A kitchen remodel is an exciting endeavor but can be a daunting one too. Kitchen remodels involve many elements and must balance functionality and style to create a space where you can cook, dine, help with homework, relax with friends, and entertain. One of the essential, but often overlooked, elements of a kitchen design is the backsplash. This wall space above your countertops must be protected from grease, food splatters, and moisture, but also look great and connect the style of your kitchen cabinets and countertop. It is also one of the hardest areas to clean and maintain.

textured kitchen backsplash

The material you select influences the style, functionality, and ongoing maintenance of your kitchen design, so you must choose a surface that fits your home and family’s requirements. Get started with our guide to kitchen backsplash styles!

How does a backsplash affect your kitchen design functionality?

The backsplash simply refers to the area between your countertop and upper cabinets. In general, this typically means the wall area behind your kitchen sink or cooktop in a kitchen design. The backsplash is essential in a kitchen, which is so prone to moisture, grease, steam, food splatters, and more. Backsplashes protect your walls from spills and splashes, making them easier to clean and maintain in a busy kitchen.

A kitchen backsplash covers a space that is typically about 18 inches high, but can be much higher, even extending all the way to the ceiling. Choosing a material to cover this space is a key component of your kitchen remodeling plans, as you want it to look good but also be durable and easy to clean. Every material used for a backsplash should be able to withstand food splatters and moisture and be washable. The ease of ongoing maintenance varies widely from one backsplash to the next.

kitchen with mosaic tile backsplash

Your kitchen remodeling process should start by considering your needs and how you plan to use your newly remodeled space. Take into account who uses the kitchen and how often. Do you have small children or are you “empty nesters”, remodeling for your own use and for aging in place? How often do you cook, do you entertain frequently, and how willing are you to spend time on cleaning and maintaining your backsplash? If you know that you will be cooking daily for your family and don’t have time to keep up with cleaning an intricate mosaic tile backsplash, then choose a surface that better fits your lifestyle.

How does the backsplash influence your room’s style?

There are many elements of a kitchen design that affect your overall style, including kitchen cabinets, countertops, flooring, hardware, other accessories, and more. The backsplash is also an essential component of any kitchen design, and a highly visible surface that is sure to catch the eye as soon as someone walks into the room. The backsplash sits at eye level and is essential to connecting other key design elements like the cabinetry and countertop. If you choose to include a section of open shelving in place of upper cabinets or to extend your backsplash to the ceiling, then your backsplash really takes center stage.

white subway tile backsplash

Think about your kitchen color palette and what role you want your backsplash to play. Should your backsplash blend with your kitchen cabinets and countertop to create a unified style vibe? If so, would you consider choosing a backsplash material in the same color scheme but varying the pattern or texture to create a more pleasing visual display? Alternatively, would you like your backsplash to stand out by choosing a contrasting color, such as white subway tile against dark cabinetry, or a dark slab surface against white or beige cabinets? You could also opt for a neutral backsplash but create a focal point in one section with a contrasting tile color or pattern.

The backsplash is more than an afterthought when planning your kitchen design style, so make sure you consider this surface alongside choosing cabinetry, countertops, and flooring. It helps to visit kitchen design websites or social media accounts to find inspiration. Bring these pictures along to your kitchen design consultation, and then work with your design expert to pull together products that bring your vision to life. Create a mood board with samples to see how they all fit together.

kitchen design mood board

What things do you need to consider when choosing a backsplash?

The choices for a backsplash material seem endless, so how can you narrow down these selections to the ideal one for your kitchen design? There are a number of factors related to both your kitchen’s design aesthetic and practical considerations. Here are some of the key factors you should consider when selecting your kitchen’s backsplash.

Functional considerations:

  • Your kitchen’s layout and the position of key appliances and work zones. From a purely practical standpoint, you need the backsplash most where the mess happens. Look at the position of your cooking area and sink and make sure you are covered for moisture, grease, and food splatters in these spaces.
  • The style of your kitchen cabinet design and your storage needs. If you are going for a streamlined look with wall to wall and floor to ceiling cabinets, then your backsplash requirements may be more limited. On the other hand, if you plan to leave one wall free of cabinets, perhaps with the addition of floating shelves to display decorative items, then you need to plan for a larger backsplash surface area.
  • Your approach to cooking, cleaning, and ongoing maintenance. If you have a busy household and cook regularly, then you know how much water, grease, and food gets splattered in a kitchen. The backsplash bears the brunt of this mess, as it tends to be situated in these zones in your kitchen. Think about how you use your kitchen and choose a backsplash material that fits your lifestyle. Likewise, think about how committed you are to cleaning and maintenance. You may love a natural stone material or a mosaic tile surface, but unless you are willing to follow a strict cleaning regiment and perform ongoing maintenance like sealing grout lines, you will regret choosing these materials. Instead go for something durable, easily washable, and low maintenance that will make your life easier!
modern kitchen design with gray cabinets

Style considerations:

  • Color: The backsplash covers a large, visible surface in your kitchen design. This makes it a prime opportunity to influence your room’s style. Choose a color that fits your overall design vibe and color scheme. Decide if you want your backsplash to blend in with the surrounding materials or to stand out. If you have dark cabinetry, you could go for a classic white subway tile, or alternatively choose a dark or bright backsplash to contrast white or ivory cabinets.
  • Shape and Pattern: Color is not the only way to create a stylish backsplash design. If you are choosing a tiled surface, you have the opportunity to select from a wide range of shapes and sizes, ranging form large slabs to the smallest mosaic tiles, flowers, arabesque, diamond, rectangular, and much more. Change the look of your backsplash by choosing to arrange your tiles in a pattern, for example with a herringbone arrangement.
  • Material and Texture: There are many materials available for a kitchen design backsplash, with porcelain or ceramic tile among the most popular. Natural stone is another top choice, but keep in mind that many natural materials are prone to staining and must be sealed over time to maintain their appearance. A glass sheet or quartz slab offers an alternative surface that is stylish and among the easiest to clean and maintain. The material you choose allows you to alter the look and feel of your kitchen with textured surfaces. From smooth slabs to textured natural stone or wavy tiles, textures bring another dimension to your kitchen design.
ceiling height kitchen backsplash

Finally, consider your budget when choosing a backsplash material. What is your total kitchen remodeling budget and how much can you allocate for a backsplash material? The total cost of your backsplash will depend on the material you choose, how easy it is to install, and how much of it you need. If you are extending your backsplash to the ceiling or covering a wall with no cabinets, your material and installation costs will go up (though this is offset by a reduced cost for cabinetry). If you love a more expensive material but can’t afford to cover your wall in it, consider choosing this material for a small tile feature and surround it with a more budget-friendly option.

What are the latest trends in backsplash styles?

The latest trends in backsplash styles will help to inspire your choices, as will browsing websites, looking at social media pages, and visiting design showrooms in person. Here are some of the top trends in backsplash styles to get you started:

ceiling height white backsplash
  • Slab surfaces: This sleek, clean look has gained in popularity as it is a beautiful surface to complement your kitchen design while also being one of the easiest to clean and maintain. With no grout lines and limited seams, particularly in a material like quartz, you can’t go wrong with a slab backsplash.
  • Subway tile: This classic has been around for over a century in kitchens but has really gained in popularity in the 2000s and has no sign of its popularity waning. Recent trends see subway tile appearing in different colors and finishes, varied sizes, and updated patterns and configurations.
  • Ceiling height: One of the top trends in kitchen cabinets is to focus on base cabinets for storage and remove at least one section of wall cabinets. This also leaves a bare wall that can be transformed into a stylish focal point with the right materials. Choose a material, color, or pattern you love and take it all the way to the top in a ceiling height backsplash design.
  • Pretty patterns: While subway and slab are proving popular choices, so are the array of new shapes available such as diamonds and arabesque patterns. Or take standard rectangular tiles and change up their appearance by creating a pattern, such as a staggered brick or herringbone.
  • Natural stone: Natural materials are always popular choices for a luxury kitchen design, from stone countertops to wood cabinetry. Stone is also a popular choice for a backsplash, including stone slabs and tiles. Though some of these materials, like marble, are more difficult to maintain, their unparalleled, one-of-a-kind beauty will transform any kitchen design. You could limit a stone surface to one section of your kitchen backsplash, where it will be less prone to staining.
wood cabinetry with textured tile backsplash

Now it’s time to choose the surface that best fits your needs. Browse online and in person to find the styles that fit your aesthetic and consider how they fit together with your other design elements. Weigh up your priorities to figure out which material and configuration is best for you, then balance this against your available budget. Your kitchen design expert can guide you through this process, recommend materials and styles, and help you to narrow down the choices. Get more ideas in our kitchen design gallery and then contact our team to start planning your new design!

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