Christa’s mosaic art kitchen backsplash — ‘pique assiette’ tout retro

…when tiles or counter tops would be discontinued I would save the samples… I didn’t know for what, I just tossed them in a big box for “something.”



Christa strutting her stuff as a 50s pin up model.

Reader Christa has been chipping away at her labor of love house for a while now, collecting treasures along the way to make it her own. With a degree as an interior designer and years working as a kitchen and bath designer, you’d expect some creative mojo going on in her house. Yup: Using her designer’s eye and playful personality, Christa used her collection of discontinued tile samples to create one of the most creative mosaic back splashes ever. It’s part of her artistic, eclectic 1972 house, which includes fantastic Adrian Pearsall furniture, a Cado wall system, cork flooring found for 50 cents a tile, and lots of great collectibles purchased before mid century design began to boom.

mosaic-tile-backsplash-in retro modern kitchenmodern-vintage-kitchen-turquoisePam points out that Christa’s mosaic art backsplash derives from an art form called “Pique Assiette”. According to Wikipedia, pique assiette, is French:

…meaning “one who eats from others’ plates”. Pique assiette is a style of mosaic that incorporates pieces of broken ceramics—plates, dishes, cups, tiles—and other found objects into the design. The appeal and expressiveness of pique assiette lies in the ideas of lateral thinking, humour, recycling, and the significance of the found objects.

Christa tells us about her house, the continued evolution of her kitchen, and this latest project:

The house was built in “72 (or “74 there seems to be differing info that I have dug up), and the previous owner was the original owner. In the late ’80’s/early ’90’s he decided that pastel Southwestern was the way to go (you remember pink, and blue and yellow pastel cacti and Indians and such). So when we moved in (in 2000) every room was wallpapered, and the cabinets were frosted maple, which had yellowed into a weird pinkish/yellowish color. He had painted the woodwork pink as well.

The pink counter tiles are left over from that time, and eventually they will go away. (Currently I am thinking concrete…I know it isn’t strictly retro…but I do very little strictly anything!)

Since we moved in, the wallpaper has been stripped (I know you adore it Pam, but I have a habit of repainting when I get bored..and wallpaper makes that hard). In the kitchen, the cabinets have been painted, a cork floor has been installed, we got new appliances (the hubby wanted stainless…compromise was needed), new (vintage) copper bullseye hardware, vintage window treatments and yes…the backsplash.

retro-modern-kitchen-diningI am a sometimes model, and part time Chiropractic assistant… as well as a Mom to T, wifey to Todd for 19 years, and caretaker (at last count) to four hermit crabs (the names change weekly), three sphynx cats (Chemo, Rogaine and Venus), a three-toed box turtle (Bento) and her three eggs (we have high hopes). I have a BFA in Interior Design and worked as a kitchen and Bathroom designer for many years, and when tiles or counter tops would be discontinued I would save the samples… I didn’t know for what, I just tossed them in a big box for “something.”

retro-kitchen-curtainsSo one weekend I decided that I would take a look at what I had in the box, decided to get a few more little glass dots, and mirrors and started gluing them to the wall.

mosaic-tile-backsplash-handmadeThere wasn’t an overall plan, and I would just cut or break things as I needed them. The weekend stretched into a month, and by the time I grouted, two months but in the end, I love it, and that really is all that matters — isn’t it?

retro-bathroom-starburst towel hangerBelieve it or not, I still had leftover pieces in my box, so the hall bathroom counter is Mosaic as well….


I will have to ponder the next mosaic project…. Maybe I will embed some in the concrete counter top when I get around to it.

modern-retro-kitchen-greenThe kitchen isn’t done, not by a long shot. I still want flat front cabinets and weather they are new, used wood or metal, remains to be seen.  If/when I do the concrete counter tops, I will most likely dip into the box of tile goodies in the garage again to accent it. I would LOVE one of the energy efficient magnetic induction ranges…. But there is no hurry, and as there is money and time, things get done.

retro-modern-kitchen-diningThe house, patio and yard will never truly ever be done, it is always changing, morphing, evolving into something else…kind of a metaphor for life, isn’t it?

After studying the pictures of Christa’s kitchen, I asked her about her groovy cork floor, the copper accents and accessories, and her lovely retro bar stools and dining table and chairs. She replied:

striped cork-floorI have been collecting mid century modern copper at least since the mid 90’s, and yes, there is no question it is harder to find than the more traditional copper. I think it just makes a sweet score that much sweeter! Yes, the cabinet knobs in the kitchen are copper…through e-bay, etsy, estate sales, garage sales the restore and second-hand shops we have found hardware, plumbing fixtures, light fixtures, small kitchen appliances and accessories for the kitchen as well as the rest of the house. Over the years we have also made things such as curtain rods, lamps, and various other things when we couldn’t find what we needed.

The floor in the kitchen is Expanko Cork Mosaic Thin Strip with accents of TerraLight 12 x 12 unfinished and un glued cork — which is kind of a pain to work with as you have to roll, roll, roll some more, weight, and roll the seams again to smooth them out. We found them at the ReStore for 50 cents a tile.

adrian-pearsall-dining-setThe dining room table, as well as the coffee table, and the two living room chairs and ottoman, are Adrian Pearsall, assembled from e-bay and secondhand shops in the late 90’s. The  dining room chairs, we never could find any info or marks on them.  They also were from a second-hand shop in the late 90’s. You may have more pictures of my dining room, as it was featured when Pam did the post on Cado systems.

modern-retro-kitchen-turquouiseThe Kitchen stools are Jens Risom from craigslist about three years ago. You should have seen the contortions needed to get 4 of them into the back of my VW Rabbit!

tile-mosaic-retro-vintage reclaimed

In addition to all she has described above, Christa has three business ventures:

Wow Christa, you are one busy and talented lady — when do you find time to sleep? And your kitchen — I’m amazed by your ability to take so many different tiles and bits of stone and glass and make them one big cohesive looking wall mosaic. I’m also in love with your bathroom countertop — okay, I’m in love with your bathroom in general. That starburst towel holder and the awesome retro mirror/medicine cabinet combo: Dreamy.

Mega thanks to Christa for allowing us to peek into her kitchen and bathroom!


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  1. Janet in CT says

    Great feature subject and absolutely stunning! I have no design talent whatsoever and am so envious of this ability to put things together with such wonderful results! If I attempted that, it would come out awful! And I love the Etsy shop too!

  2. Karen says

    Does anyone here know if it’s okay to put up tile or mosaic on top of wallpaper? My house has a combination of lathe and plaster and drywall, and in the kitchen the backsplash is wallpapered (ugly, ugly wallpaper). Wondering if it’s okay to just tile over it or if I have to strip it first. TIA!

    • says

      Yes, you will need to strip the wallpaper off. Make sure you have a good solid wall behind before you put tiles up; otherwise it will eventually come off. You may need to use thinset as your adhesive and backerboard for your substrate if there is any chance it will get wet.

      • pam kueber says

        I would agree. If you tile over wallpaper, you risk that if the wallpaper ever gets pulled off, the tile will be pulled off along with it.

        • Christa C. says

          I agree. Th danger of putting new anything over the top of old anything, is that you then have to depend on the old glue/ adhesive/ sticky to hold the old AND the new. Just a risk you don’t want to take. Just get a steamer…no nast chemicals and you can scrape the old wallpaper right off. ( and the steam is so good for your pores…LOL)

  3. Andi says

    I love these mosaics, created with such an artistic eye. I can imagine sitting on one of those fabulous bar stools with my morning coffee, staring at the mosaics and seeing new patterns and pieces every day. I love the use of turquoise, in the mosaics and throughout your very cool house!

  4. Annie B. says

    Just plain fabulous. What a house, you lucky girl.

    Love the TST “Cathay” on your kitchen walls. I had a tea kettle just like yours until it suffered an unfortunate accident on the stove top. I still miss it.

  5. Diane in CO says

    Daring and creative use of tile — and it looks great too! I also like the little bathroom counter. Great bar stool story and I learned a new designer, Jens Risom, who was unfamiliar to me. Thanks for the fun read! I always learn something here 🙂

  6. Marta says

    Are those dining chairs as comfy as they look? I just love them, and especially love the tile and copper. Wish I had a wisp of decorating talent.

      • Christa C. says

        Thank you for all of the nice comments for my “in progress” kitchen. For more of the copper coffee carafes…the small appliance weekend uploader has one that I loaded. Hope that helps 😉

  7. Just another Pam says

    Sweet! Love pique assiette, fun to do, delightful to see.

    Some of you think you can’t do it but with some good snips and some vintage china and/or tiles you will be impressed with what you can do. Cross my heart ;o)

    Check out this artist, a few of her pieces are mid century kitchen and lady of the house ‘paintings’ and they are amazingly wonderful.

    Cherry Pie, In the Fridge and The Soup Lady.

  8. Katie says

    I absolutely love your tile backsplash, I do hope that you’ll reconsider replacing the tile countertops. I think that the colors go very well with the backsplash, and at least from the pictures, it seems to be in good shape. I can understand the appeal of concrete, but at the same time, it is very ‘of the moment’. Not that there is anything wrong with mixing periods, and combining contemporary and classic touches, but at the same time, I’d be a little hesitant about replacing a timeless classic like tile with something that is likely to be more date-able.

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