Designers Share Their Hottest Picks for Kitchen Backsplashes

Make a splash in the kitchen with these design pros’ selections for backsplash materials, colors and layouts

by Bryan Anthony

A backsplash is an ideal location for making a dramatic visual impact in the kitchen. And there’s a wide range of materials, colors and layouts to choose from. Here, design pros share some of the latest backsplash looks they’re using in their own projects.

1. Handmade Character

There’s something almost perfect about imperfections, which is why designers tell us that handmade tile is the way to go for kitchen backsplashes. “I use a lot of handmade tile, typically in porcelain or ceramic,” says designer Jena Bula of Delphinium Design.

Bula used elongated subway tile in light gray ceramic to cover the backsplash in this Charlotte, North Carolina, kitchen. “I love the natural look of handmade tile,” she says. “The movement and imperfections give each individual piece character.”

Designer Barbara Milner of South Hill Interiors agrees that handmade tile has a look and feel that you just can’t get from factory-made tile. “Using a tile with a handmade quality introduces a tactile element to a room, engages your senses and creates a more immersive design experience,” she says.

Milner used artisan-made large-format porcelain tiles for the backsplash in this Toronto kitchen. “Handmade looks featuring textures and patinas differentiate this type from standard factory tile. Imperfections are the key. Organic and weathered looks create interest and become a focal point of the kitchen,” she says.

2. Stylish Slabs

Large slabs of marble, stone and engineered quartz for backsplashes are a great way to create a sleek and dramatic look in a kitchen. “Currently trending for us in backsplashes is using slabs to match the countertop surfaces,” designer Joe Human says. “Depending on the material, it can really go ultramodern or really traditional in the right space.”

Human used large slabs of marble-look quartz for the backsplash, countertops and waterfall-edge island in this contemporary Manhattan penthouse kitchen.

The design team at jones haydu matched the countertops and backsplash in this recently remodeled San Francisco kitchen. Dark gray stone slabs on both provide a delightful contrast to the warm wood cabinets.

3. Chic Chevrons

When it comes to deciding on a layout for tiled backsplashes, designers tell us that chevron is a chic and classic look to consider. “I love that it has a historic precedent and is also being used in modern ways in today’s homes,” says designer Kimberly Herrick of the Herrick Design Group.

Herrick used thin light blue glass tiles laid in a chevron pattern to cover the backsplash in this stylish Minneapolis kitchen.

A chevron-pattern backsplash in bold colors is a great way to add energy and life to an all-white kitchen, as seen in this San Francisco kitchen remodeled by Jute Interior Design.

4. Custom Colors

The ability to specify the exact colors for tiles has opened up a world of possibilities for kitchen backsplashes. “There are so many options for color and texture with ceramic and porcelain tile, from glossy with and without crackle to hand-stamped tiles with a bas-relief pattern,” designer Kate Roos says. “With some manufacturers, you can even select [custom] colors.”

Roos chose three custom colors for the mosaic porcelain tile that covers the backsplash in this remodeled Minneapolis kitchen.

Grout color can also be selected in a variety of colors and hues. Designer Lori Brazier of House of Brazier says, “Colored grout can add character and dimension while breaking up a monotone space.”

Brazier used grout in a custom light gray shade to allow the white subway tile in this Sacramento, California, kitchen to stand out better.

Colored grout doesn’t stop at shades of black, brown and gray. Increasingly, grout in bold colors is appearing in kitchens in the U.S. and around the world. One example is the electric-blue grout in between the charcoal-gray subway tiles covering the backsplash in this Melbourne, Australia, kitchen designed by Adie Courtney Architect.