We have a built-in set of cabinets in the breakfast room area of our kitchen. When we bought this house that area was covered with white formica. OK, but boring. After seeing mosaics by Kaffe Fassett in his book, Welcome Home, I was inspired.
I have laid tile before. If you have not ever tiled anything, read up on it. This is not rocket science but there are tools (the toothed mastic spreaders, tile cutters, floats for spreading grout, etc.), different mastics (the “glue” that hold the tile pieces to the wall), and grout (the stuff between the tiles) that you need to know about. So do some homework.
I used a pre-mixed wall mastic, not a concrete-type mastic that you use for floors. I bought cheap white tiles and broke them (very carefully, wear eye protection) with a hammer. I put newspaper above and below the tiles before I whammered them to keep the stuff flying through the air to a minimum.
I bought chipped blue and white plates at garage sales. I broke them between newspaper with a hammer. I think I put a piece of wood between my hammer and the plate so that the plate broke, but didn’t shatter. This takes some practice. Once you break it, the real trick is keeping the plate pieces in order. You think it will be easy. It was not for me. I broke them as I went and that worked for me that day.
I mostly planned where I wanted the plates to be. I spread the mastic in small areas and stuck a broken plate on the wall. I then stuck the broken tiles around the plate. I moved quickly, broke the next plate, etc. It was a bit stressful getting the pieces on the wall before the mastic got too stiff for anything to stick to.
FYI – you can do this better than I did. You can buy a tile mesh, cut it to the correct size, and glue your broken pieces to it. Cut the glued mesh/tile sheet into manageable chunks and stick them to the wall in units. If you have shopped for tile you have seen 1′ x 1′ squares of small tiles stuck to mesh… you can make your own. I should have taken the time to do that. I didn’t. If I do this again, that’s what I’ll do.
I have a grinder that my Mom gave me that she used when she made stained glass. It’s for grinding off really sharp edges. I should have used it on the sharp broken edges of both the tiles and the plates. I didn’t and there are some of the broken edges that are dangerous. If this was in an area that I touched a lot that would be a problem. Next time, I’ll grind the sharp edges. If you don’t have a grinder you should be able to sand off the sharp edges.
I used a gray, sanded mastic which is meant for floors. I knew that I was going to have wide spaces between the tiles and this sort is less likely to crack in wide channels. Grout comes in a lot of colors so you should take that into account when planning the overall design.