Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Holy Moly: I Painted a Geometric Tile Backsplash

Like all good DIY-ers, I went into this project with a plan, scrapped it halfway through, and spent approximately 10 more hours than anticipated perfecting it. But in my opinion, every second was worth it because I'm now gazing at my backsplash like it's the multifaceted diamond it almost appears to be.

Here's how it all started.

I was standing in my kitchen a few days after Christmas when it hit me: I don't have to hate my kitchen this much.

I've hated it since the day we toured the house. It was dark, with scuffed wood custom 1981 cabinets that are so custom nothing fits very well — I have cookie sheets that won't even fit.

I hated the precious floral wallpaper, so much so that I ripped it all down a couple years ago on a whim, and then left just a couple scraps peeking out from behind the switch plates I was too lazy to remove.

Perhaps most of all, I hated the Ronald McDonald-themed maroon and yellow backsplash.

Like any red-blooded American woman, I've been fantasizing about my dream kitchen for at least two decades, carefully pinning hardware inspiration to my Pinterest boards. Also like most red-blooded American women, I'm a few thousand short of the budget needed to do the full reno of my dreams. But standing in my kitchen earlier this month, I realized simple paint can solve a lot of ills.

And that's how I ended up painstakingly dotting paint with tiny paintbrushes at midnight.

I wiped down the whole backsplash with TSP diluted with water and then wiped that dry, followed by wiping with a tack cloth to be sure every little speck of dust was gone. Then, I sanded the tiles to rough up the glaze a bit. That was somewhat unsuccessful, but it's okay. It's didn't hurt anything to try.

I taped around the perimeter and then painted two coats of Zinsser primer and let that cure for a little while I applied the Marie Kondo tidying method to my upper cabinets.

I painted 2-3 coats of some Benjamin Moore White Dove in semi-gloss that I had on hand.

Finally I was ready to enact my plan, which was to use a lovely stencil I purchased from Cutting Edge Stencils to mimic the look of painted tiles. See, look! All taped up.

The bad news is that the stencil — ordered in the smallest size — still wasn't small enough for my tiles and my stubborn self insisted on trying to make it work, even though the design was going to split grout lines.

Spoiler alert: It did not work. It was a smudgy mess. I appear to be the one person who can't handle a stencil.

I nursed my wounds for just a few minutes and then resolved to paint over my failed experiment and start back at square one. Or should I say triangle one?

I googled around a bit for inspiration and found this One Kings Lane post. I decided to complicate that a bit by adding more colors. Ultimately, I used some samples I had of Sherwin Williams Filmy Green, Magnolia Home Earl Grey and Magnolia Home Stormchaser.

I sketched out my design with Crayola markers and then taped it off, marking dots of paint so I wouldn't accidentally use the wrong color in the wrong spot. I used an X-acto knife to trim the corners to get perfect triangles. And finally, I painted. This whole process required HOURS of carefully peeling and migrating blue tape, repainting and touching up, over two nights. It would have been much more seamless if this had been my first plan all along.

But it was ALL worth it because this is infinity better than that maroon-and-goldenrod combo. It's brighter and it looks like high-end tile!

This is just one of the earliest steps of hopefully many to make the kitchen a happier place that feels "us." Eventually we want to paint the cabinets, replace the hardware, get new appliances and, depending on how our budget looks by then, replace the countertops. In the meantime, we'll just marvel at the power of paint.

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