Now let's go back in time, to 2007. My friend, let's call her Sarah, just moved into her first 1 bedroom basement suite. She was in love. It wasn't anything special, but it was a place to call her own, and her first place other than a dorm room outside of college.
The kitchen was okay. Just okay. It's obviously much better than a ton of other rentals out there, but it had absolutely nothing unique to offer. A beigey colour laminate countertop, white cabinets with brushed nickel hardware, white appliances and a tile-looking vinyl floor. Not awful by any standards, but being stung by the home decor bug, Sarah was itching to do something to it. And truthfully, the only thing she could really think of doing to spruce it up was a backsplash.
Traditional tile was out of the picture for two big reasons: budget, and, it's a rental of course! Sarah wasn't quite sure what to do, so she left it in my hands to figure out and I (not having a place of my own to decorate) was more than up for the challenge!
Trying to stay budget and rental friendly lead us in the direction of stick on tiles that we could create a mosaic with. We checked out some online resources and found this UK company which seems to have a really great product (since 2007 there must be a slew of other companies that create something similar).
The problem with this option was that Sarah didn't want to be spending a couple hundred dollars on a kitchen she might only be in for 6 months, and she didn't want to start sticking tiles to the wall of a rental for fear of completely ruining walls that didn't belong to her.
I started researching vinyl peel and stick floor tiles for use on a backsplash and actually found a couple places where it had been done (HGTV has a couple articles on it) and figured we might as well give it a go. We really didn't have much to lose.
THE TILE: We headed to the Home Depot and chose two remarkably nice stone-finish vinyl tiles. One in a rustic brown, the other in greyish beige. The colours worked together, and best of all, tied in both the kitchen floors and the counters. While I'm all about whites, sea blues and greys, Sarah is definitely more of a beige and brown girl. She loved the colours, however if you decide to recreate the project, your colour options are pretty endless.
We bought 24 tiles in total, 12 of each colour, with the intent to cut the into 4-inch squares. They cost about 1.50/ sq foot. We rented a vinyl tile cutter and got straight to work on many hours of precise tile cutting. I'm sure you could try this with an exacto knife, but trust me, it is worth it to rent a vinyl tile cutter!
After taping up some of our cut tile squares with scotch tape to create a mock mosaic of how it would look, Sarah and I decided that the 4-inch squares we had cut just didn't do the trick. Two inches would have been much better. Back to the cutter we went to create some 2-inch samples.
The 2-inch mosaic mock up looked much better than the 4-inch, but there was something missing. We realized this right away but after putting so much effort into creating this two-tone masterpiece, Sarah was just happy to settle with what was already done. I wasn't ready to give in just yet, so I forced us (and our bloody, blistered, ravaged hands) to make one last trip to the store.
We lucked out and found even cheaper vinyl tile (60 cents each) in a glossy black finish. Total contrast from the matte faux-stone, but we figured with such a low price, might as well buy some and see how it looked. The glossy black balanced out the earthiness of the other tile quite nicely. We only bought 6 of the black tiles because we didn't want the black to take over the kitchen.
THE INSTALLATION: You're probably wondering how the heck we put these tiles up if we didn't want to wreck the walls. We originally wanted to find some really thin plexiglass that could be cut with an exacto knife. That way we could fit and cut it to the backsplash, screw it into the wall, and cover with the peel and stick tiles. There would only be a few holes to fill in the wall when Sarah moved out and IF the peel and stick tiles didn't work out, then we could have just nixed the whole idea. Unfortunately plexi is not only expensive but it's also much thicker than what we were looking for.
Plan B. That plastic corrugated cardboard-like stuff. I don't know what it's called but it looks like plastic cardboard. It's sold in massive sheets at Rona for about 20 bucks (and only one sheet was needed for this kitchen). It is relatively easy to cut to size using an exacto knife and they sell a bunch of colours so you can choose something that best matches your kitchen.
We created a paper template of the backsplash and then traced onto the corrugated plastic and cut. Once the multiple pieces were cut and ready, we started the peel and stick process, leaving a few spots empty so we could screw the piece into the wall (and then cover with the tile afterwards.) After many more hours of peel-and-sticking, the big backsplash pieces were done and ready to be screwed in. When it was all said and done, Sarah was a happy renter, and DIY-tooth was satisfied. Sigh.
I certainly recommend this project for anyone in a rental looking to upgrade their kitchen on a budget and, more importantly, temporarily. You're making almost no commitment because if it doesn't work out all you need to patch are a few screw holes in your wall! We were able to do Sarah's entire kitchen backsplash for under $100. Not bad, hey?
Any great DIY rental projects you have up your sleeves?