04 August 2010

Reader question: How do I handle switch plate and outlet covers on glass tile?


Help! What are your thoughts for how to treat switch plates and electrical outlets in a back splash covered in glass tile?  I've been browsing galleries online, and I find that outlets always seem to be an eyesore unless the surface is white subway tile.  We are still shopping tile, and haven't landed on a specific shade, texture or size, but we are thinking translucent green in some brick shape.  Is there some way to let the outlets appear more like a part of the back splash and less interruptive?

Thanks for your question and it's a good one; something I run into all the time.

The answer of course is that there's no answer, everything depends on the tile you end up selecting and how you want the final project to appear. Probably the only constant I can think of on this topic is not to use white switch plates from a home center.

In June, I wrote a post about new light switch plates and outlet covers made by Forbes and Lomax. They are as close to invisible as any I've ever seen but I don't know enough about them to know how they behave over tile. They're sure pretty to look at though.



So that's the first idea, pretend they're not there.

The second plan of attack is to go in the opposite direction and draw attention to them. Find a decorative plate in metal, stone, glass, enamel, porcelain or anything else you can think of and use that.




The trick when taking that path is to tread a fine line between enhancing your tile and overwhelming it. That decision is best made after you've selected your tile. The switch plate covers above are from Switch Hits, a website that boasts that it has 160,000 plates in stock. After having looked over their website, I believe them. It's an exhaustive collection (with varying taste levels), but it's a terrific place to spend some time to get you thinking about the unexpected.

Any good houseware or cabinet hardware store will have a selection of decorative plates. A good glass cutter can make you any switch plates you'll need too.

So that's what I say at any rate. Anybody else out there have a suggestion for my reader here? Anybody handle this dilemma in a way they're particularly proud of? Anybody handle it poorly, learn a lesson, and care to share some hard-won wisdom? No judgement  I promise. If anybody's so motivated to lend a hand that he or she wants to send in some photos, e-mail them to me and I'll add them to this post.

And that, dear reader, is how I'd approach handling switch plate and outlet covers on a glass tile back splash.

However, be glad you're in Indianapolis and thinking about this. If you were in London, you'd have to try to minimize this.


Side note to to British readers, how on earth do you deal with these things?

21 comments:

  1. that stone cover is fabulous!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Switch Hits has a series of them in slate and limestone and they start at around $15. I agree, they're pretty slick.

    ReplyDelete
  3. There is now a solid surface option for the TRUFIG flush mount system. www.turfing.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Jeff: I've never heard of Trufig. Do you have a press kit you could send me? e-mail it to p.anater@gmail.com. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  5. LOVE your Public Enemy #1! Excellent guidance.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks Sharon. The Public Enemy #1 I had in my mind was very different from the version that ended up here. The day was getting away from me and Photoshop wanted to argue so I settled with that. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  7. In the Denver area, there's an artist who custom paints switchplates to match the background: http://www.takenforgranite.com/

    We found a great copper-colored glass tile for our backsplash, and had him paint the switchplates. He warned us up front that it would not be a perfect match with the glass because of the difference in materials. We're very happy with the outcome.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great suggestion Howard, thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  9. How about avoid the switch plate altogether? If there is a cabinet above, you could use plugmold strips mounted on the bottom. This may not be so practical for things you have plugged in all the time (like a coffee maker) as you would see the dangling cord, but in places where you simply need an outlet for code purposes, why not?

    Not a help on glass switchplates, but--I have also been advised that placing any switch plate as close to the countertop as allowed, and in a horizontal rather than vertical orientation, should make it less obvious. Put a canister in front of it, you won't even know it's there!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Good plans, just be sure the electrical code in your area will allow and outlet to be placed along the underside of a wall cabinet. So don't care, some actively discourage it. Any discussion of where to put an outlet has to involve an electrician. Sorry to be the party pooper here.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have used the clear covers that you feature and they do work well however on occasion to create a coordinate; I have just purchased a cheap plastic one, primed it, used craft paint for the design and/or used a faux painting technique, then sealed it with a clear acrylic finish. The latter step often being the most crucial to acquire the correct match. ie: Matte, Semi-Gloss, or High Gloss Finish.
    -Brenda-

    ReplyDelete
  12. Good post,Paul. I hadn't seen the Forbes and Lomax -- thanks for that tip. Thinking out loud, I wonder then how precise one would have to cut the glass tile for it to look good behind the plate cover? Because you and I know that area isn't always cut nice and pretty!

    Lutron also has a limited set of custom colors if all your receptacle outlets are Decora. The line is called Claro (and it has screwless cover plates. Takes a bit of fiddling to install, but not too bad. :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Brenda: Thanks for the tip!

    Kelly: Thanks for the referral I left Lutron off my list of ideas in my haste. I have a follow up with a couple of new ideas coming up tomorrow.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Paul, you are welcome. I neglected to mention I have also been known to paint the switch and the plug outlet plus the age of computers with the help of a photo editing program as made it much easier to transfer an exact design to a cover. :)
    -Brenda-

    ReplyDelete
  15. Plug mold and under-cabinet (less deep) switches

    ReplyDelete
  16. I never knew plugmold could be a code issue. I used it happily in four different states so far. The electricians don't like the contorted angles for installation, but they haven't played the "code card" on me yet. :)

    In addition to plugmold, or being otherwise creative to place outlets in unobtrusive places, then I go with the beautiful switchplate approach.

    You once had a post about a (European?) product that was the outlet only, flush to the wall, no cover needed. What was that and would it work under/flush with glass? (can one neatly cut a round hole in glass tiles?)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Brenda and Spacial: Thanks!

    Rachele: The manufacturer of the hidden in plain sight outlets is Bocci. They're Canadian actually and I wrote about them in December '08. A lifetime ago. Here's the post: http://www.kitchenandresidentialdesign.com/2008/12/outlet-covers-we-dont-need-no-stinkin.html

    I don't think that Bocci's system works with anything but drywall.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hi Paul,

    There are now Screwless Snap-On Wallplates for Switches and Outlets available from mfrs like Lutron. It mounts using supplied alignment plate with positioning pins to ensure perfect alignment on devices.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Chuck! I cover some of that in my follow up post tomorrow. I had no idea that there was this kind of interest in switch plates out there. As somebody who has one foot in the UK, how on earth do people deal with the ungainly electrical connections on that side of the Atlantic?

    ReplyDelete
  20. This post has just been bookmarked. Thanks so much for the info and links, Paul!

    ReplyDelete
  21. My pleasure Raina, I thought you'd skipped town by now.

    ReplyDelete

Talk to me!

Related Posts with Thumbnails