How to Have a Busy Kitchen Backsplash But Not a Busy-Looking Kitchen

How creative can you get before it becomes too much? A tile kitchen backsplash is both practical and adds a patterned element to the room, but can take over the space if there’s too much of it. The biggest trend remains a pure white subway tile for your kitchen -and there’s nothing wrong with that!- but it can feel unoriginal if you prefer a bolder look. Here are some ways to go about adding a more bustling backsplash to your walls without going overboard.

A Splash of Color

Adding color to your backsplash doesn’t necessarily mean the brightest color you can find; even neutrals like brown can add depth (by Dream Kitchens)

The first element you want to consider when choosing a tile is its color.
either a strong, consistent color or a mix and match of several complementary colors create the biggest impact. Of course, you can go for subtle, too. A blend of warm neutrals is an oldie-but-goodie that’s coming back into vogue with the fall of all-white kitchens. If you’re choosing a tile that has a gradient of colors (that isn’t pre-laid on a mesh sheet for easy installation), be sure to check the tile’s color variation rating. A higher number means you’ll be getting much more variety in a single pack of color, and will want to mix your sets thoroughly for a look that’s bold without creating an accidental pattern.

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Creating a Pattern

You can vary the patterns on individual tiles, but make sure there is a kind of repetition within the set (by Greta Wolf)

“Patterned tile” can mean a whole lot of different things. Your backsplash pattern can be as simple as a natural marbling or gradient, or as complex as unique designs on every tile. So you’ll want to narrow down what kind of pattern you want. Many “patterns” now involve pre-laid mosaics made of carefully arranged, shaped tiles that install to create a repeating pattern from the stone itself. More graphic tile is usually ceramic rather than stone, and comes either painted or printed with a tile that may interlock or repeat. They can be be part of a large and extremely varied set, like above. That said, choosing both an unusual tile shape and multiple bold colors together can feel like too much, so try to aim for one element as the tile’s dominant trait.

All Shapes and Sizes

Uncommon shapes like hexagons can bring a more modern element than simple subway rectangles (by MDRN Built Ltd)

When you think of tile backsplashes, chances are you’re imagining squares or rectangles. But while one inch squares and subway tile are perennial favorites for both the kitchen and bathroom, they aren’t the only options. Hexagons right now are a wildly popular alternative, along with fish scale shapes, arabesque tile, and picket tile. Even if you choose white tile, a distinctive shape can add to the feel of the space in a similar way that color can. So while squares and rectangles are standard and comparatively easy to install, there are a lot more shape patterns to choose from. Depending on the shape of the tile, you may be able to pair it with a pattern (like fine herringbone rectangles) or a color, but both can be overwhelming.

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Keeping Focus

18″x24″ Heaven Metallic Resin Plaque. Kitchen Backsplash Medallion Or Bathroom Wall Accent Mural in Bronze, MRLMET2002BRZ by Nichetiles

A way to offset a colorful or detailed backsplash and keep it from feeling overwhelming is to give the wall a focal point. A custom centered plaque or wall accent with a thematic design draws the eye and complements the surrounding tile without taking away from it. These plaques can be big and bold (a lot of them are a single piece of cast metal or pre-arranged tile) or relatively simple. For the latter, think a simple rail frame with one or more patterned tiles inside – something that draws the eye, but also helps break up the surrounding tile (and lets you lay less of it in the big, open space above your range!).

All Rooms Aren’t Built the Same

You may think small tile has a small visual impact, but if you’re covering a large surface area the effect will add up (by J.M. Froehler Construction)

How busy your tile looks can also depend on the room itself. Putting a very fine tile over a very large space can create a riotous, almost overwhelming impact. But an intricate but fine or delicately-colored pattern might vanish into the background in a very small kitchen. To strike the right balance, keep in mind the amount of surface area you’ll be covering, and choose your tile accordingly. And don’t be afraid to mix and match; this classic square blue tile would work brilliantly as a plaque above the range, but a larger-format, boldly-patterned tile might make a more effective front face for the island.

While there is no universal backsplash that can go in any room, don’t let your creativity be stifled by the popular white tile trend. There is a color, pattern, and shape combination for every kitchen out there, you just need to find it.

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