Article By: Jennifer Ott
Which do you select first — kitchen counter or backsplash? How do you coordinate colors? Is it OK to mix patterns? The seemingly unlimited countertop and backsplash choices can feel overwhelming.
I’ve had homeowners approach me after weeks or months of looking at and collecting samples of materials that they love separately but just don’t love together. Some settle on a combination that looks good together, but they don’t actually like either material on its own.
Here are 10 examples of stunning and successful countertop and backsplash combinations to help you plan your own mix of kitchen finishes, along with tips to ease your selection process.
Approach 1: Select the Countertop First
If you feel overwhelmed by the countertop and backsplash options, try focusing on countertop selection first. Your countertop is the workhorse in your kitchen and can constitute a good chunk of your budget, so you’ll want to get it right. Your budget and the way you use your kitchen will narrow things down. Plus, there are generally fewer color and pattern options for countertop materials, whereas backsplash options are practically unlimited. Countertops will also be installed before the backsplash, so you definitely need to decide on them first if construction has already begun.
Browse the Houzz photo database for countertop materials that appeal to you and the compare pros and cons in the Houzz guides to countertops. If you want to see something in person, check out what’s available at your local stone yard, kitchen and bathroom design showrooms, and home improvement stores.
Shown: Soapstone and butcher block counter; linear glass tile mosaic backsplash
Once you’ve homed in on your countertop of choice (congratulations!), you have immediately narrowed the field of options for the backsplash. Trust me, this makes your life easier.
Now, you don’t necessarily need to exactly match the color or pattern of your countertop to that of your backsplash, especially if you go for an unusual hue or a countertop material with a lot of movement in it. In these cases a simple and neutral-hued backsplash is a good choice, so that the countertop takes center stage and does not fight with the backsplash for attention.
Shown: Orange quartz counter (get the look withOne Quartz from Daltile); Oceanside Glasstile’sTessera mosaic blend in Veil backsplash
If you want to go bold with both your countertop and backsplash, bring a sample of your chosen countertop material with you as you shop for backsplash tile. You will be able to instantly limit your backsplash options to those that work with your countertop material. If you are struggling with finding the right backsplash to work with your countertop selection, consider hiring a pro, even if it’s for just a few hours, to help you nail the selections. Or enlist the help of a color- or design-savvy friend.
Shown: Green quartz counter (get the look with Silestone); mosaic glass tile backsplash
Approach 2: Select the Backsplash First
Of course, if you happen to find a backsplash you absolutely love before you’ve even looked at countertops, I say go for it. Making this selection will absolutely help you narrow down the options for the countertop. If you go for a statement-making backsplash such as the one here, find a quiet, subtler countertop material so it doesn’t fight with the backsplash.
Shown: Pietra del Cardoso stone counter; Stone & Pewter Accents mosaic glass tile backsplash
I prefer that either the countertop or the backsplash be the star of the show, with the other material playing a supporting role. This stunning backsplash has lots of color and movement and, in my opinion, should not have to compete with an equally attention-grabbing countertop.
Shown: Caesarstone counter; glass mosaic Waterworks backsplash
That’s not to say you shouldn’t consider a mix of colors and patterns for both your countertop and backsplash. But if both of your materials feature multiple hues and have different patterns, aggregates or movement, stick to one overriding color palette for both materials. This will give the materials a nice cohesiveness, so they don’t fight with each other.
Shown: Bianco Romano granite counter; stained glass mosaic tile backsplash
Approach 3: Use the Same Material for Both Counter and Backsplash
Love your countertop selection and want to keep this process simple? Consider running your countertop material up onto the wall as the backsplash. This is an especially smart option if you are required to purchase entire slabs of your chosen countertop material and you happen to have enough material left over to use the remainder as the backsplash.
Shown: Get the look with a Pietra del Cardoso stone counter and backsplash.
You can also use the same or similar countertop material for your backsplash but break it up by selecting a tile format for your backsplash rather than a slab. This can be a budget-friendlier option than purchasing extra slabs to create a backsplash.
Shown: Get the look with a Carrara marble counter or, for a more durable option, check out Misty Carrera from Caesarstone; Carrara marble subway tile backsplash
Another cost-effective approach is to run your countertop 4 to 6 inches up the wall as a short splash. It will give you a nice finished edge where the countertop meets the wall, and it will also provide protection to the part of the wall most likely to get wet or dirty. Just be sure to check your local building code requirements regarding the minimum height of noncombustible materials on the wall area above the range or cooktop.
Shown: Uba Tuba granite counter; colbalt-blue Daltile subway tile backsplash
Approach 4: Hire an Expert
Some homeowners just have a difficult time visualizing their finished kitchen, which is why material selection can prove so challenging. And all too often you are asked to make too many decisions in too short a time period. If you know you are prone to analysis paralysis, do yourself a favor and give yourself enough time to weigh your options, but with a firm deadline to make the decision. Engage the assistance of a friend whose taste you admire, or hire a design professional to help guide you or bless your selections.
Shown: Gray and white granite counter; oversize ceramic tile backsplash