Creative Backsplash Ideas

Get creative backsplash ideas, and get ready to install an eye-catching and unique backsplash in your home.
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A tight shot of a mosaic tile backsplash image of a flower in the kitchen.

Photo by: igor terekhov

igor terekhov

By: Sean McEvoy

Creative backsplash ideas are on display in many homes, with good reason—they can add tremendous personality and visual interest to any kitchen.

A Kitchen With Personality

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Take a Closer Look

At first glance, Kristy Socarras Bigelow and Brian Bigelow’s Denver kitchen looks pretty classic—subway tiles, open shelves, oak floors. But a closer inspection reveals this room is far from ordinary. When the Bigelows started designing their kitchen, they contemplated a neutral palette. “I loved the idea of a clean and simple room, but I knew I wouldn’t be happy unless it had some spunk,” says Kristy.

Photo By: David A. Land

Unexpected Elements

There’s a breakfast nook with seat-to-ceiling tiles in graphic patterns, a nod to Kristy’s Cuban heritage. There’s an armoire painted aqua and bright yellow chairs. “What can I say? I’m from Miami—I can’t live without color!” says Kristy, who owns three trendy Cuban restaurants in Colorado.

Photo By: David A. Land

Family Meals in Style

Now the space has just the right ratio of splashy to subdued. Brian and Kristy with kids (from left) Leelé, 6, Mitchell, 10, and Giana, 4, love sitting around the breakfast table.

Photo By: David A. Land

Tiled Wall

A 32-inch-by-46-inch window is surrounded by a patchwork of 8-inch-square cement tiles from cubantropicaltile.com. “I wanted it to look a little crazy but also have cohesive parts,” says Kristy. She figured out the design by laying the tiles on the floor first.

Photo By: David A. Land

Banquette

Nothing can compete with those tiles, so the rest of the breakfast nook is neutral: a dark stained table from West Elm, a white banquette with silver vinyl seat cushions (try fabric.com for a similar fabric), and a hammered metal pendant.

Photo By: David A. Land

Dark Cabinets

Kristy’s contractor built the oak cabinets and deep drawers that run around the room’s perimeter and serve as the base for the 4-foot-long island. They’re stained black with a distressed finish. The brushed nickel pulls are from Rocky Mountain Hardware.

Photo By: David A. Land

Floating Shelves

To keep the room feeling airy, Kristy hung 2-inch-thick shelves, stained black to match the cabinets, over glossy white subway tile. “I love how the open storage lets me put the stuff I collect on display,” she says. The shelves hold pottery, vintage glasses, and serving pieces.

Photo By: David A. Land

Sleek Peninsula and Multipurpose Art

“On most Sundays, we invite friends over for a casual dinner,” says Kristy. Guests sit at the granite-top peninsula on metal stools—leftovers from one of Kristy’s restaurants—while she plates food. The wood panel on the wall is actually one of the dining table’s two extra leaves. Kristy painted it yellow, and when it’s not being used to expand the table, she hangs it displays the kids’ art.

Photo By: David A. Land

Clock and Lights

Kristy found the graphic wall clock for about $100 at a local Denver store. “I bought it nearly 10 years ago, but people still ask me where it’s from,” she says. The understated lights are a pair of nautical-style fixtures—about $30 each from The Home Depot.

Photo By: David A. Land

Table and Chairs

The family eats dinner at the big oak table, which is from a local furniture shop. In the afternoon it doubles as a homework station. For an unexpected twist, Kristy mixed yellow metal chairs from Frontgate with traditional black cross-back ones.

Photo By: David A. Land

Chandelier

The gold-tone wire birdcage pendant—which has birds crafted with real feathers roosting in it!—is by Graham and Green. Kristy found it at a lighting shop in Paris. “It’s the cutest thing,” she says. “I smile every time I look at it.”

Photo By: David A. Land

Armoire

Instead of adding more stained wood to the dining area, Kristy went with a cabinet done in weathered aqua paint that she uses for storage. Set in the corner, it holds dishes, wine glasses, the kids’ games, and a few extra wall tiles.

Photo By: David A. Land

Your options for creative backsplashes are just about limitless, and ultimately the only constraints on the distinctive backsplash you choose will be your imagination and your bottom line.

Before deciding on a style or materials for a creative kitchen backsplash, you'll want to define the size—both physical and economic—of your project. Measuring the surface area of the walls above your kitchen countertops to determine the square footage you want to cover is a good place to start, but keep in mind that you don't always have to cover the entire kitchen wall with the backsplash (in fact, that design might be too overwhelming, especially if your intent is only to get creative and feature an eye-catching backsplash). When it comes to surface area, many homeowners choose to cover only the portion that will actually get "splashed" during cooking or daily kitchen activities—depending on your kitchen's layout, that may be the whole wall, half of it or only a small portion.

Once you've settled on the scope of your creative backsplash project, you're free to start brainstorming ideas for the materials and theme of the backsplash. It's definitely possible to install a creative backsplash using common materials like ceramic tile or stone in traditional styles like mosaic or subway, but if you're looking to flex your creative muscles, you'll likely want to explore more non-traditional materials. Reclaimed and repurposed materials—from punched tin ceiling tiles to things like bottle caps, coasters, used gift cards and even pennies—can make for an impressively creative and visually appealing backsplash in your kitchen. Most creative backsplash ideas that incorporate found materials like these will require some DIY investment from you in terms of time (to research and find the right materials) and budget (to purchase the materials, unless they're already in abundant supply). But what you spend in terms of sweat equity and research time, you'll more than make up for in cost savings by not having to hire a contractor or pay high prices for more traditional materials.

Creative backsplashes don't have to be made from found items, though—they can be much simpler, but just as colorful and visually appealing. Many homeowners looking to add a uniquely creative design to their kitchen have begun to feature "paper" backsplashes. Featuring interesting designs and bold colors on materials like heavy duty scrapbook paper, old newspaper pages, or even magazine image collages, these backsplashes provide plenty of visual punch at a fraction of the cost of ones constructed from tile, metal or stone. If you find this approach appealing, all you'll need to do is procure the paper, glue or paste it to the wall, then coat it with a finish that will protect the paper and allow you to easily wipe it clean.

Dreamy Kitchen Backsplash

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