we just put up a stainless backsplash behind the stove, caulk the back edge of the countertop, and call it good?

Are we saying that because we’re tired?

That’s about how the breakfast conversation went today.

We’ve rounded up a few options from our friends at Home Depot. We’re going for white, because we’re an indecisive Libra/Gemini couple that’s afraid of color commitment¬†it’s timeless and adaptable, and matches our cabinet faces. I’d like to bring in some curves and shapes, since everything else in the room has straight, modern lines. The spouse has always imagined subway tile. Penny tile seems to be the middle ground, and comes in 12×12″ mesh sheets for easy install. (If we DIY. Which is a serious debate at the mo’.)

Or, for real–should we just go for the stainless panel behind the stove and move on?

Votes? Speak to me, good people.

Backsplash tile choices

1. Merola cobble subway tile (1×2″ inch mini)

2. Lantern tile in matte white

3. Merola Cosmo penny tile

4. Basic Merola Palace tile

5. Basic white subway tile (3×6″)