Decorative Wall Plaques To Dress Up Your Kitchen Backsplash

Mosaic tile sheets make it possible for just about anyone to get professional-looking tile job on their own, and offer a simple and affordable way to add a really stylish touch to your kitchen. The one main drawback is that this type of tile is necessarily limited to simple repeating patterns, which makes it difficult to create interesting accents. That’s fine for most backsplashes, but can become a pretty glaring problem when it comes to that a big, open patch of wall between the top of your range and the bottom of your range hood. The good news is, single-piece decorative wall plaques are a gorgeous stand-in for intricate, hand-laid mosaics, and are just as DIY friendly as the more common tile sheets.

Julian Etched 2 Piece Plaque Spring SSG-1007 from Soci
Julian Etched 2 Piece Plaque Spring SSG-1007 from Soci

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Between upper and lower cabinets, windows, and appliances, there generally isn’t a whole lot of blank wall space in most kitchens, but that’s exactly why the area over the kitchen stove naturally stands out. Without any embellishment, it’s an odd blank space, and even with a normal height backsplash, it looks a little odd. But that big square or rectangle of space is the perfect fame for a large tile accent. In very traditional kitchens, that means a detailed mosaic or even painted tile centerpiece. But custom setups, while beautiful, can be very, very expensive. Single piece decorative plaques offer a similar ornate, eye-catching style, but are much more affordable and simpler to incorporate into a tile design.

Venetian Renee Plaque SSGV-1221 from Soci
Venetian Renee Plaque SSGV-1221 from Soci

Decorative plaques come in a single solid piece, rather than sheets or individual tiles, so all you have to do is center them properly in the space and mount or adhere them to the wall. Even with no other embellishments, this is a great way to add visual interest to an awkward, empty space. Typically, if you have a tile backsplash elsewhere in the kitchen, you want to surround the plaque with the same tile, so that whole space is filled in, but decorative plaques typically have a lip or frame around the outside edge that makes the transition between it and the surrounding tile relatively seamless.

Arabella Plaque in Shaded Ivory SSGI-1377 from Soci
Arabella Plaque in Shaded Ivory SSGI-1377 from Soci

Of course, if you want to get really creative, you can also surround a decorative plaque with different types of tiles. In the kitchen above, the plaque is “framed” first by a layer of small square tiles, then by thick rail or frame tile pieces to help give the plaque more definition from the surrounding tile, which matches the backsplash  that runs the length of the rest of the kitchen. This type of layering can easily be done with mosaic tile sheets and individual yet easy to install tiles, but will make the plaque look more polished and customized than it would on its own.

Renee Bronze Plaque SSGB-1221 from Soci
Renee Bronze Plaque SSGB-1221 from Soci

You certainly don’t want to go overboard here – either in terms of the number, type, pattern, or color of the tiles used. One or maybe two frames is really plenty. The more layers of frames and the thicker and heftier the border around a decorative plaque, though, the more ornate and traditional the accent will feel. If you really want to beef up the look, choose tile that are all in the same color family and made of the same material, but that vary in terms of size and shape. Some decorative plaques are paired with border tile in a matching pattern, and these can be used like photo mats to surround the plaque, in between layers of frame pieces.

Layering several different types of mosaic tile can create a similar effect, but is much more labor intensive to pull off (by Venegas and Company)
Layering several different types of mosaic tile can create a similar effect, but is much more labor intensive to pull off (by Venegas and Company)

It’s possible to create a similar effect by simply framing another type of mosaic tile, particularly something set at an unusual angle. But depending on the size of the space above your stove and how big you want the accent piece to be, even a really interesting tile pattern can be a little too simple to carry the weight of a large area, and simply won’t be as visually interesting. Tile that’s too small can also be a bit busy, and either way you’ll need to do a lot more title cutting, planning, arranging, and vertical tile laying, which can really up the difficulty level of a project like this.

Set against a simple mosaic tile, a metallic decorative plaque can feel like an antique art piece (by Hendel Homes)
Set against a simple mosaic tile, a metallic decorative plaque can feel like an antique art piece (by Hendel Homes)

On the other hand, decorative plaques come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find one to match the dimensions of your space. They also tend to be very ornate and highly detailed, usually featuring elegant scrollwork and very traditional floral/vine designs that are symmetrical at least horizontally or vertically, and usually across all four quadrants. And in addition to traditional tile materials, decorative plaques can also be made of metal, stone, or resin, all of which stand out more vividly than a traditional mosaic. The result is a piece that’s very intricate and eye-catching, with almost no assembly required.

But what do you think of these ready-to-install plaques? Do you like the ornate, traditional look? Let me know in the comments below!