Backsplashes that I Knew and Loved

Last weekend I went to my 10 year high school reunion. It was fun to see old friends and hear about what they are up to these days. One of my former classmates is in the process of remodeling her kitchen and we got on the topic of backsplash tile. Along with countertop selection, choosing backsplash material is one of the most impactful (aesthetic) decisions to make in a kitchen design.

There are so many options and the one you pick can shape the overall look of a kitchen. For example, the backsplash in our old house consisted of dingy, tumbled marble square tiles and I changed it to a clean, Carerra marble subway tile. That alteration made the space look sleeker and more sophisticated. As you can see below, we also painted the cabinets, upgraded the dishwasher to stainless, and had Absolute Black granite countertops installed. Even though all of those elements contributed to the improved outcome, the backsplash was key in setting the tone.

The infamous "before" shot....not my style!

Like most big decisions, it can be tough to pick, especially given the amazing/overwhelming selection of tile available. Lots of people choose to play it safe and stick with something neutral and classic like white subway tile (which is always a winner in my book).

But like I said, there are lots of fabulous options now which makes it tempting to step out of the comfort zone and be a little more daring. If I got to change my backsplash now, I'd probably pick this beauty from Studium, the Maharajah Stripe, a mosaic chevron design in Calacatta Tia and Thassos. I've rattled on about this before and of course, used it in the Knight Moves header so obviously I'm fixated on it!

I also like these designs from Ann Sacks:

Beau Monde - Ann Sacks

Obsidian - Ann Sacks

 Walker Zanger also has some fun options...

I LOVE these but I think they are for the floor...Walker Zanger needs to make smaller versions!

What is your take on backsplash tile? Do you prefer the area to be classic and understated or do you think it's a place for personality?

I'm probably somewhere in between, like this...


  1. I agree, a backsplash can make or break a kitchen. I am currently dealing with a kitchen that has the same green/gray granite backsplash as the counters… talk about over kill! And the cabinets are a maple stain making for one dark space. I would love to see you do a post on your blog about how to step by step paint cabinets and live to tell about it. I like to do things myself and think I could tackle painting cabinets if I knew the tricks and if I could get someone show me how to get the huge slabs of granite off the wall without taking the wall with it, I think I could install a new backsplash and would probably go with your suggestion of the tried and true subway tiles. The counter top, I will leave to the professionals! Love your blog, it’s so informative and motivational.

  2. I can go either way with backsplashes. For such a small detail, I agree that they totally make a room. And in the grand scheme of kitchen remodel difficulty, they are pretty easy to change if you tire of them. But at the same time that does involve some demo and drywalling so maybe "easy" is not the right word.

    We went with a little more bold backsplash in our kitchen and right now I am loving it. But ask me again in 5 years:).

    I am drooling over that tile....if only Ann Sacks was not so expensive. It is gorgeous!

  3. Wow, that Ann Sacks obsidian is sex-eee.
    I'm a little in between when it comes to kitchens. They are big investment spaces, so I think the overall features should be classic and quality enough to look good for the long haul.
    However, I'm also not opposed to a few standout pops, as long as they're functional and not cheapy-looking.
    Say, for example, I'm all for going to town with a big old industrial faucet, a stylish light fixture or an interesting window shade. Also, well-chosen seating can add some real pizzaz.


  4. I guess it depends on how long you plan to keep your house. If you have to sell it soon, you may want to stick to a classic/neutral tile.
    But if you plan on staying in the house for a while, why not have some fun and express yourself?
    We never plan on moving but since I get bored with my decor easily, I put in a white subway tile backsplash. It goes with whatever color or style I could ever want.
    In fact my next big project is to paint my cabinets. I have golden oak (lucky me, right?) & I'm thinking of painting the uppers white & the bottom cabinets grey. I also have a black granite countertop. I'm hoping the 2-toned cabinets will work out. Do you think it will look frenzied with 2 different colored cabinets?

  5. I am obsessed with my own Ann Sacks tile...it's a glass mosaic. I have the same tumbled marble, builder grade backsplash. I think the reason it bothers me so much is because I could walk into any house on our block and see the same thing. So Boring! What color did you paint your cabinets? I'm debating on painting mine next week and I'm having trouble picking a good white.

  6. I'm in the safe boat with the classic white subway tile in our home, but I love the quatrefoil tile pictured in the first photograph. The color is serene, but it looks fun too.

  7. If you can afford: callacata marble. You can always use different sizes (countertop + tiles) to create texture and interest.

    I love what you did to you kitchen. It open my eyes to mine! Mine is pretty much the same as yours used to be. Great job!



  8. Your kitchen makeover is stunning. That Carrera marble backsplash is classic yet modern. I also love that you have a black countertops. That would be a good option for my kitchen renovation if Carrera marble countertops don't fit into the budget.

    I think I like the classics and use paint and accessories for pops of creativity.

  9. Kyle...love all these examples..especially the first one..I think I would probably play it safer when it comes to colour and tones...and be a little more adventurous when it comes to texture and design. Your kitchen looks fab x

  10. For my new place i think im going to stick to all WHITE..... :))
    What do you think would go with 'rain cloud' corian countertops, a honed or polished Carerra marble??


  11. did you paint the cabinets yourself? was it hard to do? did it get scuffed easily? i haven't the "not our style" cabinets now and do not like them at all! i would love a white kitchen but our budget doesn't allow for a kitchen make over!

  12. Jen - I LOVE all white! I'd probs go with a polished Carerra since the Corian is matte and you don't want to look like you're trying to match the two. Also, be sure to check out Ebay when you're buying...I got my Carerra subway for $8/ft compared to Walker Zanger's $20/ft. Let me know if you need the seller name and I'll dig it up!