Kitchen Design

11 Backsplash Ideas We're Saving for Our Dream Kitchens

From modern mosaic to homey heritage, we've got it all covered.

May 13, 2020
Photo by Austin Day

Our kitchen was a tight-budget, DIY renovation. Each element had to have a big impact, including our backsplash. Our base cabinets and countertop already had some color and the wall cabinets were white so I decided to go with a white tile for the backsplash to bring the two levels together. I found a subway tile with a handmade texture. I liked it because I knew this was an area that could tell on this DIY project—the organic lines would soften any mistakes when installing.

My husband, Austin and I chose to have the tiles stacked vertically instead of staggered horizontally for a more modern approach to a timeless material. We started by centering the first tile directly under the window by the sink for symmetry. We calculated how many tiles would need to be trimmed in the section we were working on and cut them at the same time to make the process more efficient. That way, we weren’t cutting, adhering, cutting adhering, etc. between every tile. Instead of using tile spacers, we set each tile up against each other. The uneven sides of the artisanal tiles made for the more organic form we were hoping for. We installed each row before moving to the next row.

Once the all tiles were applied with mastic, we let them sit for 24 hours to cure. The next afternoon, Austin grouted while his dad followed with a tile sponge to remove excess grout. It only took a few hours to grout the tile. We had never tiled a backsplash before but stacking the tiles in a grid, using a more forgiving tile, and intentionally laying out the design to be symmetrical made the process less intimidating and even a little fun. All in all, we love the look of our backsplash. It was inexpensive, easy to learn to do, and finished our space perfectly.

We learned so much along the way from looking at and studying all our options (even if only to dream!), so here are 11 beautiful backsplash ideas—from traditional to homey and even the unconventional. I hope they can spark ideas of your own.


Repurposed

Anastasia Casey of The Identité Collective used vertical paneling for the majority of her kitchen wall treatment instead of a traditional tile or stone but gave a great tip for a beautiful stone feature behind the range. “If you go with natural stone, you have to buy it by the slab. We had to buy two slabs to cover our counters, but only needed about 1.5 of the material. I was able to have them cut our marble backsplash out of the leftovers and only paid for the installation since the marble would otherwise go to waste,” Anastasia shares.


Traditional 4

Ames Interiors always shares gorgeous kitchens but this one stopped me in my tracks. I’ve thought of the 4-inch backsplash as a thing of the past but seeing it in one of Amy Hansen’s more recent reveals makes it feel fresh and new. The simplicity of the backsplash gives even more focus to the gorgeous open shelves and hutch.

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Top Comment:
“I thought I was being clever when I chose textured tiles that would hide midday splatters or everyday grime. Then I realized that it's not easy to differentiate grime and pattern over time. You never know just how clean or dirty the tiles are, and you can be out-damn-spotting, only to realize that this particular seemingly dirty groove is actually a feature of the tile. I dream of replacing it all with smooth tile. Wipes clean easily, and you can run your hand over the surface to tell just how clean it is, or if some residue persists.”
— M
Comment

To protect the walls from splatters with a 4-inch backsplash, it’d be helpful to use a satin or semi-gloss paint for easy maintenance.


Perfect-Imperfect

A Florida farmhouse renovation by homeowner Becky Daly included this stunning tile backsplash from counter to ceiling. The classic brick pattern makes the space look timeless. The variation in color and texture of the tiles gives it an old-world feel and hides mid-day cooking spatters.

In fact, there's a whole trend now towards more rough hewn, irregular handmade tile. Like zellige, a centuries-old Moroccan handmade tradition of tile-making that has found a sizable fanbase of people who will happily eschew perfection for lots of variation in color and surface consistency.


Continuous stone

The designer behind Eye Swoon, Athena Calderone, completely renovated her kitchen in just two months. Before, horizontally stacked green subway tiles ran all the way up to the ceiling. In her redesign, she brought a beautifully veined Calacatta Monet marble backsplash halfway up the wall to meet a shelf created in the same stone.

A slab like this would be easy to clean since there isn’t any grout to get grimy. Keeping items on a shelf from getting dusty is always easier when it’s styled with pieces that are used almost daily like bowls and drinking glasses.


Mosaic masterpiece

This might not technically be from a kitchen (it’s a laundry room!) but this mosaic backsplash tile is so inspiring! Designer Lindye Galloway says, “Instead of going with white subway tile, we used a collection of penny tiles in an angled pattern with brass schluter (edging) in between.”

Choosing a monochromatic palette like this one balances the fun pattern with a little subtlety.


Mirrored

Non-traditional materials can make for major wow-factor. Fashion blogger, Carmen Hamilton had Decus Interiors redesign her 1940s apartment. Instead of tile or stone, they created the kitchen backsplash with a seamless mirror. The kitchen isn’t huge but feels much larger and brighter with the reflection in the mirror.

Instead of installing with mastic like a standard tiled backsplash, be sure to use a really powerful construction adhesive. A microfiber cloth and some glass cleaner on hand will be your best friends.


Old World Anew

Old world materials and modern design coexist beautifully in Ericka Vocking’s kitchen. Thin sheets of copper create a sleek backsplash that will patina over time. Want to keep the copper from spotting and aging? Ericka recommends copper polish but prefers the staining and beautification that comes with natural aging.


Home heritage

A small amount of vintage charm can go a long way. This cottage in Oxfordshire, England used 15 antique Delft tiles as the kitchen backsplash to create something captivating. Instead of modernizing the space, Alexandra Tolystoy leaned into the home’s history and embraced era-appropriate finishes, colors and materials.


Rough Finish

There is so much to love about this DIY backsplash from Allie Beckwith—the genius use of concrete, the counter-to-ceiling application and the fact that it only took her 5 hours from start to finish. If you have plain drywall or want to resurface the backsplash after removing tile, this could be a great idea to try. It’s cost effective and definitely makes a statement.


Paper work

Shifting away from the standard tile backsplash can have its perks. Choosing to use a wallpaper allows homeowners and renters to customize their kitchens in a whole new way. There are so many beautiful and graphic options for temporary wallpaper these days and with a sheet of plexiglass to protect the paper, this backsplash can be as durable as any other.

Pamela Hodgkins has used wallpaper in several of her designs and chose this fun Hygge & West pattern for a vacation rental kitchen. Temporary wallpapers can be a great solution for renters with plain drywall in their kitchens if applied and cared for correctly.


Temporarily transformed

Peel-and-stick tile has come a long way the past few years. Renters that want to customize their apartment kitchens and homeowners that want a fast fix have a huge selection of peel-and-stick tiles to choose from. Individual decals and prearranged sheets can give a backsplash a new aesthetic without damage to the walls or the rental deposit—they can even be applied on top of existing backsplash tile.

Desirée Guy’s kitchen looks completely renovated without any actual renovating. Instead, she painted the cabinets (she owns the place!) and used peel-and-stick backsplash tiles in a herringbone pattern from Wall Pops. If she ever decides to switch out the stickers for something else, all she needs to do is carefully peel it off.

Which of these would you like to try next? Tell us in the comments below!

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Lauren Day

Written by: Lauren Day

Interiors Writer, Editorial Stylist & DIY Enthusiast

2 Comments

AntoniaJames May 15, 2020
I have a stainless backsplash behind my 6 burner stove + heat lamps built into my hood with stainless warming shelves about halfway up (which can be flipped up, flush against the backsplash when not in use). Perhaps it's not every designer's favorite look, but for sheer convenience - I use the shelves to warm plates, and as a great landing spot during cooking and baking for quarter sheet pans, small to medium saucepans and skillets, etc. -- the whole setup is as dreamy to this practical cook as any fancy tiles. ;o) https://www.amazon.com/Vent-A-Hood-Warming-Shelf-Assembly-30/dp/B00FCKJ76Q
 
M May 14, 2020
I thought I was being clever when I chose textured tiles that would hide midday splatters or everyday grime. Then I realized that it's not easy to differentiate grime and pattern over time. You never know just how clean or dirty the tiles are, and you can be out-damn-spotting, only to realize that this particular seemingly dirty groove is actually a feature of the tile. I dream of replacing it all with smooth tile. Wipes clean easily, and you can run your hand over the surface to tell just how clean it is, or if some residue persists.