How do you feel about your kitchen backsplash?
If you’re like many homeowners, the backsplash above your countertops, sink, and stovetop is minimal or even nonexistent. Or maybe you have a decorative backsplash that’s dated, in disrepair, or simply not interesting to you anymore.
A kitchen renovation is a perfect time to get a new, exciting backsplash. But even if you’re not ready to do a full makeover in your kitchen, updating the backsplash alone is an opportunity to bring a different look and feel to the room.
A backsplash refers to the protective material above a countertop, sink, or range top that keeps splashes of water, grease, and other potentially damaging substances off of kitchen walls. Many countertops come with short built-in backsplashes, up to five or six inches tall, of the same material as the countertop itself.
While these integrated backsplashes serve a useful function, they only protect a small part of the wall—and they’re not much to look at, either. Many designers and homeowners prefer larger backsplashes that cover the entire wall area spanning from the countertop, stovetop, and sink to whatever is directly above them (often cabinets or a range hood). These larger backsplashes can be used in addition to, or instead of, the short built-in backsplashes.
Big backsplashes serve two purposes: they keep your most vulnerable wall areas safe from water, grease, food, cleaning supplies, and whatever else happens to get splashed or thrown around in your kitchen, and they provide a unique decorative opportunity. Backsplashes, even if they cover the whole area from a countertop to a cabinet, usually only cover a small portion of the overall wall space in an entire kitchen.
This limited space means backsplashes are great places to use:
- Accent colors that you love but don’t want all over your walls
- Interesting patterns that would be overwhelming over a larger area
- High-quality/handmade materials that would be too expensive to use everywhere
- Fun, quirky designs
The small space gives you a chance to have fun with it! Use backsplashes to showcase your personality or a design style that you love. After all, much of the work you’ll do in a kitchen—preparing ingredients, cooking on the stove, and loading/unloading the dishwasher (or hand-washing the more fragile cookware) will be spent facing a backsplash. Make yours something you’ll enjoy looking at every day.
Choosing the Backsplash for Your Kitchen
A kitchen backsplash can be made with a vast array of materials, but ceramic, porcelain, and glass tiles are among the most common. Tiles give you nearly endless color choices and many pattern options, both in how you lay the tiles and with patterned tiles themselves. Tile backsplashes can look great in almost any kitchen.
Some other available materials include metal, cork, and bamboo, which have more limited color options but can fit very well in the right kitchen design. Custom backsplashes are another popular choice, whether you use professional artwork or go the do-it-yourself route.
If the only part of your kitchen you’re updating right now is the backsplash, the room’s current colors, style, decor, and overall feel should all be taken into consideration when choosing. However, if you’re renovating your entire kitchen or otherwise starting from scratch, you have another option: begin the room’s design with a beautiful, one-of-a-kind backsplash.
It’s like styling a room around a favorite piece of art, furniture, or even throw pillow. Use something that you love to inspire the rest of the design.
Mosaic Murals and Other Custom Backsplashes
A tile mosaic is one way to turn a kitchen backsplash into artwork. Mosaics are art that can get wet, making them ideal for backsplashes. Mosaic murals for kitchens come in different sizes, giving you options: you can get one big enough to serve as the entire backsplash, or you could get a smaller piece to act as the focal point and fill in around it with basic tile or another backsplash material.
Another cool thing about mosaic kitchen backsplashes is that if you can’t find one that quite speaks to you, or if you want something truly unique, you can have a custom mosaic backsplash created to your specifications and based on an image you provide. With the availability of custom artwork, the design options become limitless.
A DIY alternative for a custom backsplash is to use paper or fabric attached to thin plywood and coated with a clear varnish or shellac. Decorative paper and fabrics come in a wide range of colors and styles, so look for something you like that fits in with your kitchen’s design. A custom backsplash, whether you make it yourself or leave it to a professional artist, is a way to show off your creativity and personal design aesthetic.
Appearance vs. Functionality
For most homeowners, the kitchen is a work zone—for cooking, cleaning, eating, entertaining, and more. A kitchen’s design needs to accommodate everything that happens in it, and the backsplash is no exception. An easy-to-clean surface is the number one concern, but don’t let a focus on function keep you from seeing another potential.
Even if your kitchen design overall is modest or low-key, consider giving the backsplash a chance to stand out a little. It’s one place where you don’t have to compromise function to find something that looks amazing. Whether you choose the DIY route, stick with a contemporary tile look, or go all-out with a custom mosaic mural, backsplashes are a small space that can have a big impact on your kitchen—and how you feel about it.