10 Kitchens Where the Backsplash Is the Main Event

Subway tile isn’t your only option.

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In the world of kitchen backsplashes, subway tile reigns supreme—but it’s also a tad predictable. Instead see the area between your countertop and upper cabinets as an opportunity to add a dose of character to an otherwise ordinary space. Even though it’s often overlooked, the kitchen backsplash is a spot brimming with untapped potential.

When it comes to selecting the appropriate tile, shape, style, size, and finish all warrant careful thought and consideration. Although here’s the thing: There isn’t one right answer. If you know you want to go bold but aren’t sure where to begin, we’ve got you covered with 10 drop-dead gorgeous spaces in which the backsplash is the undisputed star.

Check Yourself

checkered backsplash
Photography by Christopher Horwood

The backsplash in this English countryside retreat, dubbed Charlotte’s Folly, was so bold that designer Emma Ainscough’s clients almost turned it down at first. Red and white checkers everywhere, and with blue cabinets? “Generally, they agreed that more was more, but this one took a little bit of warming to,” says Ainscough. Paired with sky blue cabinets and a delicate flower-inspired pendant lamp, the result is utterly charming. 

Spread the Love From Wall to Wall

red tiled backsplash
Photography by Mellon Studio

In an open-concept kitchen as large as the one in this Laguna Beach home, designed by Jen Samson, the details can get lost because your eye is going in a million different directions—from the living room TV to the walk-in pantry. So it helps when your backsplash is so all-consuming (a colorful zellige helps) that it reels your attention back in.

Explore the Spectrum of Marbles

green backsplash
Photography by Stephen Paul

“I’m not afraid to be bold and make a statement no matter what people say,” says Eric Bach, the owner of this Echo Park Craftsman, which stars at trippy green marble in the kitchen. It was this exact stone that inspired him to call up designer Leah Ring of Another Human in the first place. She had posted a similar slab on her Instagram and he became obsessed. What ensued from his gut feeling was a gut reno.

Take It to the Ceiling

terra cotta walls

In order to make this heavy, dark Spanish terracotta tile from Walker Zanger feel modern in this contemporary Brooklyn home, designers Amanda Jesse and Whitney Parris-Lamb covered every possible surface in the stuff, including the vent hood and a small window ledge. The result is minimal yet monolithic—and far from old-fashioned.

Stick to the Cooking Area

white and wood kitchen with earthy materials

Drawing inspiration from Morocco and Mexico, Natalie Saunders and her husband, Louis Litrenta, kept their Joshua Tree kitchen as natural as possible with plaster cabinets, reclaimed wood doors, and an olive green backsplash by Clé Tile applied only behind the stove. The splash of color, which the couple chose to mirror the shades of desert flora, is all the flavor this space needs.

Sandwich Pattern Between Opposing Colors

pink and green kitchen

The graphic Moroccan cement tile Dabito put in his guesthouse kitchenette acts as a barrier between the pink walls and the green cabinetry as well as a visual break from the two whimsical hues. This way, the space reads playful not overwhelming.

Embrace Tiny Details

blue and white line tiles

A backsplash can feel dynamic, even when it features the most straightforward geometric forms. The secret? Vibrant grout. When you step back from this blue and white design, the lines create a textilelike pattern on the wall.

Be Gutsy With Neon

neon yellow tiles

Brynn Jones didn’t have to make a statement with a moody cabinet color or dramatic marble countertop—the electric yellow-green backsplash says it all. The hit of chartreuse also calls attention to the mini shelf running along the length of the cupboards, which houses her ever-growing collection of vintage glassware. 

Turn Your Tile on Its Head

Photo Courtesy of Sarah Sherman Samuel

Take a lesson from one of Sarah Sherman Samuel’s latest kitchen projects for graphic designer Bri Emery and lay out half your tile horizontally, half vertically. Depending on where you look, the result is either classic (the swaths of simple stripes) or totally contemporary (where the lines meet).

Save by Going Small

Photo by Aaron Bengochea

This kitchen ticks multiple boxes in the trend department, including farmhouse sink and rustic-mod cabinetry crafted from plywood. But it’s the backsplash that takes things to the next level. The mini hexagon tile immediately captures your attention, and best of all it’s inexpensive!