Modern kitchen backsplash ideas - 10 inspiring ways to add flair to your decor

Our edit of the modern kitchen backsplash ideas that will protect your walls while adding personality too

kitchen backsplash ideas
(Image credit: deVOL)

Kitchen backsplash ideas tend to get a little overlooked. Energy gets spent on making sure there is enough storage, on choosing the color of your kitchen cabinets or choosing between natural stone and composite for the countertop. But backsplashes can cover a huge swathe of wall, make a dramatic statement, and even be the first thing people notice...if you get them right. Or wrong, incidentally.

 "The backsplash was the last thing I chose when I did my kitchen remodel," says Livingetc's editor Pip Rich. "We spent ages on every other detail, but this was pretty much an afterthought. I'm happy with how my white, porcelain finger tiles turned out, but I do wonder if I could have created something more cohesive had we built them into the original design."

So instead of leaving the backsplash to the end of your kitchen ideas, make a big design noise with deep veining, or rustic tiles, or metallics. There are plenty of things to consider - a backsplash needs to be functional, cope with splashes and often be heat resistant if its going up behind a cooker - but a little bit of thought can go a long way. 

"Be careful in your choice of material for a backsplash around a hob," says Hayley Robson of design agency Day True. "The direct flame and heat can effect it if its too close. Make the worktop deeper than normal to allow more space behind the hob - around 650 - 700mm is best."

As a surface that sits behind your sink and hob, a backsplash helps protect the walls from water and grease. And while it is often one of the last pieces to be installed, it is a good idea to decide on a style at the same time as you choose your kitchen cabinet ideas and worktop finishes. ‘The size of the room is important to consider too,’ says Emma Britton, Decorative Glass Designer. ‘In a large room you need something that works from far away and close up,’ she adds.

Kitchen backsplash ideas

1. Be decorative

kitchen backsplash ideas with decorative blue and white tiles

(Image credit: Ca Pietra)

Yes, this is a functional room, but that doesn't mean you can't add in a little prettiness. The Delft-like prettiness of the tiles, above, soften the inevitable hard corners of the countertop and cabinets.

"The shapes and colors you choose can make all the difference in turning a room into a place of rest and respite," says designer Minnie Kemp, a big fan of decorative kitchen tile ideas herself. She favors those made by Wayne Pate in collaboration with bathroom brand Balineum, which also work in kitchens. "For something a little more graphic, they are enduring classics," she says. 

2. Use tonal variation

marble and grey kitchen backsplash ideas

(Image credit: Roundhouse)

"The star of the show in this kitchen is undoubtedly the backsplash," says Ben Hawkswell of Roundhouse Design. "Early on in the project the owners knew they wanted an amazing stone feature and chose the striking Calacatta marble from a quarry in Italy. The base stone is a very crisp white, similar to the worktops, with marble veining that complements color tones in the pale grey cabinetry. We worked with a specialist marble fabricator to achieve the amazing four-piece book-matching pattern that’s centred perfectly on the wall."

He adds that the subleties in shift of tone are what stops this kitchen seeming uninteresting. "Tonal variation is key," Ben says. "A total white-out will look flat and bland, but having a matt lacquer on the cabinets and a polish on the backsplash adds a real layer of interest."

3. Match the backsplash to the ceiling

kitchen backsplash ideas matching terracotta island and ceiling

(Image credit: Colombo and Serboli Architecture)

Wrapping your kitchen in color is a true way to make a design statement, and what better way than to use terracotta, one of the biggest current kitchen trends

"A hugely versatile color for the kitchen, terracotta is warming and helps create a welcoming environment," says the designer Kelly Wearstler. Here, the cabinets are matched with the backsplash and the ceiling, for a look that is truly modern. "I also like to pair it with complementary shades like dusky pink or cerulean blue," Kelly adds. "Or to create a tonal look with it against a backdrop of muted white and cream tones."

4. Contrast your backsplash with your fittings

white kitchen backsplash ideas with patinated tap

(Image credit: Blakes)

In this modern kitchen, the aged brass finish of the boiling water tap is contrasted beautifully by the creamy stone of the backsplash. "The contrast between this vintage, patinated finish and the crisp Neolith sintered stone behind is particularly striking," says Annie Ebenston, lead designer at Blakes London. "The sink, in crisp white enamelled cast iron, flows seamlessly with the pale surfaces."  

By opting for a pale backsplash, this lets the arch of the tap truly stand out, allowing it to be a star in its own right.

5. Style your backsplash unexpectedly

kitchen backsplash ideas with zig zag tiles

Zig zag tiles are one of the biggest bathroom trends at the moment, and they're making their way over to kitchens, too. They feel more elevated than the classic subway placement of straight lines and blocks - subway tiles mostly seem out of style now - and are a lot jauntier and just generally more dynamic. ‘A unique placement of your tiles can really draw the eye and make a statement,’ says Amanda Telford of CTD Tiles. Indeed, spend time playing around with different formations and it’s surprising how many different looks you can create with the same tile. ‘From vertical to herringbone, you can be really creative with rectangular tiles in a way that’ll really create a beautiful focal point in your kitchen,’ she adds.

6. Clash colors boldly

kitchen backsplash ideas with boldly colored tiles

When you're planning a kitchen, it's important to think about its longevity. Backsplashes last a long time, and so it's key to make it as versatile as possible so you can update it as your tastes evolve.

‘If you opt for a backsplash with multiple colours or shades in it, you can change the look of the room later by matching accessories to one of the shades for a refresh,’ says Emma Britton, Decorative Glass Designer. ‘Think about the backsplash as part of the interior scheme with all the colors working together. If there’s one color or tone dominant in the room, it will draw the eye to that shade in the backsplash too.’

7. Pick a hardwearing material

backsplash ideas using The Whitelight Collection

Caesarstone's Whitelight Collection

(Image credit: Caesarstone)

"While the vertical surface is going to be less at risk of staining than the countertop, if you're the sort of person who worries about every scratch then you may prefer a composite like Caesarstone," says Hayley Robson of Day True. "It has the beautiful color and veining of marble, but is more durable."

This sort of material is ideal for use in your kitchen countertop ideas and behind gas hobs where a naked flame could damage a surface over time. 

8. Consider the statement tile

kitchen backsplash ideas statement tile warm colors

Design by Heidi Caillier

(Image credit: Haris Kenjar)

The tiles Heidi Callier used for her backsplash ideas here run across a few colors in the beige spectrum, until you get to a patch of blue above the sink, like the sky bursting through the clouds. It's an innovative approach, like creating a patchwork quilt but with tiles, and is distinct to you and unique, and can help add hits of brightness to your kitchen color ideas.

"Warm colors not only create a welcoming atmosphere but are effectively deep neutrals," Heidi says of the cream backsplash, the olive cabinets and the rich wood floors. "They form the perfect backdrop for whatever table set up you design."

9. Take the tiles to the ceiling

kitchen backsplash ideas tiles to the ceiling

Design by KLH

(Image credit: Diana Paulson)

Whoever said the backsplash had to be compact? If you've found a tile you love enough to want to live with, why not take it all the way to the top? This look is a commitment, but really plays into the height of a room, emphasising the use of space and stopping your eye from seeing shortening lines across the wall.

Here, because the zeillige tiles are handmade and naturally finished, they have a roughness to them that is very beguiling, creating texture and shadowplay as they climb the wall.

10. Use the backsplash as a shelf

modern backsplash ideas green countertop with shelf

Design by Studio Ben Allen

(Image credit: French + Tye)

Architect Ben Allen used colored concrete tinted with oxidised copper to create this hardwearing alternative countertop in his own kitchen. Cleverly, it climbs the wall and creates a little shelf on which to store bottles and ingredients. 

Concrete was an inspired choice by Ben, made for its hardwearing durability. "Things like melamine may be more affordable, but once the surface gets damaged, it looks terrible," Ben says. "You then start to feel worse about your surrounding, stop taking care of them, lose pride in your home which can have a negative effect on yourself."

Should a backsplash be the same color as the worktop?

One of the most straight-forward kitchen backsplash ideas is to create an extension of your worktop, using the same color and material for both. This creates the appearance of a seamless design, and being the same hard-wearing material as your chosen worktop makes it a very practical option for busy kitchens, too. Granite, quartz or made-to-measure engineered worktops such as Corian would work well.

What can I put on my kitchen wall instead of tiles?

Kitchens without backsplashes are a growing trend, and not every room has to have one. Instead of tiles, you could try a natural stone like marble or granite on your backsplash. When matched to your countertop, it creates a sophisticated, seamless effect. If you would like to go for a more rustic look, wood is a good material for kitchen walls - it's more durable and hygienic than many people think.

kitchen backsplash ideas with subway tiles

What are the best colors for a backsplash?

While you may not want to commit to too much color or pattern in your kitchen, a backsplash can be a great opportunity to experiment. Take note of the colors and materials on display elsewhere in the space – such as your stand mixer or utensils – and try to incorporate these into your backsplash to bring your scheme together.

Can a backsplash make my kitchen feel bigger?

Mirrored surfaces help to reflect light around a room and make the space feel bigger, which can be particularly useful in a small kitchen - considering white kitchen ieas in a tiny space is another good trick. If you want to ensure a mirrored splashback blends in with your kitchen, opt for a tinted finish that will complement your worktops and cabinetry.

kitchen backsplash ideas with brass backsplash

Is brass good for backsplash?

Metallics have become a popular choice in kitchen design, and they won’t be going away any time soon. While one of the more unusual kitchen backsplash ideas, pure brass and copper surfaces hold antimicrobial properties, which make them a great choice for a working kitchen. Note however, they  are like flooring and will require polishing and develop a natural patina over time.