The all-white kitchen is a thing of the past as homeowners and designers seem to break up the one-dimensional look and feel of a flat, all-white kitchen with blocks of color. Your backsplash is the perfect place to introduce color, an interesting finish, material, or texture to help break up the monolith of the all-white look, and the right choice can even goes so far as to create an illusion of more space. What's more, the minimal footprint of the backsplash means it's one of the more affordable kitchen edits you can make, easily swapping it out for a new look and feel instead of feeling the need to renovate the entire kitchen.
'All-white kitchens need some visual interest to contrast with their neutral color, so make sure you introduce some character,' says Luki Anderson of Studio Officina Architecture. 'The good news is white looks great with everything, so choose something that makes you feel happy when you walk in each morning to make your coffee! It's your kitchen, so go with what feels right for you.' To help you get inspired, we've spoken to the designers to find out their favorite backsplash materials, colors, and patterns that will help your modern kitchen really pop.
1. Introduce cool colored tiling
If you want to bring a little more interest to your kitchen with colored tiling, taking your cues from nature is always a great place to start. A subtle touch of green or blue will always work well with white, whereas something from the warmer end of the color wheel will only create too much of a contrast. Instead, reliable blues or greens from across the spectrum will help your kitchen feel calming.
'Given a white backdrop, I think you can get away with just about any color to work alongside white,' says Christie Ward of Ward + Gray. 'but we have done lots of white kitchens with sage green accents, bringing in color from stone tiles.'
As well as the color, the shape of the tile is important. This is because if you are leaving grout lines, those shapes become extra pronounced. 'A simple subway tile or the time-honored herringbone pattern will always remain classic styles for a kitchen backsplash,' says New Jersey-based Kristina Phillips of Kristina Phillips Interior Design. 'Be sure to match the grout to the ground for a more streamlined, cleaner look.'
2. Veined marble
Another great option is to wrap your counter up onto the backsplash. This always looks timeless and makes things super easy to keep clean. Adding in an interesting stone countertop and backsplash combination helps add contrast against a stark white kitchen but in a subtle way that helps blend the white space.
'For example, use a Calacatta Turquoise which brings in some color and movement into the kitchen,' says Christie from Ward + Gray. 'Carrara is a great choice for backsplash,' agrees Luki Anderson from Studio Officina, and usually fairly affordable compared with other natural stones.
Breccia Viola is another wonderful marble kitchen option that is celebrated for its darker veining, it has a slight purple or pink hue to it which can feel more modern than the more traditional white and silver marble. 'A more expensive and adventurous stone with dramatic veining can do most of the design work for you if it's within your budget,' adds Luki.
3. Neutral colored Zellige tiles
There is something quite flat and one-dimensional about the all-white look, but you also might not want to add color to your bathroom. Add dimension and mix it up with subtle textures and material. Zellige has had a huge resurgence in 2023, and we love the finish for its shimmery, uneven surface and handmade look.
In this white kitchen designed by Chango & Co, against the plain white cabinet doors, the natural shimmer of the Zellige works hard to bring more depth to the space, so you don't need to think too outside the box with anything too bold in terms of color- just leave the texture of the tile to do all the hard work. 'With accents, it is helpful if the material has some natural variation, as in hand-glazed tiles or natural stones - as a contrast to the uniformity of the white,' says Vrindra Khanna of Brooklyn-based Khanna Schultz Architecture and Design.
4. Dark stone
Mixing white cabinets with a dark stone is a classic look that will never go out of style. ‘Stone is a kitchen splashback that will never go out of style,' says Christie of Ward + Gray. 'There is something so clean and classic to continuing your stone kitchen countertop on your backsplash.
Solid black backsplash adds depth to this family home in Austin, Texas, designed by Emily Lauren Interiors. White walls give a monochrome finish against the black quartzite slabs for the countertops, but the space is lifted with the subtle dewy pink shade emanating from the hexagonal terracotta floor tiles.
'We didn't want other finishes to compete with the character of the terracotta floors, so we kept our color palette neutral, sticking to mushroom, ivory, black, and brown, and mixed polished nickel and bronze hardware for a timeless yet modern look,' says Emily Brown of Emily Lauren Interiors.
5. High shine splashback
Go for something metallic and reflective, the perfect antidote to a boring and tired old white kitchen. Not only does it make a kitchen feel a little more contemporary and stylish, but it's a great way to make a small kitchen feel bigger.
Another reason to opt for mirror is that it is the cheaper alternative to even some tiles. You don't need to take it up the wall either, and even a smaller rectangular section behind the hobs might just do the trick. Just be aware that with mirror, smudges show up easily, so go for the burnished, patina look like this example from Smac Studio.
If you like the high-sheen patina look, you could go one step further with a sheet of pure brass or copper too. Both materials offer similar metallic, reflective quality, but also hold antibacterial qualities, making them both a great choice for a working family kitchen. ‘Antique brass metal tends to pair well with white for an authentic, vintage feel,' says Slaver Gray of Ward + Gray. 'We suggest unlacquered brass to our clients so that the fixtures or hardware patina get more beautiful with age.'
3 tiles to enhance an all-white kitchen
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Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.
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