The ‘Wallpaper’ of the Kitchen – Why Choosing the Right Kitchen Backsplash Can Make or Break a Space

The kitchen backsplash is like the “wallpaper” of the kitchen – it literally serves as a colorful backdrop that sets the aesthetic tone for the entire space. As one of the most visible and functional areas of the kitchen, choosing the right backsplash is crucial to pulling the whole look together. The material, color, and overall design of your kitchen backsplash can make or break the decor of your kitchen.

The Purpose and Importance of the Kitchen Backsplash

Before diving into the specifics of how to choose the perfect backsplash, it’s helpful to understand why the backsplash is such a vital element in kitchen design.

Here are some of the main purposes and benefits of a kitchen backsplash:

  • Protects the walls from splashes and stains – The backsplash bears the brunt of all the splashing, splattering, and dripping that inevitably happens at a kitchen sink and stove. Constant exposure to water, oil, grease, food particles, and more makes the backsplash area highly susceptible to damage, discoloration, and stains. A proper backsplash protects the drywall or plaster behind it.
  • Contributes to the overall aesthetic – The backsplash is a focal point of color, texture, and visual interest. It brings life and vibrancy to the kitchen. The design possibilities are endless, allowing you to make a unique decorative statement.
  • Provides an opportunity to blend function and style – While being highly functional, backsplashes can also have artistic, decorative appeal. There are countless options that are as beautiful as they are practical.
  • Reflects your personal taste – The backsplash offers a chance to showcase your personal style. Whether you opt for sleek and modern, rustic charm, industrial edge – your backsplash communicates your tastes.
  • Impact on resale value – A dated, worn, or unattractive backsplash can detract from home value. Replacing it can recoup over 80% return on investment. An updated backsplash reinvigorates kitchen appeal.

In short, don’t underestimate the importance of selecting the perfect backsplash. It deserves plenty of consideration and planning.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Kitchen Backsplash

Choosing a backsplash may seem overwhelming initially because there are so many styles, materials, colors, and design options to select from. It helps to break down the decision into a few key factors:

Compatibility With Cabinetry

  • Wood cabinets pair well with natural stone or ceramic tile backsplashes in warm earth tones.
  • Metal or glass tile backsplashes often complement more modern white or black cabinetry.
  • Stainless steel appliances call for a coordinating cool-toned mosaic tile or metal backsplash.

Take color cues from your existing cabinetry and counters. The backsplash should complement the cabinet finish and style.

Cohesion With Countertops

  • Granite or quartz countertops work well with ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile backsplashes.
  • Marble countertops pair nicely with marble backsplash tile or subway tile.
  • Butcher block counters look great with brick, stone, or wood plank backsplashes.

The backsplash color should coordinate and blend nicely with the countertops without looking too matchy.

Personal Style & Usage

Consider your personal style preferences and how you use your kitchen. Key questions include:

  • What general aesthetic are you drawn to – modern, transitional, rustic, industrial, etc?
  • Do you cook often and value durability? Or is the kitchen more of a showplace?
  • Is the backsplash area prone to grease splatter?
  • Will the space get a lot of direct sunlight that might fade or discolor certain materials?
  • Do you prefer cool sleek surfaces or warm natural textures?

Maintenance Requirements

  • Ceramic and porcelain tile are very low maintenance and resistant to most kitchen stains.
  • Natural stone requires more sealing and care to prevent etching.
  • Glass tile can break if hit hard and may need replaced.
  • Metal backsplashes show fingerprints, smudges, and water spots easily.

Factor in how much effort you are willing to put into ongoing upkeep when choosing a material.

Backsplash Material Options

Now that we’ve covered the key considerations, let’s explore some of the most popular kitchen backsplash tile and material choices:

Ceramic & Porcelain Tile

Tried and true ceramic and porcelain tiles make excellent backsplash materials. Available in endless colors, prints, textures, sizes, and shapes, the options are limitless. Key advantages include:

  • Durable, scratch resistant surface
  • Resists moisture, grease, and food stains
  • Easy to clean
  • Affordable option
  • Can mimic stone, metal, wood grain, and more
  • Range of glossy, matte, or textured finishes

Popular choices are subway tile, mosaics, arabesque, and geometric shapes.

Natural Stone

For Old World rustic charm, natural stone tiles can’t be beat. Materials like marble, travertine, slate, and granite make beautiful backsplashes. Considerations when using stone include:

  • Has an elegant, upscale appearance
  • Available in range of natural earth tones
  • Adds texture and depth
  • Needs to be sealed to prevent staining
  • Can be prone to chipping or etching
  • Relatively heavy, may require reinforcement

Soapstone and quartzite are lower maintenance stone options.

Glass Tile

Glass backsplash tile infuses any kitchen with eye-catching brilliance and radiance. The light-reflecting glimmer creates visual depth and dimension. Pros and cons include:


  • Reflective, luminous effect
  • Design versatility – solid colors, metallics, patterned
  • Easy to keep clean
  • Environmentally friendly material


  • Pricier than ceramic or porcelain
  • Tile edges can crack or chip if hit
  • Less scratch resistant than stone or ceramic
  • Illuminates underlying wall flaws or unevenness

Using a mosaic of small glass tiles minimizes grout lines for a sleek appearance.


For an ultra-modern, almost industrial look, metal backsplashes are surging in popularity. Typically made from stainless steel or tin, advantages include:

  • Highly water-resistant, impervious to moisture
  • Extremely durable and scratch-resistant
  • Easy to keep clean and sanitize
  • Metal tiles or sheets available
  • Provides a modern, sleek, and luminous look

Downsides can be noise when cleaning, prone to fingerprints and showing water spots. Copper and brass provide warmer metallic finishes.

Popular Kitchen Backsplash Tile Patterns & Arrangements

In addition to choosing a material, the pattern and tile layout significantly impact the overall look and feel of the backsplash. Here are some options to consider:

Brick Style

The classic brickwork pattern has endured as a popular backsplash layout because it works with so many design aesthetics from Old World traditional to urban rustic. The offset rows have visual momentum that creates interest without overwhelming. Brick backsplashes work equally well behind a stove or sink.


  • Classic, timeless pattern
  • Lends textural interest
  • Works with diverse tile shapes and sizes
  • Relatively simple installation

Subway Tile

Basic white subway tiles arranged in a grid pattern provides a clean, classic backsplash look. The 3 x 6 inch rectangles can have a vintage feel or feel modern, depending on the tile color and kitchen aesthetics.


  • Affordable and easy to install
  • Looks great with any kitchen style
  • Timeless and versatile
  • Low maintenance
  • Can be accented with colored grout

Mosaic Tile

Tiny mosaic tiles set in mesh sheets make for easy backsplash installation. The small scale tiles create nuanced visual depth and interest. From contemporary glass to encaustic ceramic, mosaics take center stage.


  • Adds high visual texture and color
  • Can mimic intricate patterns or designs
  • Conceals wall flaws or unevenness
  • Modern or vintage aesthetics
  • Grout lines easily refreshed


  • Grout needs periodic sealing
  • Not ideal for heavy cooking zones

Oversized Tile

Large format tiles in materials like porcelain, ceramic, or marble create a dramatic, minimalist backsplash look. With few grout lines, oversized tiles can stretch from countertop to ceiling for a seamless appearance.


  • Creates contemporary visual impact
  • Gives a sense of expanded space
  • Clean, sleek, and streamlined
  • Makes small kitchens feel bigger


  • Challenging installation requiring expertise
  • Lippage irregularities more noticeable
  • Pricier investment in large tiles

Geometric Patterns

Intricate geometric tile designs make the backsplash area a true work of art. Combining basic shapes like triangles, circles, diamonds, and zigzags results in visually bold and beautiful patterns.


  • Makes a dramatic visual statement
  • Infinite design flexibility
  • Can incorporate multiple colors
  • Works in modern or globally inspired kitchens
  • Opportunity for artistic self-expression


  • Achieving symmetry takes skill
  • Installation can be tricky
  • Needs the right kitchen style to pull off

How Color Impacts the Look and Feel of Kitchen Backsplashes

The color palette of your kitchen backsplash influences both aesthetics and experience. Follow these tips on using backsplash color to enhance kitchens:

Warm Tones

Warm hues like terra cotta, orange, yellow, gold, and red convey energy and give kitchens an inviting, vibrant look.

Best for:

  • Traditional kitchens
  • Tuscan, French Country, Spanish styles
  • Making a smaller kitchen feel cozy


  • Can make some small kitchens feel cramped
  • Not ideal for hot, humid climates

Cool Tones

Serene blues, grays, silver, and greens have a relaxing, tranquil effect perfect for cottage kitchens. These cool tones can “wash out” in spaces lacking natural light.

Ideal for:

  • Coastal, cottage, and farmhouse styles
  • Large, airy kitchens that get ample light
  • Offsetting lots of warm wood tones


  • May read as muddy or dark if poorly lit
  • Limiting if you switch decor frequently

Neutral Tones

Timeless neutrals like white, beige, taupe, and black provide versatility. They act as a blank canvas for changing accent colors.


  • Allows versatility to update over time
  • Makes small spaces feel larger
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Works with any cabinetry or hardware


  • Can feel boring or sterile without texture
  • Needs accent colors introduced through artwork, appliances, etc.

Vibrant & Bold

Electrify your kitchen with high-impact hues like emerald, coral, turquoise, eggplant, and canary yellow. These daring backsplashes energize and inspire.

Best for:

  • Contemporary, modern, and transitional spaces
  • Home chefs who spend a lot of time cooking
  • Making a bold artistic statement
  • Showcasing your playful personality


  • Could make resale challenging if style is polarizing
  • Needs the right context or can feel overly loud

Style Inspiration – Examples of Striking Kitchen Backsplash Designs

The following kitchen backsplash examples demonstrate how to use tile, color, and materials to create a variety of aesthetics – from vintage charm to sleek modern elegance. Analyze these backsplashes to identify elements that align with your personal style.

Rustic Farmhouse

This rustic farmhouse kitchen backsplash uses unfinished wood in vertical planks to mimic vintage barn board and siding. The reclaimed wood adds earthy, natural texture in harmony with the distressed cabinets and butcher block countertops.

Key elements:

  • Unfinished natural wood planks
  • Boards oriented vertically for sense of height
  • Warm wood tone complements cabinets
  • Rustic, vintage farmhouse aesthetic

Vintage Subway Tile

Nothing evokes old-fashioned kitchen charm like classic white subway tiles. Their rectangular shape and beveled edges create alignment and movement. Keep the look fresh by limiting the tiling to just above the countertops vs. floor to ceiling. The addition of a decorative image made from tile adds whimsy.

Key features:

  • Classic 3 x 6 inch beveled white subway tile
  • Limited tiling area for more updated look
  • Contrasting grout lines in charcoal
  • Whimsical decorative image tile design

Modern Geometric

This contemporary backsplash utilizes tile size, shape, layout, and color to create a mosaic geometric focal point. The combination of triangles and octagons interspersed with metallic gold square tiles produces clean lines and visual interest. The mixture of matte white with glimmering metal results in a modern statement.

Key qualities:

  • Tactile combination of shapes and textures
  • Repeating geometric pattern
  • Warm metallic and matte white color scheme
  • Contemporary aesthetic

Bold Color Statement

Why limit your backsplash color to neutral tones? Go for maximum visual impact with an unexpected pop of color. This kitchen backsplash features lively teal and cobalt blue Moroccan-inspired tiles. Their encaustic design and vibrant hue energize the all-white kitchen.

Notable features:

  • Vibrant, vivid cool blue color scheme
  • Encaustic patterned tile with visual texture
  • Color complements all-white cabinetry
  • Makes a bold artistic statement

Industrial Chic

The industrial trend continues to be hot in kitchen backsplash applications. Using silver, stainless, or chrome-finished metal tiles conveys an urban loft vibe. The reflective squares catch the light beautifully and complement the stainless steel appliances.

Key qualities:

  • Mirrored metal tiles or stainless steel
  • Glossy finish looks sleek, not rustic
  • Metal backsplash as accent wall
  • Urban modern, industrial look

Kitchen Backsplash Ideas – By Material

To spur additional ideas and inspiration, here are some specific kitchen backsplash solutions organized by common backsplash materials:

Subway Tile Backsplash Ideas

  • White brick-patterned subway tile backsplash
  • Black subway tile geometric herringbone pattern
  • Sea glass green subway tile with bronze grout
  • Navy blue tile paired with white subway tile
  • Subway tiles arranged in horizontal staggering lines
  • Subway tile “site map” using different tile colors for accents

Stone Tile Backsplash Ideas

  • Honed marble marble mosaic tile
  • Multicolored slate tile arranged in mosaic pattern
  • Pebble stack stone tile in natural earthen hues
  • White quartzite in brick laid pattern
  • Ledger stone veneer backsplash for rustic charm
  • Travertine tile with tumbled finish for texture

Glass Tile Backsplash Ideas

  • Iridescent glass mosaic tiles illuminating the space
  • Metallic glass penny tiles for antique-inspired look
  • Turquoise glass subway tiles arranged vertically
  • Clear glass tile to mimic water or floating “ice cubes”
  • Frosted or textured glass tile for visual depth
  • Combination of clear and opaque glass tiles

Wood Backsplash Ideas

  • Reclaimed barn wood arranged horizontally
  • Unfinished cedar planks for rustic kitschy look
  • Gray-washed wood boards arranged in herringbone
  • Rich walnut wood panels cut in geometric shapes
  • Tongue and groove beadboard oriented vertically
  • Distressed hardwood in charcoal or ebony stain

Metal & Tin Backsplash Ideas

  • Antique hammered copper square tiles
  • Stainless steel subway tiles for modern look
  • Corrugated tin backsplash painted moody gray
  • Aged tin ceiling tiles with patina and texture
  • Penny round copper mosaic tile with bronze grout
  • Brushed brass tiles or stainless steel “rivets”

Design Tricks to Make a Small Kitchen Backsplash Feel Larger

Backsplashes present more design challenges in a small kitchen where every inch counts visually. Use these clever tricks to make a small backsplash look and feel more spacious:

  • Extend tiling to ceiling – Avoid stopping tiles short to give the illusion of height. Continuing to ceiling draws the eyes up.
  • Limit tiling area – Don’t feel compelled to tile a whole wall. Sometimes a smaller backsplash framed out nicely behind the stove elevates the area appropriately.
  • Use oversized tiles – Limiting grout lines with bigger tiles enhances the sense of space. Oversized subway tiles work beautifully.
  • Employ open shelving – Glass front cabinets or open shelving maintains visibility and airflow above shorter backsplashes.
  • Stick with neutral hues – While bold backsplash colors are trendy, remember they can overwhelm a tiny kitchen. Stick to soft neutrals.
  • Add mirrors or metallics – Mirror tiles or the sheen of metallics enhance luminosity to make the area feel more open and bright.
  • Don’t over-accessorize – Resist cluttering up the backsplash. Clean lines and minimal components keep it looking streamlined.

With smart choices, you can make a small kitchen backsplash look polished and purposeful.

Backsplash Design Ideas to Avoid

While backsplashes offer ample room for creativity and self-expression through tile materials, colors, and textures, there are a few design approaches you may want to avoid:

  • Overwhelming small kitchens – Oversized patterned tiles or intense colors can sometimes overpower tiny kitchen spaces.
  • Dark hues in dim kitchens – Using deep navy, black, or ebony backsplashes in a kitchen with minimal natural light or small windows can result in a