Back in March, I posted about The UpSkill Project (see that post here). Five local Salt Lake City residents were selected by Lowe’s and I got to assist with one project! I lucked out when I discovered I was paired with a big tiling project- something I definitely feel confident doing, and as a bonus- the homeowner, Katie, is a talented architect. I didn’t assist with the design because Katie already had a beautiful layout planned… but I did get my hands dirty tiling and grouting. Click through for a fun before, after, a quick video, and a peek into the process of tiling a backsplash and island.
I’ll start by sharing a before image, although The UpSkill Project is less about a gorgeous “before & after” but rather what you learn in between those phases. I love that the premise empowers homeowners to tackle projects themselves. That’s exactly what Emmett and I do in regards to our own renovations, so it was fun to pass on the know-how and confidence. Alright, here’s what Katie’s kitchen looked like before the team and I invaded her house:
As you might expect, it wasn’t bad at all! Being an architect, Katie has a great eye for design and her minimalistic, clean, white kitchen was no exception. It just lacked some pizazz and personality. Katie was inspired by a coffee shop to add a graphic pattern to her backsplash and island using hex tile and a gradient effect… but she had never tiled before. That’s where we come in! I arrived at Katie’s house on Day 1 and the team was already set up and ready to teach.
First, we installed backer board to the island, which allowed an even and secure surface for tile installation. Katie was such a great sport with a willing attitude and she picked up on it right away.
Before we started installing the tile, Katie showed me her pattern and explained how she created the mosaic. In the photo below, you can see what the mosaic tile looks like out of the box (the one closest to my shoes). She picked it apart and hot glued the pattern she envisioned over the course of a month!! Talk about time consuming- it sounds like there was plenty of simultaneous TV binging that helped her survive the tedious hot glue process.
We meticulously moved the mosaic sheets into the kitchen and started the fun part- tile cutting and installation.
Again, Katie picked up on this part of the process very quickly. Adding tile to an island is a great way to make a kitchen look more custom and add depth / interest to your space. It’s also functional… if you have bar stools at an island, it’s a much more durable surface and is easier to clean.
Katie’s cute dog, June, became my new BFF during the duration of the project and she is much better behaved than my dogs. Ha! She did a lot of lounging while we worked and kept us entertained.
After the island was tiled, we moved onto the backsplash. I recommended Katie take the tile all the way to the ceiling, instead of cabinet height. I chat more about taking tile to the ceiling in this post, but it’s a great way to elongate your ceilings and make a kitchen or bath look high end. She took my advice and the end result looks amazing, if I do say so myself.
Once the tile was set, we came back the next day, prepped, and grouted everything. Katie selected a black grout for a high contrast look. We used black grout on our bathroom floor tile and it’s beautiful… although the post grouting cleaning process is a bit more difficult due to the dark pigment (in my opinion). I think Katie would attest to that.
Once the grout was cleaned, sealed, and caulked, I ventured back to Katie’s house for a final interview and images. Before you jump to the after images, check out this fun video of the entire process, as well as an interview with the homeowner.
Here’s what the kitchen currently looks like with the newly installed tile…
Such a big difference, right? It’s amazing what tile will do for a space. The kitchen has so much character now and looks anything but boring.
Small hex tile is a timeless, classic shape and I love that Katie found a way to make it feel really modern. I probably never would have thought to create a pattern like this!
What do you guys think? Are you into Katie’s high contrast, graphic kitchen, and the fun patterned island? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the design! It’s obvious she very carefully planned the layout. Even the hex tiles on the corner edge match the ones on the adjacent side- everything perfectly aligns.
How do you feel about the white hex backsplash traveling all the way to the ceiling? Are you team white or black grout? Although I’m really into the high contrast, I think in my own home I probably would’ve went white- because I’m not that bold. Kudos to Katie for perfectly pulling it off! I’ll leave you with one more image.
I feel really lucky to have been apart of The UpSkill Project. I love that I was able to give back to locals who embody the same DIY attitude and want to learn how they can take matters into their own hands and improve their homes. It’s such a rewarding feeling to finish a project and know that YOU are the one who made it all happen. Memories are always made, money is saved, and at this point in time- I can’t imagine doing it any other way.
Speaking of kitchens and renovating… my own kitchen reveal is happening tomorrow! Promise you’ll come back for that?
*This post is sponsored by Lowe’s. All content, ideas, and words are my own. Thank you for supporting our favorite home improvement retailer.