Transform Your Kitchen with Backsplash

Kitchen Backsplash Ideas

Whether you are designing a new kitchen or trying to bring new life to an old one updating the backsplash tile is a great way to add personality to any kitchen.

In general, when we design a kitchen we like to keep materials like cabinets and counters fairly neutral. That’s mostly because they are expensive items, they are hard to change and we want them to blend with the décor of the rest of the home. Of course some people prefer more dramatic colors for cabinets in counters for most, staying neutral is a good idea.

We then like to layer color and pattern into the design with hardware, fixtures and backsplash tile.  These things are area easy change as trends and personal taste evolve over time. Let’s take a look at some backsplash tile ideas.

Backsplash Tile Options

Even simple square tiles can bring interest to a kitchen backsplash 

A backsplash can be made from laminate, stone, tile, metal or even clear acrylic. Backsplash is also not limited to just the 18″ between the countertop and upper cabinets. Sometimes tiling the whole wall or around windows and range hoods can really look great.

Done in a single neutral color, the backsplash fades into the background for an understated look. Done with a little style and pizzazz, however, it becomes an eye-catching focal point. We’ll get into the details of choosing patterns, textures, materials, and colors for your backsplash below.

Materials and Measuring

Calculating how much backsplash you’ll need is pretty straightforward. You need to calculate the square footage of the backsplash area and add at least 10% for waste.

Complex tile patterns like herringbone might have more waste as can really large tiles.  Its a good idea to get all the tile you need at once as different dye lots of tile can vary slightly in color.

For a backsplash almost any tile material will work. Ceramic tile is technically softer than porcelain tiles but for a backsplash both are good options. On a floor or in a shower for example, porcelain in generally a better choice.

In addition to tiles you will also need tile trims. There are metal, PVC and tile trims available. Metal and PVC trims tend to provide a more contemporary look while tile trims can be a little more traditional.

Things to Consdier When Selecting a Backsplash Tile

You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to backsplash tiles because they come in so many different shapes and styles. But how do you navigate all these options? Let’s break it down.

You can highlight shape and pattern by using a contrasting grout color or minimize it by matching the grout color to the tile

Shape and Pattern

If you are selecting a tile color that is neutral then the shape and pattern of the tile are really going to stand out. Rectangular, octagonal, hexagonal, diamonds and chevrons are popular shapes. In additional to the shape of the tile there is are also option like beveled edges, wavy edges and rippled surfaces that give the tile a handmade feel.

Rectangular Tiles

This vertical rectangular backsplash runs parallel with the lines of the rest of the kitchen to create a taller feeling space

Rectangular tiles are probably the most popular and come in sizes ranging from 1 inch x 2 inches to 24 inches by 48 inches and larger. Tiles actually come in sizes up to 5 feet by 10 feet now! We actually did a blog on these large format tiles a few years ago.

Subway tiles are a popular style of rectangular tile. If you want a look that’s classic and timeless, you can’t do better than the traditional subway tile.

While classic subway tiles are 3×6 ceramic tiles with square edges, these days we use the term more loosely to mean any smaller rectangular tile. 2×12 and 3×8 ‘subway style’ styles are very popular.

Rectangualr tiles are very versatile and can be used to make all kinds of patterns including:

  • Horizontal Patterns
    • A ‘stacked’ pattern where all the grout lines line up,
    •  50/50 stagger
    • Random stagger
  • Vertical Patterns
    • Stacked Vertically
    • 50/50 stagger vertically
    • randown stagger vertically
  • Other Patterns
    • Chevron or Herringbone
    • Pinwheel
    • Crosshatch
    • Basketweave
    • Diagonal

Penny Tiles

Penny tiles are a great way to add texture to an otherwise flat wall

Penny tiles are small round tile about the size of a penny. They create a very unique look and the grout color is just as important and the tile itself. Penny tiles are a type of mosaic tile… the small tiles come installed on a 12″x12″ mesh sheet so they can be installer easier.

Penny tile are very challenging to install. Because there is so much grout the tile must line up perfectly or the difference is very visible. The tiles are also very thin, so the surface they are installed on must be very flat and smooth.  I would have a experience tile installer install these.

Hexagonal and Octagonal Tiles

Hexagonal tiles also come in many sizes and colors. The shape adds a lot of interest and the grout color plays an important role in either downplaying or highlighting the shape. One challenge when installing these tiles is spacing them properly, since you don’t just have 4 sides to worry about but 6 or 8.

Chevron and Herringbone

Chevron and herringbone are both great options to create intricate designs 

While any rectangular tile can be laid in a herringbone pattern there are also tile that come pre-made to be installed that way. This can simplify the installation and save on material costs. 

Mosaic Tiles

Mosaic tiles allow for smaller patterns without the pain of individually installing small tiles

Mosaic tiles are small tiles that come put together on a larger sheet. There are almost unlimited options when it comes to mosaics. Many mosaics mix ceramic, metal and other materials in one sheet for a truly unique look.

Mosaic tiles tend to look ‘busier’ than larger tiles and there is more grout to keep clean. But they are also provide some of the most beautiful colors and patterns.

3D Tiles

This 3D tile backsplash is on display in our showroom

Relatively new to the market are 3 dimensional tiles. Tiles with dramatic waves and patterns baked into the surface. They can be quite stunning but beware of 3D tile with to much texture in a backsplash application as they could be very hard to keep clean.

Texture, Finish and Mixing Materials

The multiple colors in this tile backsplash are reminiscent of the colors of the countertops

Tile can reflect or absorb light, be rough to the touch or smooth. Each has its advantages and disadvantages when choosing backsplash tile


A large rectangular tile in a vertical random stagger pattern. The blue grey color is a nice contrast to the white cabinets and adds drama to the design. 

The basic rules that apply to choosing a paint color for your walls also apply to choosing a kitchen backsplash. Light colors create a sense of space and airiness, while darker colors add depth, dimension, and coziness.

Glossy Tiles

This glossy tile backsplash continues over the hood to create a cohesive and chic look

Glossy, high-shine tiles create a sleek, modern look.

Textured Tiles

The brick-look tile backsplash in this FSU Skybox matches the brick aesthetic of the FSU campus

If you’re more French countryside than cutting-edge contemporary, brick and stone-like materials create an earthy, homey feeling that’s perfect for a rustic-inspired kitchen space.

Mixing Materials and Colors

This backsplash naturally comes with variations in color to create a textured effect

Remember that you don’t have to limit yourself to just one material. You can mix and match, using a contrasting tile to create a border or a focal point in your backsplash. You can also add variety and interest by using various colors of the same tile. The sky is the limit so don’t be afraid to unleash your creativity.

Finally, when choosing your materials, don’t lose sight of this basic requirement: your kitchen backsplash should be durable and able to stand up to the wear and tear of cooking (steam, heat, food and liquid splashes, etc.) and cleaning with common household disinfectants.

Take Your Kitchen To The Next Level

The thing about backsplashes is that it makes such a difference in the look and feel of your kitchen. So much so, that they usually trigger a desire to overhaul the whole area with a larger kitchen remodeling project.

If you’d like to make selecting and installing a new backsplash just the first step in an overall kitchen update, we can help. Check out our recent projects to get the inspiration flowing or reach out to us to get the ball rolling on renovating your kitchen.

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McManus Kitchen and Bath is a design and build company specializing in kitchen and bath remodels.

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