Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Our kitchen was the last room on our to-do list for the house. (The last room. The siding is still burn-your-retinas-blue, and the prefab aluminum sunroom - The Abomination - haunts my dreams.) The kitchen is small, but it works - I've made two wedding cakes in it - so it's not really the functionality that bothers me. Mostly, it's the rainbow-colored backsplash tile. Rainbow-colored backsplash tile.
Behold the hellscape that is Ronald McDonald's kitchen:
I decided to paint the red and yellow tiles two different shades of silver-gray to achieve a cooler, more cohesive palette of blue, green, and gray. The result cools down the kitchen dramatically. There's not nearly as much visual clutter, and it was a relatively easy, though time-consuming, process.
Painting the tiles takes a few days, but it's about a $40 project, rather than a $400 project, as retiling the kitchen might have been. This is a great way to change the character of a kitchen without spending much money, but it is time-consuming, and would probably become a weeks-long job in a large kitchen. We don't have to worry about the travails of a large kitchen, as ours is awkwardly tiny.
Degreaser (Fantastic, 409, etc.)
dish soap and sponge
Surface conditioner for enamel paint
Enamel paint in your desired color (I used Permenamel brand, also available at Michael's)
Enamel paint dilutant (thinner)
Gloss finish for enamel paint (optional)
Small flat craft paintbrushes
Small foam paint roller
First, pick your paint colors. I mixed two colors - a light gray and a darker gray. Each was one bottle of Slate (a light gray), two bottles of silver, and a little bit of white and black, respectively.
I ended up using about 5 or 6 ounces of each color, on 40% of the tile covering a 25-square foot area. Each paint bottle is 2 ounces; I used eight bottles in all, and I have extra paint on hand, for retouching.
Paint a test tile. We had some extra tiles left in the attic by the previous owners, so I painted one tile of each color. Conversely, you could paint a tile that's normally covered by an appliance, or buy a few similar tiles at a hardware store. Make sure you like the color.
The tiles in your kitchen are likely at least a little greasy. First spray the backsplash with a degreaser, and wipe clean. Then use a sponge and rag to wash the tiles with dish soap, twice. Finally, wipe everything down with a rag dampened with a little rubbing alcohol. You can't get the backsplash too clean. Then, brush on the surface conditioner, and allow to dry. It only lasts four hours, so only apply it to the tiles you think you'll get to in one sitting.
Time to paint!
The silver paint is especially goopy, making my mixture the consistency of very thick glue. Pour a couple of tablespoons onto a plastic dish or tray, and add dilutant a few drops at a time, mixing until you reach the thin consistency of Elmer's glue.
Brush a small amount of paint onto a tile, giving careful attention to the edges. If you run over a little bit onto the grout, you can cover it later with a dab of white paint.
Brush the paint on very thin, or it will drip before it dries. A good bit of color should still show through from the tile.
Paint every tile, and allow to dry for a day or so. I used dark gray on the red tiles, and light gray on the yellow. Go through all of one color first, then go back and do the other.
Apply a second coat, again paying attention to the edges. Very little color should show through from the tile's original glaze now. Allow to dry.
Apply a third coat. This is a quick coat, as the color is likely already well-covered and your edges are clean and covered. Once you've brushed the third coat on to each tile, quickly take your 4" foam roller, and roll over the tile in every direction. This smooths the paint and erases brush marks. Allow to dry.
Your tiles should now have a nice, smooth, matte finish. If you wish, you can apply a gloss coat, which will make the tiles easier to clean, and impart a subtle satin finish. In my kitchen, I gave each of the dark tiles two coats of gloss, and I gave about half of the light-colored tiles one coat of gloss.
Thin the gloss on a plastic tray, brush onto a tile, and roll your roller over the tile in each direction. Do this for every coat of the gloss. Experiment with one or two coats - the finish is so subtle that you're not likely to notice an odd tile or two with one coat instead of two.
Finally, fix your mistakes. My grout is off-white, so I added a little bit of gray to a tablespoon or two of white paint, and thinned the mixture. Then I used a tiny paintbrush to cover the bits of gray that had made its way onto the grout.
Let the paint cure for 10 days before you clean it or lean anything against it.