Changing the backsplash can make an amazing difference to a boring-looking kitchen. If your kitchen is basically OK – the layout works and the cabinets and finishes are in good shape, but the whole thing lacks pizazz – putting in a new backsplash is one of the easiest ways to make over the space.
This article covers a wide range of kitchen backsplash ideas that you can use in your own kitchen, either as part of a larger-scale kitchen makeover, or as a single project. Of course, you can also use them when remodeling ir building a brand new kitchen!
Existing Kitchen Backsplash Tile
Existing plain tile can be jazzed up without ripping out the whole thing. From least to most work:
- Add transfers, stickers or painted motifs to some plain tiles right where they are
- Hang a large flat object over the tiles: a platter, picture, photo, print, tray, laminated fabric or wallpaper panel, placemat, large single tile or plaque, or a shadow box. Make sure if you’re hanging it where it may get splashed, that it’s easily cleanable, and if it’s going behind the range, that it’s non-flammable and won’t get damaged by grease splashes.
- Add a border or molding tile to the top of the backsplash, or wood molding
- Install removable glass or clear plastic rigid sheet panels over top of the tile, in such a way that you can insert wallpaper or fabric behind the glass.
- Install a new backsplash right over the top of the old tiles, using tile, wood, metal or other materials
- Remove single tiles in a random or ordered pattern, and insert new tiles in a contrast or complementary color or pattern
Creating a New Backsplash
If you’re working on a fresh backsplash area, or you’ve ripped out the old one to put in a brand new one, you have lots of options.
Kitchen Backsplash Tile Designs
There are a huge number of ways to lay out tile. Using an unusual layout or arrangement can make even the most basic tile look special. Here are some possibilities, shown in black and white with tan grout but can be laid out in any color scheme:
Square tiles set on point, with smaller squares at meeting corners
These are plain square tiles set “on point” so they look like diamonds, with smaller squares set into the meeting points.The small and large squares can contrast or blend in color; you can use very special small tiles with plain, more economical large tiles; you could use textured small tiles, or pebbles or round glass blobs, even stars or other unusual shapes set into teh grout square formed by the cut off corners of the larger squares.
This design requires that every large tile has to have all its corners accurately cut off. That’s a lot of cutting. To reduce the amount of cutting, you can dispense with the small squares completely and use patterned or textured tiles for the large squares, or a checkerboard or other color pattern for the large squares. You could also only have small squares at the points every second or third large square instead of every one.
Square tiles with small diamonds at meeting corners
This design uses exactly the same shapes as the one above, but the design is at 45 degrees. There is less cutting of the large tiles at the edges of the design. All the same variations as above can be used.
Several different colors of glass tile would look especially good in this design: perhaps several tones of blue in the larger tiles, with green, purple, yellow or red tones for the small tiles.
Grout colors can make a surprising amount of difference to how your tile design looks. A grout color which blends with one tile color will have a very different effect from one that blends with another tile color, or that contrasts with all the tile colors.
Tile size can also make a big difference to the look: this pattern could be made the usual way using 6″ tile for the large tiles, or you could use much smaller field tiles (2″, with dots for the small diamonds) or much larger, like 12″, which for a backsplash would give you two rows of large tiles with only one row of small diamonds down the middle.
Subway tile set in running bond
Subway tiles are very fashionable now, and you can get them not only in traditional white, but many other colors, plus different sizes. Again, grout color combined with tile colors can have different effects, and while the traditional way to use subway tile is in a single color (with perhaps a band or border at the top or bottom), you can use different colors to make designs within the running bond brick-like pattern.
Historic subway tile was flat all over, whereas modern tile has a “pillowy” look to it, with the center higher than the edges. You can still get the flat type but historical accuracy will cost you more, so only get it if you need it.
Subway-type tiles are available in various sizes and proportions, and different materials like stone as well as ceramic tiles, as these pictures show:
Stone tiles with textured copper tile band at the top
Elongated subway tiles with band of textured stone strips at the top
Grey marble backsplash design with mosaic band and molding above
Design ideas above by Powell River Custom Tile and Marble
Tiles are available in many materials and many sizes: ceramic, stone of many kinds, and glass: large and small, square, rectangular, hexagonal, harlequin diamonds, mosaic in patterns and random shades, even custom mosaic color patterns.
More tile ideas include:
- feature tiles in strategic places, using a few expensive antique or handmade tiles in a field of mostly economical tile
- tiled niches behind counters, sinks or ranges
- using quilt patterns as feature areas, assembled from cut squares and triangles of tile
- multi-section painted tile pictures and scenes
More Backsplash Materials
Anything you can use on a counter can be used on a backsplash, either to match or contrast with the counter. Solid surfacing, laminate, granite, terrazo, recycled glass, quartz – in some cases you can get the material in thinner sheets to use on the backsplash, which is less expensive than the thicker countertop material.
Flooring material can also make a good backsplash, and you can sometimes come across great deals where someone has a stash which is not enough for a floor, but plenty for a backsplash. Wood, stone, cork or bamboo flooring: laminate in wood or stone patterns: even sheet vinyl or genuine linoleum can all be used.
Metals can also make a great backsplash. Stainless steel is fashionable at the moment, and can be used flat or in various textures: other metal sheeting like copper can look great, especially in a hammered finish: patterned metal “tin” ceiling tiles can be pressed into service, though watch out for too much texture where it will be hard to clean. There are even plastic lookalike “metal” ceiling tiles which might be usable if they are tough enough.
Glass can make an excellent tough backsplash and can be used in several ways. Clear glass panels with changeable color/pattern panels behind them make it easy to change your mind about color and pattern. Mirrors, either sheet or tiles, clear or smoked, can open up a room in interesting ways when used below wall cabinets. Clear flass can be frosted or sandblasted, evenly or in patterns: textured glass can be backpainted or used over colored or patterned panels. Even windows can be inserted into the backsplash area, although you need to be very careful about how they will look from the outside. Glass block works well if you would end up gazing out onto an unpleasant view through your backsplash windows. It’s also possible to use clear plastic sheet instead of glass: however, it tends to scratch and doesn’t wear as well as glass. Obviously you’d want to use safety glass in case of breakage.
Wood makes a fine backsplash material and can give you several very different looks. Beadboard can look country or historic, usually painted, but you could clear finish it. Unusual veneers, protected with a clear finish, and using alternating grain directions for even more variety, could look stunning. Even extra doors to match your cabinet doors could be used. Wood can be coated with a variety of finishes for different effects: dark or light natural stains, colored stains, paint or clear polyurethane. Just watch out for “too much” wood if your cabinets and floor are also wood!
Brick backsplashes have to be sealed in some way otherwise they soak up food stains irreversibly, but if you can do that they can look great.
As you can see, the kitchen backsplash ideas available to you are almost unlimited and it’s usually quite simple to retrofit them into an existing kitchen. Have fun with your backsplash – it’s something you’ll be spending quite a lot of time looking at as you work at your counters!
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