Graphic Backsplashes To Dress Up A White Kitchen

Everyone loves a white kitchen – it’s a classic, timeless look that can work with just about any home or any sense of style. But all the best white kitchens have a trick up their sleeve: something that sets them apart and keeps them from being monochromatic, washed out, sterile, or boring. It can be something as simple as a coat of colorful paint, a contrasting kitchen island, nice hardware, a little wood detailing, or even live greenery. But one of the hottest trends right now are graphic backsplashes – bold, eye-catching tile accents that will give your white kitchen a little extra personality and pizzazz.

Fresh Twist On A Classic Tile Backsplash

Graphic prints and patterns are replacing traditional colored backsplashes as a way to liven up a white kitchen (by Pinney Designs)
Graphic prints and patterns are replacing traditional colored backsplashes as a way to liven up a white kitchen (by Pinney Designs)

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Tile backsplashes have been a popular kitchen upgrade for a while now, and simple, colorful square or rectangular tile has long been a standby for adding a little visual interest to a white kitchen. But tile with printed or painted patterns, unusual shapes, or unique interlocking designs are quickly overtaking these more basic mosaic tiles in popularity. While these can be colorful, it’s the graphic quality that’s really trendy right now, with an emphasis on bold, striking lines and unique repeating patterns. For instance, white marble tile installed in a herringbone layout is an old standby for a traditional white kitchen, but for a trendier look, you want to alternate two different shades of marble, creating a distinctive graphic zig-zag pattern rather than the traditional, more subtle herringbone.

High Contrast White Tile With Black Patterns

Black designs on white tile are particularly popular, and great for creating a high-contrast kitchen (by The Design House Interior Design)
Black designs on white tile are particularly popular, and great for creating a high-contrast kitchen (by The Design House Interior Design)

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The most common graphic backsplashes are white tile done with black patterning. The designs range from simple to intricate and from geometric to stylized, but all work equally well depending on your preference; no matter what the balance of the two, the use of a dark, contrasting color helps offset a white kitchen, adding a little drama and creating a place for the eye to linger. The biggest difference is that simpler designs with thicker lines will have a bolder, more assertive feel, while tile done with fine lines and intricate detailing will have a slightly more delicate look.

Uniquely-Shaped Tile Patterns

Done right, uniquely shaped tile can fill the same niche as graphic tile - you just might need to use a different colored grout (by Facings of America)
Done right, uniquely shaped tile can fill the same niche as graphic tile – you just might need to use a different colored grout (by Facings of America)

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Many of the more ornate painted and printed tiles that are seeing a resurgence as part of the popularity of graphic backsplashes are Moroccan or Middle Eastern in origin, with beautiful, colorful, intricate designs that are a great way to add a little personality to your kitchen. But Moroccan tile is very distinctive, and especially the more colorful versions can be a little too bold or assertive for your average kitchen, especially if you don’t plan to go all-out with a Mediterranean style. For a slightly more subtle look, consider opting instead for an Arabesque tile shape. Paired with a dark grout, these decorative tiles create something that passes well for a printed pattern, evoking that sense of exotic style without necessarily dominating the space.

More Intricate Mosaics

Intricate mosaics are a bit more complicated to install, but produce a really bold, lovely finished look (by Finish Point Trim & Millwork)
Intricate mosaics are a bit more complicated to install, but produce a really bold, lovely finished look (by Finish Point Trim & Millwork)

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Over the last several years, installing “mosaic” tile has become incredibly simplified and streamlined. While certainly there is still a market for hand-laid, artistic mosaics, in many cases they’ve been supplanted by mosaic tile sheets, which are inexpensive and easy to install but often much less intricate – featuring simple repeating squares and rectangles rather than more elaborate designs. That said, you can also find sheets of ready-to-install mosaics that feature interlocking, uniquely shaped, and sometimes brightly colored tile that produce vivid and highly detailed patterns. These are a bit trickier to install because the pieces aren’t perfectly square, but they produce a really lovely graphic style.

Going All Out With Graphic Designs

Graphic backsplashes are all about creating a bold, eye catching style, and less about the material you use to get it (by Kerra Michele Huerta)
Graphic backsplashes are all about creating a bold, eye catching style, and less about the material you use to get it (by Kerra Michele Huerta)

That said, while many of the bolder, more complex mosaics have a strong enough graphic quality on their own to fit with this trend, many graphic backsplashes rely less on tile patterns and more on painted or printed designs – often very intricate ones. Of course, these encompass a wide range of styles, too, from bold modern decals to the aforementioned Moroccan tile, done either on laser cut glass or painted by hand. These are a great option if you really want a personalized, eye-catching piece for your kitchen (or if you want a pattern that isn’t necessarily strictly repeating), but because you’ll likely need to have them custom designed and installed, these types of graphic backsplashes can be a bit pricier.

Combing The Best Of Both Worlds

Painted square tiles are easy mode for a graphic backsplash (by D for Design)
Painted square tiles are easy mode for a graphic backsplash (by D for Design)

The easiest backsplashes to install are ones made of simple square tiles, while the most interesting graphic designs are ones that break the mold of traditional tile with more innovative patterning. But it is possible to combine the two, specifically with square tile painted with interlocking designs. While it won’t have the perfectly seamless look of a glass backsplash, tile that’s painted with a pattern that connects from one tile to the next is incredibly easy to install while still maintaining that really strong graphic style. The tile above is fairly simple, with a single diagonal curve linking one tile to the next, but highly detailed, hand painted tiles can also be installed this way, for an elaborate graphic look without the installation headache.

Whether your taste skews more towards flashy modern designs or highly detailed, colorful Mediterranean tile, graphic backsplashes are a great accent feature and a great way to add a little personality to a white kitchen.

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