Pinspiration Monday: Faux tile backsplash

It has actually taken me two weeks to muster up the emotional courage to tell you about this project. As you can probably gather, it didn’t go quite as planned. In fact, I am now strong enough to admit that it was a complete and utter disaster. But not ALL of our grand ideas will work out, right?

So here’s the story (plus an incredible amount of photos to document the horrors – Hope you have a big cup of coffee handy!)…

After redoing our kitchen cabinets, I was dying for some kind of backsplash. I would have loved to tile, but the expense and the work deterred me from ordering anything. So instead, I scoured Pinterest for ideas. I came up inspiration like a solid accent paint color, decoupaging take-out menus beneath the cabinets and even adhering metal tile to the wall.

Source: BHG

Source: One Brooklyn Modern

Source: Casa de Valentina

But the one below was the one that stole my heart. It could have been because of the similarities to our own kitchen – cabinet/appliance arrangement, dark brown cabinets, long brushed nickel hardware – but it was also that gorgeous pastel backsplash.

In order to recreate the look of the shiny rows of thin tile without actually ordering any, I decided to use a combo of high gloss paint and extra-thin masking tape. My “faux tile” would theoretically give me the look with about half the work and a fraction of the expense.

Source: Unknown

So here is the room as it stood before leaping head first into the project – We are still loving our brown cabinets but really needed something between the cabinets and countertops to break up all of that brown and beige.

First I rolled on two thin coats of primer – The same can we used on the cabinets at the beginning of the year. In my head, I thought that the under-layer of white showing between my faux tiles would look like grout.

The nature of primer to be a little uneven in look would (again, in theory) mimic the uneven texture of mixed grout.

Time for the masking – This part ended up taking a looooooooong time, but my sister thankfully offered to help as she was visiting that weekend. It was all a matter of keeping the lines straight and also measuring equal distances between rows.

We decided to start the taping by going horizontally since it would take the most time versus the shorter strips that would go vertically. We started right under the cabinets and then measured a ruler’s-width down before starting a new line of tape.

Once we finished the entire length of the backsplash, we stepped back and took stock of things. Seeing the long green lines of tape actually really appealed to me – I began to second guess the vertical strips altogether. The look of the unhindered stripes read super “mod” to me and I actually favored the look. So out went the idea of vertical strips to create faux tiles and in came the idea of mod stripes. My thought was that I could always paint white lines over the top coat if I decided that I wanted the tile look afterall.

Time for the top coat…I bought a quart of pale, minty blue paint from Lowe’s in high gloss finish to really make it pop on the wall. Even though I was no longer trying to replicate the look of smooth glass tile, I didn’t mind the idea of a high gloss stripe, so we went with it.

Two coats later (at about 9:30 p.m.  at night – sorry for the awful lighting) and we were DONE. I already loved how the color was breaking up all of the brown surfaces. Before letting the paint dry, since I’ve heard the paint can come right off with it after it dries, I started removing the tape to reveal the undercoat of white.

This my friends is where things all went to hell.

Oh man, it was so so hard for me to even snap these photos for you guys. At that point, I could hardly breathe from sobbing and the shock of it all. We had been working on this project pretty much all day, sucking up an entire Saturday. I think it was even harder to accept because I had dragged my sister into it as well.

To tell you the truth, I have no idea what happened. But as you can see, when I started peeling the tape back (slowly and gently, I might add) the primer and the wet top coat started coming off in strips with it. I suppose there are two possibilities: (#1) the primer SUCKS and didn’t stick to the wall correctly, or (#2) the masking tape I used was way to strong. Either way, after the initial gasp upon seeing the ruined paint job, it turned into a full on melt down as I continued to remove both the tape and my beautiful painted stripes.

Somehow, through my tears, I was able to remove the rest of the tape and repaint the entire backsplash. The only thing I could come up with was to go with a solid color paint job and call it done – At least for the moment.

In the end and after recovering from the hysteria of the failure, I actually really love the way it turned out. Sure, there’s nothing “tiled” or “striped” about it, but at least all of those brown surfaces have something cool and funky to bump up against. I adore the color.

There are still a few areas we need to damage control, such as the uneven edges at the ends, but I’m giving myself a little distance before working on it. I think I’ll pick up a couple pieces of decorative molding to cover the lines and be done with it. Thoughts?

Oh, and before I go, I wanted to show you a little detail – As you can see in the photos below, you can still make out the stripes left by the masking tape lines. Sort of makes for an interesting texture I guess. While I wish that those lines could have been white, it is what it is and I don’t HATE it.

The fresh mint color looks a bit retro sitting next to our brand new orange stand mixer (a gift from our wedding) – I am absolutely loving that color combo and might even try introducing a little more orange into the space just to keep it going.

So while I would still whole-heartedly call this a failure because it’s anything BUT what I had envisioned, we still managed to give the backsplash area a little pop. If you check out the “Before” and “After” photos below, you can see what a difference that mint color made.

Glad to finally get that off my chest after weeks of holding it in…

So spill the beans – What do you guys think? Have any idea what might have happened? I’m dying to solve the mystery…


20 thoughts on “Pinspiration Monday: Faux tile backsplash

  1. Ainhoa

    Oh no! I’m so sorry it didn’t work out. I’m terrible with tape (paint always bleeds through) so I don’t have any suggestions for you, sorry.
    The color is nice though, and since it’s glossy it’s definitely wipeable!
    Have you checked out these wall panels from Ikea though? They’re similar to your inspiration image and quite affordable, although I think they’re only available in white or black

    1. Carrie Post author

      Thanks for the sympathy…It was a rough night for sure. I’m glad you like the color though, and thanks for the tip on the Ikea product!!

  2. TJ

    Heating the tape with a blow dryer before peeling might have helped. It worked when we were having the same problem peeling tape from a primed wall. We’ve all had ‘epic fails’ as my son calls them 🙂 Anyone who has tried to fix up their home has. Nice job in the end, even if it wasn’t what you envisioned!

  3. Stacey@aGh

    It seems like you did everything right… so this is a mystery. Was the tape made for delicate surfaces? I’m stumped. Taping off all those perfect little lines was so much work! I’m sorry it failed you… but you definitely prevailed in the end! Looks fantastic and the color really looks pretty with the brown cabinets. I have a feeling you and your sister will look back later and giggle about the whole thing! Sisters are the best.

    1. Carrie Post author

      I thought so too…The tape was Frog brand painters tape that I think was meant for automobile painting. Maybe it has different adhesive then normal painters tape? Who knows…I hope you’re right that my sis and I will look back on this and laugh =) They ARE the best!!

      1. prudepapers

        Hi, am just now checking this out as I was interested in this same idea for my backsplash. When I read what happened to you I said “aha,” because I had the very same experience with the Frog brand painters tape. I’m not sure what this tape is good for but I’m guessing its not for decorative paint lines. But as others have said, I think the color alone brightens and defines the space.

      2. Carrie Post author

        Glad I’m not the only one to run into the issue, but sorry to hear it happened to you too…No good. Thanks for the compliments on my finished product though!!

  4. Tin Roof Press

    Oh dear, sorry to hear it went wrong 😦 I’ve had disasters with too strong masking tape too. Maybe it was the paint quality – you know the kind that peels in chunks? Who knows. just guessing. I think the end actually looks pretty darn good. More bright orange accessories!

    1. Carrie Post author

      Thanks…It was definitely a fiasco. But I agree that it turned out okay in the end =) I’m definitely working on those orange accessories as we speak/type!

  5. mybrightlife

    Well recovered! Love the fresh mint against the brown with the splash of orange. Adding more orange is a grand idea.The perfect solution will come with time, or you will hunt it out! But in the meanwhile your kitchen is looking great.

  6. knotrune

    The undercoat seems to be the problem, rather than the gloss. Where paint has peeled, both layers have come off, so the gloss has adhered fine to the undercoat. What were you painting over? I’m guessing something wipeable like kitchen and bathroom paint or gloss?The whole point of that kind of paint is that stuff doesn’t stick to it… I’m no kind of expert but that would be my guess. Maybe sanding it before priming might have helped?

    Having said that, I like the green with the very subtle textured stripe much better! And leaving the primer, those bits would not have been wipeable and would probably have got a bit stained and then you’d have had to cover it anyway. So I’d call it a learning curve and serendipity 🙂

    1. Carrie Post author

      I think you’re right that the undercoat was the issue…I’m not sure what finish the original wall color was, but I’ve never heard of having to sand drywall before painting it. I would have thought that primer took care of that step, but judging by my results, I suppose not…Thanks for your insight though and I’m glad you like the new color!

  7. Hannah

    If you can muster up the courage to do it again, since you already have the mint color on the walls, use regular sized painters tape to protect the mint color, then create spaces in between the tape in order to create those thin lines. All of the thin lines that are exposed can be painted with a can of white paint. You’re basically doing the exact same thing except backwards! The thicker painters tape will be less tedious as well.

    I hope that makes sense… I’m thinking that the regular sized painters tape may be less destructive, I’m not 100% sure…but it’s worth a try!

    1. Carrie Post author

      That makes total sense! Honestly, I wish I had thought of that to begin with…You’re right that the thick tape would have been easier. Oh well! If I get the courage to try again, I will take your advice. Thanks!

  8. Nicki

    Oh the horror of reading this! I am planning on doing the exact same thing! I found this on google becasue I was doing some research on this exact idea. Now I am scared! I think I might take Hannah’s advice and do it that way. Makes sense to me! SOOO glad I read this! My blog is I will be posting about it after I do it! Check it out!

  9. Langela

    I found your post while looking for very thin tape to use as a grout line. I was reading a post of a professional who paints backsplashes to look like tile. She said if you were going to paint the backplash a solid “grout” color before they came, to let it dry/cure for at least a week. I wonder if your primer wasn’t cured maybe?

    So sorry it didn’t turn out after all your work. It happens to all of us who do our own decorating work. I’m glad you shared your “failure” with everyone. Those who are starting a project need to hear that everyone has projects that don’t work like planned sometimes and it’s ok.

    1. Carrie Post author

      Thank you so much for your support and feedback! I appreciate you passing on the notion to let the “grout” coat seal for a week. Hopefully that will help others looking to do this project in the future!!


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