For years, the traditional backsplash has taken a backseat to other major design elements in a new or remodeled kitchen, serving as a functional yet decorative shield to protect the wall behind it from moisture and food splatter.
But lately, experts are noticing a growing movement: the growing backsplash, as evidenced by countertop-to-ceiling-high backsplashes that create an eye-catching feature wall. In fact, Houzz noted this drift in its recently released 2019 home design trend predictions.
“Backsplashes have generally been installed behind the range area, where pots and pans make the most mess,” says Mitchell Parker, Houzz editor and writer. “But these days, we’re seeing that backsplashes are more about seizing a design opportunity and introducing a graphic pattern that helps to visually break up all the cabinet surfaces and add texture and interest to the room.”
John Linden, a Los Angeles-based interior designer, says the idea of covering an entire wall with tile may have seemed ridiculous years ago, but today feature wall backsplashes provide “a great way to unify your entire kitchen. When it’s done well, it creates a perfect sense of harmony between the walls, countertops, cabinets and floors.”
Melinda Earl, founder and lead designer at Stone Impressions in San Diego, seconds that sentiment.
“Big backsplashes are trending right now because they allow you to create an open, contemporary space with high visual impact. Removing all the clutter and pairing open shelving with a statement backsplash can make the space seem larger and more open while still maintaining a high level of functionality,” Earl says. “Plus, it allows you to save money on upper cabinet materials and installation.”
Parker adds that a full-tile feature wall makes an immediate statement.
“The Houzz Kitchen Trends Study found that half of homeowners are opening up their kitchens to interior spaces, and the most popular kitchen layout is the L-shape,” notes Parker. “This openness means the kitchen is always on display and, therefore, in need of a good focal point. It draws the eye in, whether it be through shimmer and texture with something like simple subway tile or through bold colors and patterns like a Moroccan tile design. It’s a relatively cost-effective way to get a stunning effect that looks high end.”
Ideal candidates for a feature wall are homeowners who aren’t afraid of showcasing some personal style in their space.
“You should like open, breathable spaces and want something different,” adds Earl.
Be forewarned that a feature wall can come with a higher price tag spent on backsplash tile and installation; it can also require more cleaning and sealing maintenance; and it robs wall space that can otherwise be used to store contents and conceal clutter within cabinets.
When planning a feature wall, “I suggest choosing a pattern tile with a matching esthetic and colors that complement the open spaces surrounding it,” says Earl. “For example, if you have a modern home with cool colors, consider a geometric design with a complimentary bold shade of blue or gray on a contemporary marble stone tile.”
Linden says feature walls often work best when they contrast at least slightly with your cabinet hues.
“You don’t want to clash with your cabinets, but you don’t want them to blend into each other too much, either,” adds Linden. “You may even want to consider mirrored tile, which is super easy to clean and makes your kitchen look bigger.”
If in doubt, try a neutral approach.
“All-white tiles, such as simple subway tile in a brick or herringbone pattern, can give you that visual texture and interest you crave,” says Parker, who recommends working with a designer and skilled tiler or contractor for best results.
As for the longevity of the feature wall backsplash, the pros expect it to stick around for the foreseeable future.
“It’s not too common to see a trend like this come and go completely. While this tile trend is certainly having its moment now, I think it will continue to be popular well into the future,” Parker says.