Kitchen Backsplash for Hickory Cabinets Complete the Elegance of Hickory

A kitchen backsplash serves both form and function, protecting walls from splatters and spills while also providing an opportunity to add visual interest. When paired with hickory cabinets, the right backsplash can beautifully complement the wood’s natural grain patterns and colors. From warm-toned stone and brick to vivid ceramic tile, there are countless options to complete the elegant look of hickory kitchen cabinetry.

What is Hickory Wood?

Hickory is a dense, heavy, and remarkably strong hardwood native to North America. Of the many hickory species, shagbark hickory is most commonly used for cabinetry and furniture. When harvested and milled, it yields lumber with varying colors from creamy tan to rich reddish brown. Hickory also exhibits dramatic grain patterns ranging from wavy to irregular stripes.

In addition to its strength and aesthetic appeal, hickory is an excellent choice for kitchen cabinets because of its resistance to warping and moisture. The wood’s tight grain structure makes it durable and long-lasting. Hickory’s hardness also allows it to take paints and stains very well, providing versatility in achieving different finished looks.

With proper care, hickory cabinets can remain beautiful and functional for decades. Their distinctive graining brings warmth and texture to kitchen spaces of all styles, from traditional farmhouse to sleek contemporary. Choosing the ideal backsplash is key to maximizing hickory’s elegance.

Complementary Materials for Hickory Cabinet Backsplashes

Natural Stone

One of the most classic yet versatile options, natural stone beautifully complements the organic texture of hickory cabinets. Granite, marble, travertine, limestone, and slate can all make excellent backsplash materials when paired with hickory.

Neutral beiges, tans, and browns found in many natural stones work well with hickory’s range of wood tones. More colorful varieties with veining or mottling can pop against hickory while still coordinating. For example, a backsplash of crema marfil marble with its subtle gray veining provides an elegant and timeless look with hickory cabinets.

Stone backsplashes also reinforce the sturdy, durable properties of hickory wood. Their hardwearing nature prevents scratches or damage in a busy kitchen. Going with a honed or lightly textured surface, rather than a polished stone finish, will tie in better with the matte grain of the cabinets.


Like natural stone, brick makes an attractive backsplash option that aligns with hickory’s rustic, traditional charm. Earthy reds and browns found in classic clay bricks pair nicely with the wood tones. For a more unique look, specialty glazed or painted bricks can add pops of color.

Installing bricks in a running bond pattern with natural grout lines provides visual texture and interest that complements hickory’s grain patterns. Brick backsplashes also have the durability and easy-care properties important behind a range or sink.


Bringing in wood tones with a planked, shiplap, or tongue and groove backsplash is a seamless way to continue hickory’s natural aesthetic. Light butcher block, reclaimed barnwood, oak, or maple panels create warm, welcoming spaces with hickory cabinets.

Using unfinished, pre-sealed, or whitewashed wood boards allows you to customize the tone to best match your hickory cabinet finish. More rustic, distressed looks with visible nail heads or intentionally rough edges can play up the country charm often found in hickory kitchens.

Wood panel backsplashes offer a relatively budget-friendly option that also enables easy install directly onto wall studs. Just take care to properly seal and maintain them to prevent moisture damage in wet kitchen areas.

Stainless Steel

For a cleaner, sharper contrast to hickory’s organic beauty, stainless steel is a modern, fuss-free backsplash choice. Brushed or grain finishes reflect some texture while polished sheets provide sleek contrast.

Stainless steel backsplashes neatly integrate with stainless appliances, sinks, and fixtures that are also common pairings with hickory cabinetry. Keeping wall areas above and below the backsplash splash free of steels allows the hickory cabinets to still stand out.

Sheet steel backsplashes can be attached directly to wall studs and offer a durable, heat resistant, and waterproof surface. Cost is relatively affordable, especially for smaller kitchens. Just take care to address condensation and water run-off with adequate ventilation.

Vibrant Ceramic & Porcelain Tile

Tiles in an array of colors, shapes, prints, and textures open up countless options for backsplashes that pop against hickory cabinets. Handcrafted art tile, Moroccan patterns, vibrant glossy mosaics, or classic subway tiles all make great complementary pairings.

Keep in mind hickory’s varied tones and graining when selecting tile hues. Warmer cream, beige, brown, and terracotta tones tend to align best. Blues and greens can accent the cabinets nicely without clashing. Smaller tile sizes or mosaics make it easier to achieve a coordinated blend of colors.

Both ceramic and porcelain tiles suit hickory kitchens, offering durability, easy maintenance, and moisture resistance. Matte, textured, or hand-painted finishes will integrate better with hickory than shiny gloss tiles. Installing tiles in a straight bricklaid pattern also complements the linear nature of wood grain.

Accenting with decorative tile trim pieces, medallions, or listellos provides another opportunity to pick up colors from the main tiles. These details can highlight the character of the hickory cabinets. Just take care not to overdo eclectic tile patterns or colors in ways that compete with hickory’s natural beauty.

Backsplash Dimensions to Complement Hickory Cabinets

Proper scale and coverage for a backsplash are also important design factors to enhance hickory cabinetry. Some general guidelines include:

  • Full height backsplashes that run from countertop to ceiling draw the eye up and make spaces feel more open. They also provide the most protection on the wall from cooking or cleaning splatters.
  • Partial backsplashes approximately 4-6 inches tall create a visual break between countertops and wall paint or wallpaper. This allows hickory cabinet fronts to stand out.
  • Backsplashes that cover specific functions only, like behind a stovetop or sink, provide targeted protection while minimizing cost and labor. Allow minimum 6 inch height above countertops.
  • For tile, mosaic, or brick backsplashes, opt for widths of at least 1/3 the height of base hickory cabinets for adequate visual impact. Proportions should align with the cabinet dimensions.
  • Consider symmetry and layout that complements the lines of the cabinets. For example, center stove backsplashes between banks of cabinets for balance. Align end points with vertical cabinet edges.

Installation Considerations for Hickory Backsplashes

Proper installation is critical for backsplashes to optimally enhance hickory cabinetry while holding up to the daily use and moisture levels common in kitchens. Key factors to address include:


Sealing natural stone, grouting all tile joints completely, and sealing cut edges of wood panels are essential to prevent moisture penetration and damage over time. Using mold-resistant silicone caulk at all seams, edges, and around fixtures boosts watertightness.

Any backsplash materials subject to water damage should have a vapor barrier installed behind them for an added layer of protection. This is especially important with wood backsplash panels.

Clean Finished Edges

Cutting stones, tiles, or boards to fit the space will leave unfinished edges. Take care to smooth and polish these edges so they don’t detract from the finished look of the hickory cabinets. If edges are too rough, chipping or cracking can also develop over time from general use and cleaning.

Secure Mounting

All backsplashes should be firmly fixed to wall studs or backing supports, not just adhered to drywall alone. This provides a stable base to withstand the inevitable knocks, drips, and leaning that kitchen backsplashes receive. Follow any manufacturer instructions for proper fasteners and patterns.

Seamless Transitions

Any gaps, ledges, or unevenness between the backsplash and countertops or cabinets will trap food and grime. Take time to ensure even, smooth alignments for both beauty and functionality. If necessary, use trim pieces designed for each material to transition between surfaces.

Grout Sealing

Porous grout between backsplash tiles can stain easily or accumulate mildew if not properly sealed. Seal tiles and grout according to manufacturer directions as the final installation step. Re-sealing annually will maintain their appearance.

With the right design, materials, scale, and installation, a backsplash can perfectly complement hickory’s striking colors and grain patterns. Select backsplash characteristics that either align with hickory’s rustic, traditional beauty or provide contrasting sleekness. Proper installation and maintenance will then keep your hickory cabinets and backsplash looking as elegant as the day they were installed.

Hickory Kitchen Backsplash Ideas

Here are some inspiring hickory kitchen backsplash combinations to consider:

1. Natural Stone Subway Tiles

Subway tiles made from marble, travertine, or slate in neutral, earthy hues provide an elegant and versatile backsplash option. Their rectangular shape and beveled edges pair well with hickory’s linear grain patterns. Stones that show some veining or mottling add visual interest while keeping the overall look simple.

2. Whitewashed Reclaimed Wood

Pre-loved barnwood or salvaged boards with a weathered patina make a charming backsplash with hickory cabinets. A white wash tames the wood tones without obscuring all character. Small nail holes, cracks, and varying widths play up the rustic charm.

3. Brick Herringbone Pattern

Laying bricks in a tailored herringbone design makes for an eye-catching backsplash with hickory. Red clay or painted white bricks contrast the wood tone while coordinating with hickory’s traditional style. Brick’s durability also suits a busy kitchen’s needs.

4. Hexagon Stone Mosaic

Small stone tiles in organic neutrals or pale blues assembled in a hexagon mosaic create a pixilated effect. This sophisticated pattern pairs well with the varied graining in hickory cabinets. Dark grout lines define the geometric shapes.

5. Mixed Metal Tiles

Combining metal tiles in a mix of stainless steel, copper, and tin brings unexpected shine and dimension. The blend of warm and cool metallics complement both the cabinets and common metal fixtures found in kitchens.

6. Handmade Ceramic Accent Tile

While a field of simple white subway tile keeps the backdrop subtle, handmade ceramic accent tiles embedded within it can provide pops of color. Spanish tiles or colorfully glazed designs made by local artisans add personalized flair. Their imperfection aligns with hickory’s rusticity.

7. Wood Panel Panache

Tongue and groove wood panels stained in a lighter hue than the base cabinets create cohesion through color. The directional lines and visible joints provide appealing visual texture. For variation, alternate between vertical and horizontal installed panels.

8 Popular Hickory Backsplash Ideas

  1. Slate subway tile – These rich grey tiles have beautiful natural texture that adds interest, while still being neutral enough not to compete with hickory cabinetry. The beveled edges provide nice continuity with cabinets.
  2. White marble herringbone – Angled shapes create a chic geometric pattern against hickory’s grain. Crisp white marble pops against the wood while maintaining an elegant, timeless feel.
  3. Green Moroccan fish scale tile – Vibrant glossy tiles arranged in a kaleidoscopic fish scale design make a dramatic style statement with hickory’s warm wood tones. The varied shapes catch the eye.
  4. Woven textured basketweave tile – Combining matte tiles that mimic handwoven baskets in beige and gray creates subtle neutral texture and dimension. The textural tiles align well with hickory’s tactile properties.
  5. Reclaimed barn wood – Pre-loved boards with aged patinas, small holes, and varying widths continue hickory’s rustic character as a backsplash. Whitewashing provides light contrast without hiding weathered character.
  6. Oak herringbone – Oak boards stained slightly lighter than the base hickory cabinets and arranged in a chevron pattern provide gorgeous contrast in both color and design. The dynamic directional arrangement creates interest.
  7. Beaded inset tile – Installing small square glossy white tiles with an antique inspired bead design inside each one creates retro flair against hickory. The defined pattern and insets catch the light beautifully.
  8. Etched copper tile – Metallic copper-colored tiles etched with abstract textural designs, leaf patterns, or fleur de lis motifs add an elegant shine and visual intrigue to hickory backsplashes. The intricate detailing delights the eye while adding antique flair.

Enhancing Hickory Kitchens with Backsplash Lighting

Properly illuminating a kitchen backsplash is both a decorative accent and an important functional detail. Strategic lighting can highlight a backsplash’s colors, textures, and designs so they stand out beautifully. Ambient task lighting ensures the space is bright enough for safe cooking and easy cleaning.

Here are some recommended approaches to lighting hickory kitchen backsplashes:

Under Cabinet Lights

Attaching LED strip lighting underneath wall cabinets directly above the backsplash provides both task and accent lighting. The bright illumination from above highlights backsplash features while eliminating shadows and dim spots at countertop level where most food prep occurs.

Go for color adjustable strips to find the most flattering hue against the backsplash materials. Whiter, blue-hued lights accent cool stones like marble best, while warmer yellow tones enhance brick or wood.

Backsplash Uplighting

Installing small directional lights pointed upward behind a backsplash creates dramatic illumination and shadowing that emphasize dimensional textures and decorative tile patterns.

Go for mini recessed cans, rails, or bullet spots placed high on the wall. Dimmer controls allow adjusting the intensity of the uplighting. Just avoid any fixtures that would compete with the beauty of the hickory cabinetry.

Pendants and Accent Lighting

Hanging pendant lights above sinks or islands drench backsplashes with ambient illumination. Opt for transparent glass or metal pendants that allow light to spread across the entire backsplash area. Mini track lights also focus directional accent lighting.

Aim to graze the backsplash with these light sources to best showcase the colors, shine, and designs integrated into the materials. Just avoid heavily shaded fixtures that will obscure views of the backsplash details.

Natural Light

Maximize windows and skylights where possible to allow abundant natural light to brighten hickory backsplashes during the day. East or west facing windows provide the best angled light.

Supplement with other lighting options for nighttime. But abundant natural light can make backsplashes really gleam and come alive.

With a backsplash that perfectly suits the rustic elegance of hickory cabinets paired with proper lighting, you can achieve a kitchen space that is both beautiful and highly functional. The backsplash brings out the best in the hickory wood’s striking grain patterns and organic warmth. While the hickory provides a sturdy, durable foundation for an artistic backsplash designed to delight. Enjoy the process of designing your perfect hickory kitchen backsplash combination.

Hickory Kitchen Backsplash FAQs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about selecting and installing backsplashes for hickory kitchen cabinets:

What type of backsplash goes best with hickory cabinets?

Natural stone like granite and travertine, ceramic or porcelain tile, reclaimed wood planks, and stainless steel sheets all make excellent backsplash pairings with hickory cabinets. Materials and colors in the beige, brown, tan, cream color spectrum tend to coordinate best.

How high should the backsplash go with hickory cabinets?

A 4-6 inch high partial backsplash provides suitable protection and separation from wall finishes. Full height backsplashes from counter to ceiling make more of a design statement. Limit lower height 2-3 inch mini splashes to targeted areas like behind a stovetop only.

Should the backsplash match the hickory cabinets exactly?

Not necessarily. While you want some coordination in tone and style, matching the cabinets exactly tends to look monotonous. The backsplash provides an opportunity to introduce colors, textures, or designs that complement the hickory in creative, eye-catching ways.

How do you cut a backsplash around outlets?

Carefully measure and mark the outlets on your backsplash material. Cut holes slightly larger than the outlet covers using the appropriate tool for the material – ceramic tile cutter, circular saw, angle grinder, etc. Finish exposed edges smoothly. Outlets should fit neatly into the cutouts.

How do you attach a backsplash to the wall?

Always securely fasten backsplashes to wall studs or backing boards, not just drywall. Use backsplash-specific adhesives and mechanical fasteners designed for each material. Follow manufacturer instructions for any installation kits or systems.

Should backsplashes sit flush or slightly above countertops?

Ideally, bottom edges of backsplashes should sit flush with the countertop surface to prevent gaps where gunk can collect. Eased edges that slightly overlap the counter are acceptable. Avoid aggressive overhangs that cast shadows or make wiping counters difficult.

What grout color should I use with a brick backsplash and hickory cabinets?

Natural gray or tan grout colors are recommended with brick and hickory cabinets. White grout provides contrast but requires meticulous cleaning. Black can look too harsh and show dirt readily. Matching the grout color to the brick maintains the mellow, natural look.

How do I cut a laminate countertop to fit behind a new backsplash?

Use a quality flush cutting jigsaw blade to cut through the laminate countertop surface