Backsplash Design Ideas for the Kitchen

by | Last updated May 29, 2024 | Interior Design, Kitchen Design, Materials & Finishes

Backsplash design involves selecting materials, colors, and patterns with visual and practical matters considered. The backsplash is a crucial part of the kitchen aesthetic and is a protective surface, making the backsplash selection process integral to the overall kitchen design. 

I am Jorge Fontan, an architect in New York and owner of Fontan Architecture. In this post, I will show you some kitchen backsplash ideas from a few of our projects and will discuss design options to elevate a kitchen through the backsplash.

I wrote another blog post if you want to read about Why You Need a Backsplash in Your Kitchen. The backsplash is not just a design feature in a kitchen. It is a crucial element in the kitchen, acting as a protective surface for the wall behind your countertops, appliances, and sink.


Matching Backsplash

When designing a kitchen backsplash, I ask my clients one question. Do you want the backsplash to match the rest of the kitchen, or do you want it to stand out? A matching backsplash may be the way to go if you want to keep it simple and consistent. You can match a backsplash in color, tone, texture, and style.

In the picture below, you can see an all-white kitchen. We matched the white backsplash to this kitchen’s white cabinets and countertop. This creates a very uniform white-on-white look. Everything here works together and has visual consistency.

Matching Backsplash to Cabinets

Matching Backsplash to Cabinets in White Ceramic Subway Tile


Use A Unique Backsplash

The kitchen backsplash does not need to match the kitchen. You can include a little contrast if you want a design element that stands out in your kitchen. Using a unique backsplash that contrasts the kitchen can be a visual pop that adds a dramatic effect and individual character to your kitchen. The backsplash is where you may want to let your personality come out. After all, it’s your kitchen.

Below is a white kitchen with white cabinets and countertop, but with a contrasting unique backsplash. In this kitchen, the backsplash stands out. It adds color and texture to an all-white kitchen.

This kitchen is in a 100-year-old townhouse in Brooklyn, and the owners liked to garden. This choice of a clay-earth-tone backsplash fits the context of the home and the owners’ personalities. Here, the backsplash stands out and makes a strong design statement by bringing contrast in three ways: color, texture, and style.

Unique Backsplash Kitchen Design

Unique Backsplash Kitchen Design, in Clay Tile


Slab Backsplash

When selecting the type of backsplash for a kitchen, one must decide between tiles or slabs. A slab backsplash may be the right choice if you want a more seamless modern look with cleaner detail and consistency.

A slab backsplash is made from a large piece of stone or composite material called a slab. The slab is much larger than a tile in length and width and thicker. The slab backsplash will have a more continuous look and will not have grout lines throughout. The slab backsplash can be the more expensive option because of the material cost. 

The most significant difference between a slab backsplash and a tile backsplash is continuity. Slabs are large pieces. Tiles are individual pieces and have joints between them, typically filled with grout.

In the picture below, you will see a marble slab backsplash. Notice how the backsplash has no grout lines. This is because there are no tiles, just one very large marble slab. There are many options for slabs in other materials, such as granite, marble, concrete, solid surfacing, and others. The slab looks more uniform, but the material selection is critical to the overall design. This particular marble has very little detail, but you can go in many other directions with this.

Marble Slab Kitchen Backsplash

Marble Slab Kitchen Backsplash


Seamless Kitchen Backsplash

The number one advantage of a slab backsplash is that it is seamless. 

In the photo below, you can see an all-white kitchen with a white marble slab backsplash. This kitchen is in a 4,000-square-foot loft in Tribeca, NYC, and luxury was the goal. Because the backsplash is a large marble slab, it is seamless, which gives a much more modern and luxurious look. This seamless backsplash provides the right type of high-end feel for this kind of apartment.


Subway Tile

The most common choice for a backsplash is to install tile. There are many options, but subway tile is a classic and timeless look for any kitchen backsplash.

Subway tile is a low-temperature fired glazed ceramic tile that is named for its similarity to the tiles traditionally used in the New York City subway system. Subway tiles come in different colors and sizes, with 3 x 6 inches being the most common size and white the most popular color. 

The one thing about subway tile is that this is a classic look and will be timeless. A subway tile can go with almost any kitchen and is an excellent go-to for a kitchen backsplash design. It is simple and affordable, making this a very popular option.

In the picture below, you will see a white subway tile backsplash with a running bond. The running bond will be your most common subway tile pattern. It means that the tiles do not line up, but rather the vertical courses are offset to the halfway point of each consecutive course.

Subway Tile Kitchen Backsplash

White Subway Tile Kitchen Backsplash


Brick Backsplash 

There are two ways to have a brick backsplash: an exposed brick backsplash or a brick veneer.

If you have an existing brick wall in your home, you can expose the brick and leave that as the backsplash. This must be sealed properly. 

If you do not have an existing brick wall and cannot use exposed brick, you can always add a veneer brick. Veneer brick is a thin brick or reclaimed brick that has been cut down in thickness. These are applied like tiles, usually on a backer board. If you install a brick veneer backsplash in your kitchen, you want to consider the type of bricks. Do you want them to be uniform and regular or distressed and irregular? The look of exposed brick is popularized through its use in old buildings, so making it too perfect will have a different cachet than older bricks.

I am from New York, where exposed brick is a popular and sought-after aesthetic. Brick is a great look and can add character, especially when exposing old bricks. As you can see in the picture below, these are original exposed bricks in a 100-year-old building. Perfect new bricks will not have the same feel as this historic red brick backsplash.

Brick backsplash Kitchen

Red Brick Backsplash Kitchen


Backsplash Same As Countertop

One backsplash design trend that has been popular for quite some time now is making the backsplash in the same material as the countertop. For example, if you make a granite countertop, you can use the exact matching stone for the backsplash. This highly modern and uniform look can go well in many kitchens.

In the picture below, you see a kitchen where the continuous backsplash is the same marble slab material as the countertop. This kitchen also has a side backsplash which is an excellent idea as the backsplash is a protective surface, and all areas around the kitchen counter are subject to a lot of abuse.

Backsplash Same As Countertop

Backsplash Same As Countertop (Continuous Backsplash)


Back Painted Glass Backsplash

One good modern alternative kitchen backsplash is the use of back-painted glass. I am not talking about glass tile but rather large sheets of back-painted glass. This has been used for quite some time but is not the most popular option, as you typically only find it in kitchens with very modern and minimal designs. A back-painted glass kitchen backsplash is a more expensive option than glass tile, which is much more common. It is also a very different look.

Back Painted Glass Backsplash

Back Painted Glass Backsplash


Wood Look Porcelain Backsplash

If you like the look of wood in a kitchen backsplash, I recommend a wood look porcelain tile. Porcelain is a durable, nonporous material for a kitchen backsplash.

When it comes to wood-look porcelain, some of these are better than others. I always go see them in person and touch all the samples before selecting one myself. They are also available in large pieces from certain manufacturers so that you can make a seamless backsplash in porcelain.

Wood Look Porcelain Backsplash

Wood Look Porcelain Backsplash


Glass Tile Kitchen Backsplash 

Glass tile kitchen backsplashes have been used for quite some time now. I caution you on selecting these tiles, as many glass tile backsplashes look cheap. Use good judgment and make the design work together. Glass tile backsplash in a kitchen is a specific type of look, which is not my favorite. Please keep it simple and stay away from the gaudy options.


White Backsplash 

White backsplash tiles or slabs in the kitchen are a classic and timeless look. As we already discussed, Subway Tile is a common option for a white backsplash, but of course, you can use many other types of tiles, such as quartz or marble.

You will see white cabinets in the kitchen below with a white backsplash. You want to consider the difference between blending and contrasting parts of your kitchen. If you want something to stand out, changing the color and material can be a great way to do it. If you want something to be a background, make it monotone, like white on white, for more uniformity. In this kitchen, the veining in the slab backsplash adds action to an otherwise simple space.

White Backsplash

White Backsplash


Black Tile

Black tile is another popular option. Whether black subway tile, as in the backsplash photo below. You can use black tiles to blend in with the kitchen if you have a dark kitchen, or if you have a light kitchen, the black tile can pop.

Black Tile Kitchen Backsplash

Black Subway Tile Kitchen Backsplash


Earth Tone Kitchen Backsplash

It is your kitchen, your backsplash, and the choices have to suit your tastes. Clay, terracotta, and Earth tones can have their place in the right kitchen. If this is for you, it adds an earthy feel and is suitable for a country house or townhouse.

Earth Tone Kitchen Backsplash

Earth Tone Kitchen Backsplash


Undercabinet Lighting

A critical aspect of a kitchen design is the lighting. I think undercabinet lighting is standard at this point. Its primary function, of course, is to be task lighting. It adds light when needed but also makes for a great design feature. The lighting makes the backsplash and countertops bright especially accenting the backsplash. It can add drama and vibrancy to the kitchen. I would only consider building a kitchen with undercabinet lighting.

Under Cabinet Lighting

Under Cabinet Lighting


Backsplash Ideas For The Kitchen 

The backsplash is an integral part of the kitchen and is one of the first things you can notice. With the popularity of Open Kitchen Design, you can see the backsplash from anywhere in an open-plan living space. The kitchen backsplash has many choices, but the one overriding concept that must be considered in the design is that it all has to work together. This means it is a critical decision and will be essential to your overall design.


Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on Kitchen Backsplash Ideas

I hope this was helpful. Contact us at Fontan Architecture directly if you want to speak with an architect about a potential project.


Contact Fontan Architecture


Jorge Fontan

Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.