scandinavian kitchen with grey cabinets and white walls/counters

Kitchen Backsplash Ideas: 2021 Trends, Timeless Options And How To Choose The Right One For Your Kitchen

Miranda Crace13 minute read
June 02, 2021

Does your kitchen inspire your culinary spirit? Does it draw your family together? If your answer to either of those questions is no, it may be time to remodel your kitchen.

While big projects can be a stressful undertaking, they can also be an exciting way to breathe new life into the rooms you use most. Although many functional aspects of a kitchen must be considered before remodeling, sometimes the best way to get into home makeover mode is to envision the style that you ultimately want your kitchen to reflect.

Once upon a time, kitchen backsplashes were an afterthought. Homeowners would put up whatever tile they had lying around merely to protect their kitchen walls against water and splattering oil. But today, backsplashes are an opportunity to get creative and assert your individual tastes.

So instead of wearing yourself down by worrying about the nitty-gritty, give yourself a treat and explore several gorgeous backsplash ideas that will undoubtedly make your kitchen stand out.

Your Kitchen Backsplash Showcases Your Style

While countertops and cabinetry tend to be the focus when you begin to remodel your kitchen, backsplashes are one of the improvements that will most reflect your interior design taste.

“Backsplashes do a great job of protecting the wall from cooking mishaps, but don’t miss an opportunity to make this something more,” says Brad Little, president of ReVision Design/Remodeling of Charlotte. “In an all-white or neutral kitchen, a backsplash that provides a pop of pattern or color could add that something that was missing and set the scene in your new space.”

While backsplashes can enhance the charm of your kitchen through creative expression, they can also add value to your home. “While the dollar amount is hard to pinpoint, it could help your house sell faster than if it did not have a kitchen backsplash,” says April Struhs, licensed general contractor and real estate agent in Florida.

So, how do kitchen backsplashes add value? Karen Gray-Plaisted, owner of Design Solutions KGP, a home staging and decorating company based in New York, explains, “A backsplash will add that level of detail that buyers want. Similar to millwork. It’s the little details in a home that add value to the property. Those details make a house feel like it is a quality-built house.”

With the abundance of options out there, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which kitchen backsplashes will best suit your home. But by reviewing the backsplash ideas below, you’ll be well on your way to creating your ideal kitchen.

Kitchen Backsplash Trends For 2021

Design trends come and go, but selecting a trendy backsplash for your kitchen can make a bold statement and make your home feel more modern. Here are a few of the biggest kitchen backsplash trends on the horizon for 2021.

Large, High-Reaching Backsplash Tiles

Large, High-Reaching Backsplash Tiles

Short rows of backsplash tiles are out – it’s all about full wall coverage now! Select a style and size of tile that best fits your vision for the overall kitchen design, and plaster them in the arrangement of your choosing from countertop to ceiling. Not only will this give you a fun accent wall in your kitchen, but it will also create the illusion that the space is taller and the ceilings are higher than they actually are.

Patterns And Textures

Patterns And Textures on kitchen backsplash

Many homeowners choose backsplashes with bright colors and fun designs to add a dash of excitement to their kitchen, but 2021 is the year where that trend gets kicked up a notch. As kitchens with white walls and white cabinets become increasingly popular, the backsplash can be the perfect area to break up the monochromatic look and infuse elements of your personality into your kitchen’s otherwise sleek design.

Seek out a backsplash that gives your kitchen wall a layered, texturized look, and explore some of the creative ways you can incorporate patterns into the layout of your backsplash tiles or into larger slabs of alternative backsplash materials. You could opt for a classic chevron pattern, for instance, or choose to stand out and create a patterned look that is truly unique.

Window Backsplashes

Window Backsplashes
Kitchens can be a great area of your living space to have a lot of natural light pouring in, so why not brighten things up with a window extending the length of the wall where you’d otherwise install backsplash? Window backsplashes can help to make your kitchen feel more spacious, and can provide an additional area for ventilation while you’re cooking.

5 Kitchen Tile Backsplash Ideas

Tiles are the most popular choice when it comes to kitchen backsplashes because of their durability, affordability and variety. Tiles come in all different materials, colors, shapes and sizes, making them a natural fit for any style or taste. These backsplashes are easy to clean and will provide your kitchen with a polished, classy look that will stand the test of time beyond 2021.

Backsplash Idea 1: Subway Tiles

Subway Tile Backsplash

The clean lines and staggered layout of subway tiles are adored by homeowners and designers alike. They come in a variety of colors and sizes and tend to cost $7 – $13 per square foot. Although they’re highly durable and easy to clean, the exposed grout lines are more vulnerable to mold.

“Subway tile is inexpensive and classic in style, which will last a long time,” says Teris Pantazes, co-founder of Settle Rite, a home improvement contracting company. “You can find it in almost any kitchen in any price range as it is versatile and fits in with almost every decor.”

Backsplash Idea 2: Laser-Cut Tiles

Laser-Cut Tiles Backsplash

Laser-cut tile backsplashes are particularly eye-catching due to their smaller shapes and intricate patterns. But the elaborate designs provided by these tiles cause them to be on the higher end of the price spectrum at $30 – $40 per square foot, and they require more expensive tools to install.

“Laser-cut tiles can show a lot of detail and be done in a lot of patterns,” says Gray-Plaisted. “Due to being laser-cut, the detail can be smaller and exact. They do tend to be a little more expensive, though, but with a small area as a backsplash, you can make a really big impact. Imagine using a solid color type of countertop with a laser-cut tile backsplash – simply gorgeous.”

Backsplash Idea 3: Diagonal Tiles

Diagonal Tiles Backsplash

Diagonal tiles add an interesting visual effect to any kitchen. They are simply square tiles that are flipped onto their point when installing. Since they require more precise cutting to fit the space and lead to more material wasted, diagonal tiles tend to cost 10% – 20% more than straight set tiles.

“Diagonal will always be a little more difficult than cutting parallel to edges, but there are tools and techniques to help you do this,” says Linda Fennessy, blogger for Kitchen Magic. “The upside is, it gives dimension and interest to the overall design and can make the room appear larger.”

Backsplash Idea 4: Mirror Tiles

Mirror Tiles Backsplash

Mirror tiles reflect fragmented light and create a playful look in the kitchen. They typically run $20 – $25 per square foot. These tiles are recommended for smaller backsplashes, as they provide a striking accent to a casual kitchen but can be distracting and seem over-the-top in larger spaces. Instead of a purely mirrored backsplash, you may want to consider creating a pattern that combines these tiles with a less reflective material.

When considering mirror tiles, Cristina Miguélez, remodeling specialist for Fixr, says, “Advantages would include increasing light and making the room look bigger, while disadvantages would be having to have everything reflected back to you, including a messy counter.”

Backsplash Idea 5: Custom Mosaic Tiles

Custom Mosaic Tiles Backsplash

Custom mosaic tile backsplashes can add a simple pattern or a vibrant design to your kitchen. They are great for adding diversity to the colors and textures of the room. Because they are highly customizable and come in an extensive range of styles, they suit many kitchen designs. They can be very pricey, at $30 – $50 per square foot, but are highly durable and long-lasting.

“Mosaic tiles are very popular now,” says Gray-Plaisted. “The encaustic pattern tiles that you see a lot in farmhouse design are a type of mosaic. Mosaics can also be smaller tiles laid to create a pattern and come in various shapes.”

5 Alternative Ideas To Tile Backsplash

While tile backsplashes are affordable and low-maintenance, some people prefer a more particular look for their kitchens. If you really want to wow your guests, you may choose an alternative kitchen backsplash material. These materials can enhance the texture and aesthetics of your kitchen as well as provide a more distinctive look and feel to the space. Many of these options are easier to install, but some can be more difficult to maintain.

Backsplash Idea 6: Back-Painted Glass Panels

Back-Painted Glass Panels Backsplash

Back-painted glass panel backsplashes provide kitchens with pops of color. Because the paint is on the back of the glass, these backsplashes supply kitchens with a glossy, translucent finish that can brighten the space and cause it to appear bigger. But these backsplashes are often expensive, at $100 – $200 per square foot, and are best installed by a professional due to their larger size and tendency to expose imperfections.

“Back-painted glass panels are water-resistant and can be seamless, making for an extremely clean installation that can nearly disappear into the wall,” says Justin Riordan, interior designer, architect and founder of Spade and Archer Design Agency, a home staging company.

But he also warns, “If not installed properly, water can wick up behind back-painted glass and cause delamination of the paint from the glass, leading to discoloration.”

Backsplash Idea 7: Metal Panels

Metal Panels Backsplash

Metal panel backsplashes cost hundreds of dollars. That being said, if you can stomach the price, they can furnish your kitchen with a sleek, contemporary look. However, they’re not always recommended for kitchens that already have a lot of stainless steel, as the panels can clash with appliances and create an overly heavy feel.

“Metal panel backsplashes, if specified correctly, can be extremely easy to care for, attractive and long-lasting,” says Riordan. “If specified incorrectly, metal panel backsplashes can rust, stain, discolor, dent and easily scratch. They can also be cost-prohibitive.”

Backsplash Idea 8: Marble Slabs (Or Other Natural Stone)

 Marble Slab Backsplash

Marble slab or other natural stone backsplashes have a timeless look that is unparalleled by other materials. These backsplashes tend to work very well in contemporary and transitional kitchens as the material is classic, while the seamless nature of the slab is aligned with modern-day sensibilities. Although you’ll have to pay $50 – $100 per square foot, these natural materials will certainly add value to your home.

“These materials are nice. If you already have a granite countertop, you can carry the granite up onto the backsplash, creating a larger feel countertop,” says Struhs. “The disadvantage of these materials is the price. Being that these materials are natural, they tend to cost more. Plus, these materials will need to be sealed periodically to maintain the quality of the surface.”

Backsplash Idea 9: Wood

Wood Backsplash

Wood backsplashes create a warm, cozy look. And using reclaimed wood can enhance the texture of your backsplash and make a trip to the kitchen feel like a rustic retreat. They can be a very affordable option, but they tend to be difficult to maintain.

“Wood warps and rots with moisture, and the kitchen environment can often be moist. However, wood backsplashes are beautiful,” says Jake Lizarraga, writer for Interior Charm, a design and decorating blog.

Backsplash Idea 10: Exposed Brick

Exposed Brick Backsplash

Exposed brick backsplashes give kitchens a chic, industrial or rustic feel, but installing solid brick can be time-consuming and cost $12 – $20 per square foot. That’s why many choose to use brick veneer panels. They’re a lighter and thinner alternative, which can create the same effect for a lower price and easier installation process. But be warned: Brick is a very porous material, and should be coated with a sealant to help fend off moisture.

“Done right, an exposed brick backsplash can be stunning. But it is hard to clean (one of the key reasons for a backsplash in the first place!) and also difficult to do well. Tread with caution here!” says Halie Venema, interior designer and assistant general manager of Modernous.

How To Choose A Kitchen Backsplash

Now that you’re caught up on the range of kitchen backsplash materials available, it’s time to choose the one that’s right for you. As you’ve probably noticed, not all backsplashes are created equal when it comes to cost, installation, durability and maintenance. So, while you want to choose one that matches your style, you must also consider the practical elements of each option.

“We always tell our clients to think of function first and then mix in the fashion aspect,” says Melanie Carter, vice president of Yeager & Co., a full-service kitchen, bath and flooring remodel company in Tampa, Florida. “A backsplash should be easy to clean and maintain – think spaghetti mishaps. From there, we encourage our customers to pull samples and place them in their current kitchens for a few days to see if it’s right. Color, lighting and overall look can change from a showroom to a personal kitchen.”

Most homeowners will begin to narrow down the options based on cost, but you should also consider how often you actually cook in your kitchen. If you’re an avid cook, you may want to stick to tile backsplashes, which are highly durable and easy to clean. However, if your preferred method of cooking involves takeout, you may want to choose a wood backsplash for the texture and warmth it adds to the room.

Once you’ve determined your budget and needs, there are some additional considerations that will enable you to make your decision. Here are three tips to help you settle on that perfect backsplash.

Match Complementary Styles

When making your choices, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of kitchen styles because you’ll likely want the backsplash to integrate with its surroundings. Although we discussed a selection of the most common styles earlier, a more thorough investigation of different kitchen aesthetics will enable you to gain a better sense of your stylistic preferences.

“A good way to choose a kitchen backsplash is to decide what look you are going for,” says Struhs. “What kind of look are you trying to achieve? Do you want a modern, traditional, contemporary, sleek, bright or calm feeling kitchen? Getting examples from magazines or the internet are always great ideas to see what you like and don’t like.”

After you’ve figured out the style you want for your kitchen, you’ll be in a better place to eliminate more of the backsplash possibilities. Each type of kitchen has specific colors, patterns and materials that are associated with it. Therefore, choosing a backsplash that’s aligned with your ideal style of kitchen will strengthen the overall aesthetic of the room.

For example, since modern kitchens tend to center around minimalism and highlight horizontal lines and glossy materials, back-painted glass panels fit perfectly into the decor. These backsplashes will provide a sleek pop of color that will accentuate the kitchen’s clean lines.

Back-painted glass panels, however, would not necessarily work as well in a traditional-style kitchen. For traditional kitchens, diagonal marble tile backsplashes would be a better choice. These backsplashes have a more formal, timeless feel that will accentuate the furniture-style, oak cabinets, ornate wood appliques and marble or quartz countertops that are common in traditional kitchens.

Don’t Be Afraid To Mix It Up

While it’s useful to try to match your backsplash with the style of your kitchen, that doesn’t mean that you should refrain from mixing and matching. Sometimes it’s the blending of seemingly divergent styles that allows you to fully express your individuality and create a striking focal point in the room.

So even though farmhouse kitchens tend to pair well with stone backsplashes, you can still choose to use a white subway tile to contrast your wood cabinets, stone floors and butcher block countertops.

When choosing to incorporate a backsplash that is different than your kitchen style, Gray-Plaisted offers a recommendation. “The material should complement the existing counter colors, flooring and cabinetry,” she says. “My rule for making it all work: Have only one material that has ‘movement’ in the kitchen. Too many statement hard surfaces can work against each other.”

Movement refers to any pattern present in the counter, floor or backsplash of your kitchen. So instead of having many patterned materials in the kitchen, you should ensure that the room focuses on one so that it becomes the center of attention. The same holds true for colors.

“The backsplash is like an accessory. If you have chosen very plain or monochromatic countertops and cabinets, you might opt for a blingy backsplash,” explains Venema. “But like everything in design, not every piece can be the showstopper. So if you’ve chosen a very busy countertop, or if you’ve done a bold colored cabinet, you may consider toning down the backsplash. Everything has to be chosen with balance in mind.”

Find The Look You Want At The Price You Need

After reviewing the different backsplash options, you may have found that your tastes tend to fall on the pricier end of the spectrum. Even if you’re working with a tight budget, you shouldn’t feel that you have to compromise on your style. Aesthetics and price don’t have to be at odds with each other.

As with any interior design project, there are tricks you can use to make inexpensive materials appear expensive. Thanks to advances in technology, there are many cheaper alternatives that look just like more expensive materials.

If you’re a fan of marble slab backsplashes, you can use ceramic or porcelain tiles that have the same through-body veining as marble. Or if you’re just dying for a metal backsplash, you can choose to forgo the steel or aluminum panels in favor of tin tiles.

While tiles are often the more affordable option, prices can range significantly depending on the material and the intricacy of the pattern. Higher-quality materials and elaborate tile designs are always more expensive, but there are ways that you can cut costs while still achieving that showstopping look.

“Many people might opt for a ‘statement’ backsplash behind their cooktop and opt for a less expensive tile for the rest of the area to keep within a budget,” says Gray-Plaisted.

By reserving more costly tiles for the area above the stove, you’ll not only save money but also be able to incorporate more elaborate designs that might look too busy across the entire backsplash.

If you’re looking to cut costs even further, you can choose to do the work yourself. By cutting out the professional and taking on the DIY project, you’ll be able to save about 15% – 20% of the cost. And now with peel-and-stick tile options, the job has become that much easier. You can install beautiful tiles without worrying about the grout.

The Bottom Line

Kitchen backsplashes may preserve your walls and ease your post-meal clean-up, but just because something’s functional doesn’t mean it has to look it. So instead of conforming to a standard style, get creative and find a backsplash that will reflect your personality and spark joy for years to come.

Curious about what other home renovation trends became popular during the early stages of the COVID-19 quarantine last year? Check out our article on the subject here!

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    Miranda Crace

    The Rocket Homes blog is here to bring you all you need to know about buying, selling and making the most of your home. Whether you’re thinking about becoming a homeowner, selling your current home or looking to keep your place in tip-top shape, our writers and freelancers bring their experience and expertise to meet you right where you are.