White Subway Backsplash with Black Countertop – Timeless Combination

A white subway backsplash paired with black countertops creates a timeless and classic look for any kitchen. This elegant color combination has remained popular for decades and continues to be a top trend in kitchen design. There are many reasons why this look stands the test of time and remains a go-to choice for many homeowners.

Why Choose a White Subway Tile Backsplash

Subway tile gets its name from the look of classic white rectangular tiles used to line subway stations. This clean, understated tile has been used in kitchens since the early 1900s. Here are some of the benefits of using subway tile for your backsplash:

Timeless Look

White subway tile has an ageless appeal that fits right in with both traditional and modern kitchen aesthetics. The simplicity of the tiles allows the beauty of natural materials like wood or stone countertops to shine. Subway tile backsplashes have been common in kitchen design for over a century and continue to feel fresh and current.

Affordable Option

Part of the enduring popularity of subway tile is that it provides an affordable and attractive backsplash material. The tiles are readily available at most home improvement stores for just a few dollars per square foot. Subway tile is easy for do-it-yourselfers to install, keeping labor costs low. This makes subway tile one of the most budget-friendly backsplash choices.

Easy to Clean

The smooth, glazed surface of subway tiles resists stains and is easy to wipe clean. This makes white subway tile perfect for the busy kitchen backsplash area which is prone to splatters and spills. Just a quick wipe with a sponge or cloth keeps the tiles looking fresh.

Reflects Light

The bright white color and glossy finish of subway tile reflects light beautifully in the kitchen. This can make the space seem larger and brighter. Reflective subway tiles also provide the perfect backdrop for displaying decorative items against the backsplash.

Design Flexibility

While a simple white subway tile backsplash is classic, there are also many ways to add interest by getting creative with the tile design. Subway tiles can be installed in fun patterns like herringbone, chevron, basketweave, or stacked. Mixing in glass, marble, or ceramic decorative tiles can further customize the look.

Matches Any Style

Clean and basic white subway tiles fit seamlessly into both modern and traditional kitchen settings. The versatility of subway tile makes it a perfect backsplash for contemporary, eclectic, farmhouse, Victorian, cottage, or retro style kitchens.

Why Pair Subway Tile Backsplashes with Black Countertops

Team subway tile with black countertops and you’ve instantly created a kitchen with timeless drama and appeal. Here’s an overview of the benefits of combining these two elements:

Classic Contrast

The high contrast between white subway tile and black countertops is eye-catching and creates a bold classic look. This pairing has been used for over 50 years in kitchen design and still feels current and stylish. The super light and super dark combo is a perfect way to make a design statement.

Sleek and Modern

While a white and black kitchen works with traditional decor, it also easily creates a contemporary vibe. The color scheme is often seen in modern minimalist kitchens and gives off an updated, urban feeling. Black counters with white subway tile backsplash is an effortlessly sleek combination.

Emphasize Natural Materials

Pairing a black natural stone countertop like granite or soapstone with a white backsplash helps each element stand out. The subway tile highlights the veining and patterns in the black stone beautifully. This allows you to fully appreciate the look of the countertop material.

Easy to Accessorize

White subway tile and black countertops effortlessly work with stainless steel appliances, black hardware, pendant lights, and both chrome or black metal fixtures. These basic colors are easy to accessorize with any style of decor.

Dramatic Contrast

Going super light and super dark with your kitchen color scheme makes a dramatic style statement. The contrast draws the eye and really focalizes the backsplash and countertop areas of the kitchen. It creates a bold, memorable look.

Elegant Sophistication

White and black kitchens give off an elegant, formal vibe. The color combo looks upscale and sophisticated, perfect for creating a refined space. Black counters and white tile backsplashes help elevate the overall aesthetic.

Choosing Black Countertops for White Subway Tile Backsplash

Now that you’ve decided on a classic white subway tile backsplash, an important choice is picking the right style of black countertop. Here are some of the most popular options:


Granite countertops come in many black and dark gray designs that complement white subway tile beautifully. The natural patterning and speckling in the granite adds movement and interest. Polished black granite paired with matte subway tiles makes for nice textural contrast.


A traditional choice, soapstone has a dark charcoal hue and gentle marbling that suits a white subway backsplash. Soapstone is naturally antibacterial and develops a patina from use over time, giving vintage appeal. Soapstone also withstands hot items, making it ideal for kitchens.


For an upscale look, pair white subway tiles with polished black marble countertops. The white veins within black marble pair nicely with the clean white tile. However, marble requires regular sealing to prevent stains.


Engineered quartz offers the look of natural stone but is virtually maintenance free. Many companies offer black quartz slabs with white stone-like flecks that blend beautifully with classic white subway tiles. Quartz is affordable, durable, and easy to clean.


For a budget-friendly option, black laminate countertops offer modern style on a smaller budget. Matte laminate in black provides an attractive contrast to white subway tile. High-pressure laminate resists scratches, stains, heat, and moisture.

Butcher Block

Stained, sealed black walnut or oak butcher block make for a handsome pairing with white subway tile backsplashes. The wood grain provides texture and the dark tone wooded provides the desired contrast. Butcher block must be regularly oiled to maintain its luster.

Design Ideas for White Subway Tile and Black Countertop Combos

Here are some stylish kitchen design ideas that use white subway tiles paired with black countertops:

All-Over Contrast

For dramatic appeal, run black granite countertops and a full subway tile backsplash from top to bottom of the kitchen. Contrasting upper and lower cabinets in black and white enhances the bold look. Stainless steel appliances keep the palette classic.

Herringbone Pattern

Laying subway tiles in a herringbone pattern adds visual interest to the backsplash. Pair with black quartz countertops and vintage-inspired fixtures for a retro vibe. Use black penny tile as an accent in the herringbone layout.

Modern Farmhouse

A white shaker-style cabinetry, black soapstone counters, and subway tile backsplash creates a contemporary farmhouse look. Wrought iron fixtures, pendant lighting, and stainless appliances fit the aesthetic.

Contemporary Style

For contemporary appeal, install stark black laminate counters with bright white subway tiles. LED under cabinet lighting illuminates the crisp tilework. Built-in shelving, recessed lighting, and integrated appliances reinforce the modern style.

Glass Accent Tiles

Adding a strip of black, gray, or mirrored glass subway tiles in the center of a white tile backsplash adds drama. Paired with dark granite countertops, bold black grout completes the sophisticated vibe.

Bold Floors

Pairing black-and-white checkered vinyl flooring with a white subway tile backsplash and black soapstone counters makes the floor a standout element. White shaker cabinets keep the kitchen feeling fresh.

Mix Natural Stone

Choose white marble subway tiles and combine with honed black granite countertops. The blend of natural stones provides organic contrast. Ornate vintage light fixtures play up the traditional charm.

Diagonal Layout

Stacking subway tiles diagonally makes the backsplash more dynamic. Pair with dark gray quartz countertops and stainless appliances for a lively modern space. Widening grout lines adds to the directional layout.

Benefits of the Black and White Color Palette

Beyond just looking stylish, choosing a black and white color scheme for your kitchen backsplash and countertops comes with many practical advantages:

  • Timeless and never goes out of style
  • Creates an elegant, upscale aesthetic
  • High contrast palette makes a bold statement
  • Easy to accessorize and match with any decor
  • Dark counters hide dirt and wear well
  • Light tiles help keep the space bright
  • Easy to change later – just swap out countertop or tile
  • Options at all budget levels for tiles and counters
  • Classic color palette fits any home style
  • Easy to sell when it comes time – has widespread appeal

Caring for White Subway Tile Backsplash

White subway tile backsplashes are relatively easy to maintain, which is part of their enduring popularity. Here are some tips for keeping your subway tiles looking like new:

  • Use a gentle cleanser designed for tile and avoid abrasive scrubbing
  • Wipe up spills and splatters quickly to prevent staining
  • Re-seal grout every 1-2 years to prevent cracking and discoloration
  • Use a squeegee after cleaning to prevent water spots and mineral deposits
  • Rinse with clean water frequently when cleaning to avoid residue build up
  • Consider applying a tile sealer 1-2 times per year for added protection
  • For tough stains, use a baking soda paste, hydrogen peroxide, or vinegar solution
  • Avoid using actual bleach products on tile grout, as this can cause fading
  • Do not let soap scum, grease, oils, or food build up on tile surface

With just simple regular care, white subway tile backsplashes will maintain their classic beauty for decades. Pairing them with dark countertops like black granite, soapstone, or quartz creates a timeless and elegant kitchen look. This striking combination of light and dark natural materials never goes out of style.

Frequently Asked Questions About White Subway Tile Backsplashes with Black Countertops

What color cabinets go well with white subway tile backsplash and black countertops?

White shaker or traditional wood cabinets pair beautifully with this classic color scheme, as do cabinets stained in black for an ultra-high contrast look. Gray painted cabinets also complement the black and white palette nicely.

What kind of grout should I use with white subway tile backsplash?

White sanded grout is the traditional choice and will blend in well with the tiles. However, many designers are now choosing dark gray or black grout with white subway tiles as a contrasting accent.

Should I install subway tile vertically or horizontally?

The traditional method is installing vertically, as this helps walls appear taller. But horizontal installation is also common for a more contemporary look. Mix it up by stacking tiles vertically and horizontally in bands.

What tile patterns look good with subway tile?

Herringbone patterns add visual intrigue, as do chevron and brickwork layouts. You can also create patterns by mixing in mosaic tiles or by stacking subway tiles diagonally. Use different sizes of subway tile for interest.

Can I use subway tile as my kitchen countertop?

While challenging, it is possible to use subway tile for countertops. Be sure to use smaller grout lines and seal properly. Larger format tiles hold up better. But traditional countertop materials like granite are easier.

Is white subway tile too plain for a backsplash?

White subway tile creates a simple, clean look that works in both modern and traditional kitchens. To make it less plain, install in a fun pattern, mix in glass or marble accent tiles, or choose a bold grout color.

How do I cut subway tiles?

Use a wet saw fitted with a diamond tile blade to accurately cut subway tile. Alternatively, score and snap tiles with tile nippers. Use a rod saw for small notches like around outlets. Apply painter’s tape before marking cuts.

Achieving a Timeless Look with White and Black Kitchen Design

The classic combination of a white subway tile backsplash against dark countertops is a reliably stylish and timeless kitchen decorating choice. This elegant high contrast look has remained popular for decades thanks to its versatility to suit any style of kitchen decor. Going with a light and dark color scheme makes a dramatic statement and pairs beautifully with stainless steel appliances and chrome or black fixtures for easy accessorizing.

White subway tile backsplashes offer a budget-friendly, easy to clean tile option that reflects light beautifully to enhance small spaces. Pairing it with luxurious black countertop materials like granite, marble or soapstone creates stylish contrast and allows you to highlight the natural patterns in the stone. For a more contemporary vibe, white subway tile also pops against black laminate or quartz countertops.

Take your pick of design styles, like modern, contemporary, retro, industrial, traditional, or farmhouse, and this classic color scheme will work seamlessly. With just basic care to keep the tiles cleaned and grout sealed, a black and white kitchen backsplash and countertop provides enduring sophistication and elegance for years to come.