My non-tile solutions
As a follow-up to my post last week, if tile is not your thing, I have solutions for you:
For a kitchen backsplash, I prefer to specify a thinner version of the same material as your countertop. My favorite countertop materials are quartz (a man-made or engineered material), quartzite (a natural sandstone that is heated and hardened), and marble. Silestone is an engineered quartz product, and it is available in a 7/16″(1.2cm) and a 3/4”(2cm) thickness versus the typical countertop thickness of 1-1/4”(3cm). Have it installed from the top of your counter to the underside of the cabinets and range hood. Quartz is the most practical, because it is scratch-, stain- and scorch-resistant. Quartz manufacturers continue to introduce styles that mimic the look of marble. My favorites are: Silestone Lagoon, Silestone Lyra, Caesarstone London Grey, Caesarstone Frosty Carrina and Caesarstone Calacatta Nuvo (available this fall).
If you want a shower/bathroom solution that doesn’t include those ugly acrylic shower surrounds, you can either specify the thinner countertop options I mentioned above, or my new favorite material is a product from Fiandre, called Maximum. It is a super-thin (only 6 mm), porcelain slab that mimics the look of your favorite marbles and stones but without the extra weight. The slabs are large (120″x60″), so just cut them to the sizes you need, and say good-bye to the gazillion grout joints. It can also be installed on floors as well as outdoors. I first saw this product at the MADE (Milano Architettura Design Edilizia) last October, and now it is available in the US through the Transceramica showroom in Chicago.