Published on July 20, 2019

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

When it comes to selecting the appropriate tile, there are a number of factors to consider: Shape, style, size, and finish are all integral details that warrant careful thought and consideration. Not sure where to start? We rounded up a handful of beautifully designed kitchens where the backsplash is the undisputed star of the space. See for yourself.

Turn Your Tile on Its Head

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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 and the other half vertically. The result is classic with a surprising twist.

Swap Subway Tile With Zellige

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Photo by Zeke Ruelas

If you gravitate toward the clean look of a simple white subway backsplash but want to push the envelope a bit, try Moroccan Zellige tile instead. The glossy white-on-white look is equally timeless, but the handcrafted texture is refreshingly different.

Select a Bold Marble

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Photo Courtesy of Jean Charles Tomas Interior Design

White Carrara marble is great, but for a more unique surface, choose a stone with contrasting veining, like in this Paris kitchen by Jean Charles Tomas. It makes an especially striking statement against a black-and-white color scheme. Pst: If you don’t want to continue the backsplash all the way to the ceiling, a small shelf is a perfect way to break up the wall.

Establish Ambiance with a Dark Stone

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Photo by Sarah Elliott for Elizabeth Roberts Architecture

Are you looking to create a dramatic space without skewing too trendy? Start with ever-popular white cabinets and light oak hardware, and then pair them with a slick matte black marble slab countertop and backsplash.

Consider Untreated Brass

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Courtesy of Naked Kitchens

Yes, your backsplash can be made out of a single sheet of untreated brass. In this English kitchen, forest green walls and matching seamless cabinets provide a moody backdrop for the striking metal backsplash.

Add a Pop of Color

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Photo by Hervé Goluza for Camille Hermand Architecture

If you already have your backsplash chosen but still want to give it a little oomph, add a pop of color with a bold shelf in a cheery turquoise or similarly bold hue. Down the road, you can easily switch up the hue with a lick of paint.

Create an Optical Illusion

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Photo by Aaron Bengochea

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

Choose Backsplash and Floor Tile in Tandem

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Photo by Aaron Bengochea

Our eyes immediately go to the wildly untraditional backsplash tile in this kitchen, but the complementary patterned floor and cabinets are equally striking. Make sure your design choices speak to one another—that’s the key to kitchen success.

Go Untraditional

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Photography by Aaron Bengochea

Embracing a material other than tile is something we can get behind. Take notes from this Brooklyn abode, where whitewashed brick makes an ideal counterpart to warm wood shelving and an eclectic slew of free-spirited accessories.

This story was originally published in December 2018 and has since been updated with new information.

Read More:
How to Care for Every Type of Backsplash
The Cement Tiles We’re Craving Right Now
Metallic Tiles Are Having a Moment