How to design a kitchen backsplash and 20+ Neutral tiles for kitchen backsplashes
When it comes to designing a kitchen, the backsplash is usually the finishing touch. It helps unify the space and add a bit of flair. And, of course, it provides a functional purpose as well – to protect your walls from all the splashes and spatters.
Below I have some tips on how to design a kitchen backsplash, but here are a few key tips. In the meantime, here are more than 20 neutral tiles for kitchen backsplashes.
Please note that this article contains affiliate links. That means that if you decide to buy some of these items, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.
20+ Neutral backsplash tiles for kitchens
All of these tiles are available online. To get more information on size, prices or to buy them, just click on the pictures, and it will take you right there. Most of these tiles are mosaics and come on a meshed 12 inch x 12 inch backing which makes them super simple to install, even if you’re a do-it-yourselfer.
As I mentioned, just click on any of the above pictures to find out where to buy these tiles.
Tips to design an amazing kitchen backsplash
1. Design you kitchen backsplash AFTER you’ve selected all your other materials
That is, be sure to pick out your cabinets, counter top and floors first. It will be much easier this way as you’ll have the right color tone. Usually when you do this afterwards, the backsplash just fits right into the space and unifies the look.
What trips people up is when they start designing each piece separately…and then all of the elements compete with each other. Don’t fall into that trap.
2. Determine where you want your focal point for the room…and remember “less is usually more.”
Do you want the backsplash to be the focal part of the room or just blend in? This will help determine how you approach the project (i.e. how fancy, intricate or unique you want it to be). If you’ve fallen in love with your counter tops or cabinets, you might prefer for those to be the focus. And, if your counter tops have a lot of color or movement in them, you don’t want the backsplash to compete with it.
If every portion of the kitchen fights for your attention, it’s distracting (and can actually give you a headache). Often, “less is more” as it creates a more harmonious look. And, nowaways, I see more and more customers going for simpler and calming styles. This usually means just 1 type of tile throughout. Sometimes, they will mix up the shapes of those tiles (see below).
If your space is smaller, generally 1 tile/1 size will work better. And, remember this is both classic (i.e. will stand the test of time) and contemporary.
3. Decide what style you want
Do you want a more modern design, more classical or trendier? How long are you planning to stay in your home? If you plan to stay for a long time, choose what you love. if you’re planning to sell in the next 5 years, you may gravitate towards a more neutral and safe design that will appeal to more buyers. Also remember that this is “semi permanent” meaning that you may be living with it for 15 to 20 years (pending on how often you remodel your kitchen.
This style decision is based on your personal taste, and the other choices you’ve already made for the room. There is no wrong answers here. All answers are right…as long as you love it.
4. Do you want a focal point within the backsplash?
If you have a small space, I’d recommend that you stick with just one tile. The one area where you may want to opt to get a bit creative is if you have a nice size space above the stove area. What I’ve found works best is if you still work with the same type of tile, but mix it up by creating a picture frame and using a different size, shape or layout within the picture frame.
For example, you could use a subway tile shape (3″ x 6″) on a horizontal layout for the majority of the space. Then, create a picture frame above the oven (a few inches from each side…use pencil liners for this) and then use a 4″ x 4″ tile of the same material and lay it on a diagonal within the picture frame.
5. Are you using glass? Then, be sure to use the right thin set!
This is a common mistake by handymen and novices. They don’t realize that you need a different type of adhesive when you’re using glass. Here’s a great one that you can purchase on Amazon. (Thin set = adhesive for tiles).
6. The grout should match/blend in with the tiles
For some reason, this seems to confuse some people. I think that’s because years ago, sometimes people contrasted the grout color. But, all you need to do is find a grout color that is very similar to the tiles and blends in. Your focus should be on tiles, not the grout. The good news is that if you’re buying online (and follow above picture links), the have coordinating grout colors for you, so it’s super simple.
7. Don’t forget to seal the grout afterwards
Most people miss this step. In fact, they don’t even realize that they should be doing it. And, many installers don’t even mention this to you.
You want to seal the grout so that it doesn’t get dirty and it lasts longer. Grout is basically sand, so if you don’t seal it, it will absorb everything including dirt, cleaning products and food stains. Think about everything that spatters around the oven.
You should seal the grout around 2 weeks after it’s installed. The good news is that it’s super simple to do, and you can even do it yourself. See: Why it’s important to seal your grout and how to do it yourself. This links to the grout sealer you need and brush. Even my mom can do this, so I know you can, too.
8. If you’re having challenges visualizing, then WAIT
Designing a kitchen can be a bit challenging for most people, especially if you can’t visualize how it will all come together when it’s finished. If that’s the case, and you don’t feel comfortable in choosing the backsplash, then WAIT. You can design and install the backsplash later if that makes you feel more comfortable.
If you are redoing the whole kitchen, after the counter tops are installed, and then sink is connected to the plumbing, you can use your kitchen. While you’ll want to install a backsplash soon, you can definitely use your kitchen as long as you are careful about splashing around the sink and splattering by the oven. (you can even use some saran wrap by the sink to protect the wall…but I would probably avoid that by the stove as it might be a fire risk).
Then, take your time and choose a backsplash. (And, hold off on the painting until after the backsplash is installed).
9. Determine your budget
Backsplashes often cost more than what people are expecting, and this is due to the labor involved. It’s just tricky to center and cut the tile, and there are a lot of edges, as well as cuts needed around the outlets. So be prepared for this. If you get fancier with the tile patterns, this will increase the cost. If you choose glass or natural stone, that will cost a bit more, too (as those are harder to cut, and you usually need a wet saw.
If you are able to install the backsplash yourself, that will obviously save you a big chunk of change. But, this is not for everybody. And, if you are installing it yourself, you may want to go for less a challenging design. (hint: mosaics are quicker and easier to install).
Remember that while backsplashes may cost more than you expect, know that the majority of the cost is not from the tile itself. Most backsplashes are only 20 to 30 sq ft, so even with waste, you may only be ordering 30 to 40 sq ft. So, even if you splurge and spend $20 a sq ft, the tile may only cost $600…and if you save $5/sq ft, it only saves $150. So, I would encourage you to choose the tile you love. You’ll still have to pay the same for grout, transition pieces, thin set and labor anyway.
Related kitchen articles:
- Why it’s important to seal your grout and how to do it yourself
- The most popular farmhouse sinks and how to choose one
- 10 ways to improve your kitchen WITHOUT remodeling
- How to paint your kitchen cabinets the RIGHT way
- Tile plank flooring vs real hardwood floors – pros and cons
- Which types of floors are best for kitchens?