How should you coordinate/pair your backsplash and countertop? Should they be matchy-matchy or contrasting? Which should you choose first? And how much influence should your flooring and cabinet choices have on your choice of backsplash and countertop? This week I’ll give you a few quick tips to help you with making your choices for these two major surfaces of the kitchen (and bathroom).
There are several different ways you can handle coordinating your backsplash and countertop. If you find a backsplash you absolutely love before you’ve even looked for countertops, great! Use that backsplash as your jumping off point. And choose a countertop to coordinate with that backsplash.
Although finding the backsplash first can definitely happen, it’s less common. Because with so many backsplash options on the market, selecting one can be overwhelming. Some backsplash options include: ceramic, stone and glass tiles in multiple shapes and sizes, natural stone and quartz slabs, stainless steel, brick and back-painted glass.
If you do select your backsplash first, it’ll be fairly easy to narrow down your countertop options. To help you make your countertop decision, consider the countertop material and its level of maintenance, its color and pattern.
A brightly colored or visually complex backsplash with lots of movement or pattern is best paired with a countertop that’s more subtle and understated-- one that won’t compete with that statement backsplash.
To learn more about countertop options, listen to episode 33 called "Kitchen Countertops 101."
Either the backsplash or the countertop should be the star— not both. Because if they are both competing as an attention-grabbers, neither will get the attention it deserves. Now, that’s not to say that if you choose a flashier, focal-point backsplash, you have to choose a plain white or black countertop. No, you can have patterns in both your countertop and backsplash. But make one pattern more subtle and low key than the other. And with different patterns, stick to one predominant color palette for both surfaces so the look is cohesive and sophisticated.
If you want a brightly colored backsplash, combining it with a countertop in a neutral color will make your kitchen look more refined.
Your goal may be to be more whimsical or over-the-top as opposed to sophisticated. In that case, you can go bold with both your countertop and backsplash, but make sure that you love both your choices. And be warned that those bold choices may turn potential buyers off if you plan to eventually sell your home.
So that’s the first approach-- choosing the backsplash first and selecting a countertop to go with it. But most of us narrow down our countertop options first because there are generally fewer color and pattern options for countertop materials, whereas backsplash options are almost unlimited.
If you haven't fallen in love with a specific backsplash, then definitely choose your countertop first. That’s because the countertop is one of the hardest working features of a kitchen or bathroom. In contrast to the backsplash which is more often chosen for its looks, and not its functionality, a countertop is much more than a pretty face. We take into account not only how a countertop looks, but how practical it is. A countertop needs to be easy to work on and should be able to resist stains, heat and wear and tear better than a backsplash does. It works well to choose the countertop first, based on your kitchen habits and the amount of maintenance you’re willing to do on it.
Countertops will be installed before the backsplash. This is another reason that making a countertop choice first makes sense.
In addition, countertops are usually more expensive than backsplashes are, so your budget may have quite a bit of influence on your countertop choice.
Once you've chosen your countertop, you can narrow down your backsplash options based on colors, patterns, and materials. Take your countertop sample to a tile store or kitchen design showroom and see what fits into your budget and what looks good with your countertop of choice. Then take your samples to your home site, or your current home to see how the materials look outside of the showroom— under regular lighting.
Coordinate your countertop and backsplash in the same ways we talked about a minute ago, just like you would if you were to choose the backsplash first. In most cases, either the countertop or the backsplash should take center stage, and the other should coordinate, but not compete.
For a really sleek look, run your countertop material up onto the wall as the backsplash. Either add a slab of your countertop material to partially, or fully cover the wall, or use tiles for your backsplash made of the same material used for the countertop. Using tiles instead of a slab is often a more budget-friendly option. But if you have extra slab material after having your countertops cut, using those remnant slab pieces as a backsplash can also be economical.
For those who are having trouble making a countertop and backsplash decision after spending some time on Houzz and Pinterest, in stone yards and tile stores, you can hire a kitchen designer or interior designer for a consultation. Or you can take a trip to a tile or kitchen and bathroom design showroom for some free advice.
Of course both the countertop and backsplash should coordinate with our cabinets and floors. But since most of us will choose cabinetry and flooring in neutral, solid colors, with either no pattern or a subtle pattern, it’s pretty easy to find countertop and backsplash materials that will go with those neutral, subtle cabinets and floors. So take the cabinets and floors into consideration, for sure, but focus on coordinating the countertop and backsplash since they can be harder to match.
Here's the caveat: If you decide to go with flooring with a bold pattern, like a cement tile, go subtle and more understated with the backsplash and countertop. Let the flooring be the star.
After you’ve narrowed down all your options, put the cabinetry, flooring, countertop and backsplash samples together with a paint sample and make sure they all look good together. You can do that with either physical samples or a digital or paper mood board.
Well, that’s all I have for you this week. I hope these tips will help you narrow down your countertop and backsplash option. And I hope you’ll join me next week.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete and it’s subject to change, so it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.