Should I tile my entire kitchen wall? Design experts give their verdict on half vs full wall backsplashes

A tiled kitchen wall pairs style and functionality, but it's far more permanent than paint...

A kitchen with terracotta style tiles on the floor and white textured gloss tiles up the sink wall
(Image credit: Clé tile)

Tiles are a much-loved component of kitchen designs, and for good reason. Take the backsplash for example; this practical tile paneling is the best way to protect your kitchen wall from water splashes and greasy food splatters. Why then do we only install them a few feet upwards at most? Well, according to designers, that's no longer the case.

Tiled kitchen walls are the latest design trend to pair style and functionality within the heart of the home. It's fair to say that compared to any other room, the kitchen should be built to withstand the most use. From steamy cooking and grease splatters to heavy foot traffic and high temperatures, durable materials should always be at the forefront of design decisions in this space. 

That's why tiles - hardwearing, water-resistant, and easy to clean - are a go-to choice for flooring, backsplashes, and countertops. Extending them up the entire wall just makes a lot of sense. That said, they're also a far more permanent design choice than a simple lick of paint, an easy and inexpensive way to switch up your style and keep up with changing trends. To find out whether a tiled wall is worth the investment, we asked designers why they think we should embrace the idea in our modern kitchens

A kitchen with wooden cabinetry and dark brown gloss tiles up the walls

(Image credit: Clé tile)

Tiles really don't receive the credit they deserve. The various types and unlimited opportunities to experiment with color and pattern are great ways to put your own stamp on your space, and that shouldn't have to stop with the floor or backsplash. They can help introduce depth and dimension to a kitchen, too. For example, we're big fans of a textured zellige idea that brings a wall to life with varied tones, culminating in a rustic Mediterranean look. 

According to Lee Thornley, founder of Bert & May, it's these creative possibilities that make a tiled wall so appealing as far as tile trends go. 'Though more commonly used for kitchen floors or limited to a splashback, introducing tiles across a wider area of the wall has become an increasingly popular choice,' he says. 'Not only are they incredibly practical, but they're an easy way to add personality to a kitchen design, and offer limitless possibilities in terms of style.'

Even if the appearance of a tiled wall isn't your cup of tea, there's no escaping the functional properties they can bring. They may not be the easiest to update regularly from a practical point of few, but they're an excellent choice when it comes to ease of cleaning, especially if you're a keen cook who struggles with steamy walls that quickly become discolored.

It's this pairing of functionality and style - primary pillars of interior design - that has made kitchen wall tiles so popular. As Regina Connell of California-based brand clé tile explains: 'The right tile is functional and beautiful, and can be a focal point for an entire kitchen - or even an entire home. While trends come and go in terms of the type you use, tiles are a perennial in the kitchen.'

Why tile a kitchen wall?

A kitchen with dark wooden cabinetry and yellow gloss tiles up the unit wall

(Image credit: Colombe studio)

Tiling a kitchen wall isn't a design idea for the faint of heart. Even more so than other kitchen tile ideas, you'll need to be certain about your decision before you commit, and you'll also need a budget that actually permits you to reach the top of your wall. Why then is it worth the investment? 

'Having a consistent tile – or set of related tiles – can bring a cohesive and more intentional look to a space, pulling it together and turning it into an important design element for the entire home,' says Regina. 'We’ve always felt that having just a backsplash treats tiles as a functional surface only when, in reality, tile is one of the most expressive materials in a designer’s portfolio.'

Besides bringing color to a space, tiles can layer dynamic patterns or add new textures to a room. 'You miss all that if you’re relegating tile to the backsplash,' adds Regina. 'Having a larger area means that you can also use larger, bolder patterns that have room to roam on a larger surface.' 

Lee also loves the bolder look of an all-over tile. 'Tiling an entire wall, rather than limiting yourself to a backsplash, can create a more maximalist look, especially if you opt for bold patterns or bright colors to create an impactful scheme,' he says. If you're after a more pared-back kitchen design, however, he suggests sticking with neutral walls and a standard backsplash. 'A tiled splashback is often an eye-catching focal point, and focusing on this smaller area can create a beautiful vignette within your scheme.' 

What type of tile should you use for a kitchen wall?

A kitchen with wooden cabinetry and white subway tiles up one wall, and vinyl patterned tiles on the adjacent wall

(Image credit: Bert & May)

When choosing a type of tile, besides picking the perfect style, you need to be clued up on the installation methods and how it might need maintaining. As Regina notes, some cement tiles require annual sealing, while others age well so you can embrace a bit of patina. From material and size to the shape and sheen, there's lots to bear in mind.

Too difficult a decision? You don't necessarily need to limit yourself to just one type of tile, either. 'We’re big fans of using two (or more!) types of tile to create additional interest, perhaps pairing pattern with plain, or a dimensional tile with a stone,' notes Regina. 'One thing we’ve also been seeing, is a complete wraparound lool, not just on the walls but on the ceiling, too.' 

For Lee, this is a kitchen idea that's best kept relatively basic so as to avoid any dramatic decisions you later regret. 'We love simple patterns which can be uniquely tessellated to create something bespoke that you won’t tire of,' he says, 'or a timeless checkerboard pattern using a combination of plain tiles in your favorite colors'. 

Ready for a kitchen shake-up? Let your imagination run wild with a wall tile idea that's practical as well as pretty. We're certainly giving this trend the Livingetc seal of approval. 

Where can I buy tiles online?

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.