Choosing the right white kitchen backsplash ideas is a crucial if you want an otherwise plain, neutral space to feel characterful.
For a dark or small kitchen, you may want a backsplash in light-enhancing white, too. However, there are so many elegant but adventurous backdrops that embrace color, pattern and alternative tile styles – and which to add interest and a personal stamp to your kitchen ideas – that it seems a missed opportunity not to consider them.
‘Backsplashes for white kitchens can vary,’ says interior designer Anja Michals. ‘I like using a variety of materials, ceramics, terracotta tiles such as zellige, and marble slabs for a sleeker, cleaner look. Tiles give a sense of texture and can add more texture depending on the layout you choose and I like to play around with that.’
White kitchen backsplash ideas
The most obvious choice you might want to consider are kitchen tile ideas that are either rustic and forgiving, or easy to clean. However, there are so many more adventurous materials to choose from.
Whether you’re looking for the ideal material for a white backsplash, or you need more colorful kitchen backsplash ideas that will work with your white cabinets, we asked the experts for their tips on choosing the perfect backdrop to your cooking exploits.
1. Choose marble slab for timeless appeal
‘Marble’s cool and opulent aesthetic looks beautiful in a range of interiors, and nothing says classic more than stunning white marble splashback,’ says Lee Thornley, Founder of Bert & May, ‘Marble has a beautiful natural patina and character that will add a soft sense of grandeur, while it’s natural variations can help prevent the kitchen becoming too uniform.’
To fully appreciate marble’s natural characteristics, don’t be confined by the width of your sink or stove (particularly if you’re looking around the higher end of kitchen tile costs).
In this kitchen by interior designer Lisa Staton, a marble slab covers the entirety of the wall behind the stove. To ensure the effect isn’t overwhelming, the other walls do not feature any backsplash at all.
2. Create a colorful focal point in a white kitchen
White kitchen ideas don't necessarily need to be matched with white backsplashes. ‘Patterned tiles can be used to create a striking focal point in an otherwise neutral, white kitchen scheme,’ explains Thornley. ‘At Bert & May we love to use natural pigments in our encaustic patterned tiles, giving a beautifully washed out and glamorously faded aesthetic.’
In this kitchen, Bert & May encaustic tiles in a pink and white pattern pick out the area behind the stove, and offer a colorful contrast to the largely monochrome kitchen.
3. Go all out with wall-to-wall tiling
Where does backsplash tiling end? Is it with your sink? Is it with that one wall? Waterworks Co-Founder Barbara Sallick chose to tile all four walls of her Connecticut kitchen. Using 4 by 8 inch white, subway-style tiles, Sallick continued her offset pattern well beyond the usual realms of a backsplash, tiling right up to the ceiling.
The result glimmers with a glazed sheen on all sides, and creates a kitchen that is easy to clean no matter how high those splashes reach.
4. White zellige tiles add texture and character
If you’re worried about your white kitchen looking a little too pristine, mix it up with a textured tile. ‘White tiles are always classic and clean,’ says Michals, ‘but I love using zellige as it gives an old world feel with each tile different from the next.’
These glazed Moroccan-style terracotta tiles are hand cut, and their uneven nature means they will shimmer irregularly across a backsplash. ‘Once it is installed, it has a magical pearlesque quality that quietly shines in any space,’ adds Michals.
5. Brushed metal complements modern kitchens
For modern white kitchens where tiling feels just too fussy or, dare we say, 20th century, look to a more metallic solution.
Brushed stainless steel makes for a space-age backsplash that channels a little bit of industrial chic, and is in keeping with the likes of handleless cabinetry and geometrically acute layouts. In this example, the effect is softened by pairing the backsplash with wooden and marble countertops.
6. Choose a gloss finish to bounce light around the kitchen
White is a great color choice in spaces that you want to feel as light as possible. Picking a white tile for a backsplash that has a light-reflecting finish – like a high gloss panel or a glazed tile – will only enhance this feeling of brightness.
‘In interior designer Cecilia Halling Howells’s kitchen, our Oasis ceramic gloss tiles in white are used to great effect, adding warmth and iridescence to an otherwise all-neutral scheme,’ says Grazziella Wilson, who works in Marketing & Creative at Artisans of Devizes.
‘The painted white timber cabinetry and marble work surfaces are effortlessly paired with these rectangular zellige-inspired wall tiles, laid in a brick effect for a touch of industrial chic that works well with the brass lights and wall-mounted pot filler.’
7. White marble works in small formats too
If you’re not up for splashing out on one huge marble slab for your backsplash, consider a more budget-friendly way to introduce the material’s luxurious connotations into your kitchen.
‘At Bert & May we have recently introduced two new small format white marble tiles that provide a classic style; pared back and simple, with subtle light veining,’ says Thornley. ‘The beautiful snowy tone of the Calacatta marble has a soft, matt polish that will envelope any room with a sense of pure luxury.’
As seen in this kitchen also, using individual marble tiles can create its own unique effect, as the irregular vein of the marble skips and jumps about the wall. ‘Quarried from natural marble, each tile has its own beautiful intricacies, making each one entirely unique,’ says Thornley.
8. Fill your kitchen with natural textures
‘In an all white kitchen, I like to add character,’ says Michals, ‘so I love adding a zellige tile or a marble that has texture and movement to play against the white and the hardware details.’
In this kitchen, interior designer Cortney Bishop has really looked to maximise texture in a largely white kitchen by filling it with visually enticing natural materials. White horizontal shiplap walls meet vertically paneled white-stained wooden cabinetry, while pale woods are found in the furniture and ceiling. The star of the show is, however, a stunning green-grey marble that is used as a backsplash and across the island, making a statement that is not only an injection of color, but a confirmation of nature as this kitchen’s muse.
9. Go off-white for a rustic finish
White isn’t one color – and different whites can have very different effects in your kitchen. In this kitchen designed by The Misfit House, an alcove around the stove is tiled with square terracotta tiles, painted off-white with a subtle blue pattern.
‘Whether they are the star of the show or blend into the background, there are plenty of variations so it is important to choose your shade carefully,’ says Wilson. ‘Bright, sunny spaces can easily absorb a cool white, while rooms that lack plenty of natural light may need a warmer hue.’
The rustic effect of these tiles – emphasised by having left the earth-toned sides of the tiles exposed – matches perfectly with the kitchen’s farmhouse style, brass hardware, and off-white painted walls and cabinetry.
10. Match your backsplash to your countertops
Choosing a backsplash isn’t just an individual decision – sometimes you’ll want to take its horizontal counterpart into consideration too. Matching your backsplash with your kitchen countertop ideas is a great way to tie a scheme together – particularly in a neutral-leading color scheme where simplicity is likely to be high on the agenda.
Here, an intricately veined gray and white marble runs down from the backsplash, across the work surface below and over to the island for an elegant look.
What is the best backsplash for a white kitchen?
If your kitchen is largely white across its walls, cupboards and work surfaces, the backsplash is a chance to make a statement – either with an injection of color, or with a finish that adds a touch of sparkle.
‘Embrace tonal colours by sticking to a similar palette choice, think warmer whites. Or go all out with a pop of pattern,’ suggests Wilson.
‘Bert & May’s glazed tiles are pretty special and work really well as a backsplash for white kitchens,’ says Thornley. ‘The glazed surface is gently reflective and the tiles can create a multifaceted look that shifts with daylight. Additionally, due to the eye catching nature of glazed tiles, you only need a few in a space for them to stand out.’
Other than glazed ceramics, marble will add a feeling of luxury, while encaustic or zellige tiles convey a sense of rusticity. Whichever you choose, be sure that you observe best practice when installing them.
‘The most important thing when choosing your splashback is to ensure that it is properly installed and sealed to provide the waterproof and cook-proof protection you need,’ warns Thornley.
‘Ultimately when it comes to the kitchen, you want something that not only looks great but is practical too,’ says Wilson, ‘so opt for porcelain/ceramic tiles that are wipe-clean and suitable for areas that may get a little hotter – like behind a hob – or go for pattern, as it will not only create impact but will help to hide any imperfections too.’
What is trending now in kitchen backsplashes?
‘Perfectly imperfect tiles,’ says Wilson. ‘Customers are looking for something a little ‘lived-in’ when it comes to white tiles – and anything with a Mediterranean influence!’
Rather than an individual trend, Michals says it is a shift in attitude towards kitchen decor that is characteristic of contemporary backsplash design.
‘The trends I am seeing are clients taking more risks, and not just going with a white subway tile,’ says Michals. ‘Playing with materials that are a bit more special, different tile layouts or different sizes and shapes that can add texture or marble that is more bold.’
A largely white kitchen is a perfect excuse for embracing color, texture and pattern via a backsplash. Consider opting for a colored marble, a patterned tile, or even tiles in irregular shapes – like hexagons or rhomboids – for an on trend look.
I started out at British GQ, where a month of work experience turned into 18 months of working on all sorts of projects, writing about everything from motorsport to interiors, and helping to put together the GQ Food & Drink Awards. I then spent three years at the Evening Standard on the GO London team, covering restaurants and bars, and getting to eat and drink a veritable smorgasbord of wonderful things around the city. I left the paper in 2020 and went freelance, writing about food, drink and homes for publications including Conde Nast Traveller, Luxury London and Departures. A little less than a year later, I started at Homes & Gardens as a Digital Writer, allowing me to fully indulge my love of good interior design.
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