Between your countertop and upper cabinets lies the backsplash; it’s often an area where people try to get creative with their decorative style.
Many overlook the potential of this space during kitchen design. But it’s recommended to have a rugged backsplash (like the tiles) because of moisture, grease, and food splatter that commonly accumulate in this area.
The only downside to adding backsplash tiles is the high cost. So, if you are working with a tight budget, you might want to forego this design element and go with some other backsplash materials.
Here in this post, I will have something different than the typical tile backsplash, so check out our top picks for unique and beautiful alternatives to backsplashes from around the web.
Tile Backsplash Alternatives
The tile backsplash is standard in most kitchens, and for a good reason – they can keep your walls from getting damaged or stained from everyday food preparation.
But if you can think out of the box, there are other very effective wallcovering options worth considering to make your kitchen stand out.
Here are a few unconventional backsplash ideas for what to put on kitchen walls instead of old traditional tiles and grouts…
1- Colorful Paints
Paint is undoubtedly one of the cheapest ways to do a backsplash in your kitchen. Use a paint color that contrasts with the rest of your kitchen, and look for something water-resistant with some sheen.
Enamel-based or epoxy-based paints (with a semi-gloss or high-gloss) finish are ideal for most backsplash areas because they are easy to clean.
Bright colors added in the form of stripes, shapes, patterns, or unique letterings are all popular choices.
Many DIYers also like chalkboard paint because it can be used in other areas of the kitchen, such as on pantry doors, cabinets, or fridge encasements.
2- Stencils and Prints
Designers often use eye-catching stencils to add depth and a designer element to the kitchen backsplash decor. These can be in the form of timeless black-and-white geometrical patterns.
But you can also use some interesting natural prints (like flowers, leaves, fruits, vegetables, etc.) to add interest to this area of your kitchen.
And if you want to be less traditional, even painted mural pieces for this area of your kitchen can work well, especially in bohemian-styled homes.
3- Peel and Stick Coatings
If you’re looking to give your kitchen a makeover but don’t have much money to spend, peel-and-stick tiles are a great option.
These are faux tile sheets that come in various colors, designs, and patterns, so you can easily find something that matches your style.
Plus, they’re effortless to install – you can complete the design without hiring a professional by just placing the pieces together like puzzle pieces. And if you ever get tired of the look, you can peel them off and get them replaced with new ones.
For the above-said reasons, this budget-friendly way to add personality to the kitchen backsplash is also an excellent option for renters – you need not upset your landlord by changing the designs permanently.
4- Wallpaper or Contact Paper
If you want to liven up your kitchen space under the upper cabinetry, consider using no-grout kitchen backsplashes like wallpaper or contact paper.
The design possibilities are endless with wallpapers and contact papers, as you can find them in a variety of patterns, stripes, and textures.
Some wallpapers for your backsplash area are also water-resistant, making them easy to clean – perfect for an area like the kitchen that can get extremely messy, especially when the guests are around.
5- Bricks as a Backsplash
Bricks may be the way to go if you’re looking for more dimension and character in your backsplash.
Traditional red brick is always an option, though generally, people have to knock out drywall first to expose the underlying structure of their home.
If you’re not ready for that kind of commitment, faux brick options are plentiful as well – you can paint in the design of bricks that can blend with your kitchen’s palette.
If you decide to put up real bricks and then paint them, you may go for whitewashing or can add a pop of color as per your liking.
Just be sure that the mortar is in good condition and that the exposed brick wall is insulated well, as otherwise, the paint may bubble, crack or chip off due to rapid temperature and moisture changes in your kitchen area.
6- Mosaic Backsplash
If you’re looking to save money and don’t mind a DIY project, you can use almost any tiny flat object as part of your mosaic backsplash.
Adhering, grouting, and sealing, much like traditional tiles, are typically how these kinds of backsplashes are made.
I know homeowners who have used their old beer bottle caps, pennies, or seashells to create unique, fun designs by arranging them in neat rows or columns.
You can, if you want, group these items randomly or in patterns of your liking. They will exceptionally go well in vacation homes, log cabins, retro-styled homes, bars, and restaurants visible to customers.
7- Wooden Planks and Shiplap
Wood planks, barnboard, shiplap, wainscoting, or beadboard are other inexpensive yet excellent farmhouse-looking backsplash options that can create a more interesting retro look in your kitchen.
Shiplap is especially popular in farmhouse-style homes as this type of backsplash can give the space more texture and a cohesive look when arranged on the countertop-to-ceiling to match the entire kitchen.
If you want to go for a more distressed look, use reclaimed wood from old homes or fences – you can inexpensively get them from anyone completing a project where they demolish something.
These pieces usually have nail holes, dents or chips, and knots. So, make sure to remove them carefully before using them in your kitchen.
The beauty of the timber is it goes well with other natural elements in the kitchen, such as stone, glass, and plants.
Also, the wooden backsplash can be painted white or stained to match your wood floors. Or you could go for a darker floor with a lighter-colored wood backsplash.
8- Mirrors and Glasses
For a sleek and shiny backsplash that will make your kitchen look more classy and aesthetically pleasing, pieces of glass and mirrors are fantastic materials.
These work so well because by providing reflection, they make your small kitchen look far bigger and open than it is without the need for a significant renovation.
Materials such as glass and mirrors can be used in a few different ways.
First, you can adhere broken or beaded glass (maybe larger and smaller colored pieces together), much like the tile, to create a mosaic or patterned look.
Secondly, back-painted glass or mirror sheets in several varieties, like concave and convex, will create a unique appearance when used in kitchen backsplashes.
Remember that these reflective surfaces might need custom-cut shapes to fit- so they will cost a bit extra when arranged behind your stovetop.
9- Custom Fitted Windows
If you’re feeling a little daring, you could forgo the typical ceramic tile backsplash in favor of some stylish windows.
The installation will, however, be more expensive and require some professionals’ help, as it is quite a bit more involved than just slapping up some tiles.
But wouldn’t it be worth it to have beautiful natural light illuminating your kitchen? Obviously yes!
I think homeowners who are not fans of traditional tile backsplash and are building their homes from scratch for the first time can try this substitute in their kitchen space during the build.
This is, in fact, a great way to get better use out of those open windows and save on energy bills in the long run.
Consider adding some colored curtains made of washable fabric to soften the look and provide privacy when needed.
10- Tin or Aluminum Backsplash
Metals like tin, aluminum, copper, and stainless steel are other excellent kitchen backsplash ideas that can add a modern touch and flavor to your cooking space.
They are easy to wipe down and come in a variety of colors and styles, including tile, panels, and sheets.
Pressed tin or aluminum panels are best for those who want a more old-fashioned and victorian look in their kitchen, as they can bring a bit of nostalgia.
For a contemporary kitchen, opt for brushed stainless steel, giving it more of an urban edge.
The tile-sized, fingerprint, and magnetic-resistant stainless steel pieces are also a perfect way to achieve a modern look while being able to post family photos and recipes.
Copper, although expensive, should be your option if you want to add a more industrial look to your farmhouse-styled home’s kitchen. It contains a deep reddish or orange tone along with warmth that pairs nicely with other color schemes, appliances, and materials in your kitchen.
If you are concerned about the high cost, you can get all these metals reclaimed from old structures, although it’s generally hard to come by.
11- Stone and Marble
Backsplashes of natural stone come in all shapes, sizes, and colors; some get innovative with concrete to achieve this look on a budget, while others invest in more costly tile versions that add a classic touch to your kitchen.
Slabs of stone (like marble, granite, slate, travertine, etc.) are also prevalent in more sophisticated or luxurious homes. You can use these resolute pieces as a smaller piece or a large slab for a seamless look.
Marble and granites are typically the most expensive backsplash options and go well with lighter colors like white cabinetry, light brown flooring, and stainless steel appliances.
Granite is rock-hard, heat, and crack-resistant, so it can easily last a lifetime without much maintenance. But compared to marble, granite is a bit darker and comes in various shades to match wood cabinets like red oak, maple, and cherry cabinetry.
Slate and sandstone are other popular options that can be used for backsplashes. The former is dark gray or matte black, while the latter is a bit browner or orange.
These options complement well in warm kitchens and can look more modern with red terracotta tiles.
Besides all, travertine is getting popular, and it matches well with tiled or wooden floors. It’s mostly available in easy-to-install lightweight tiles or panels in various colors like gray and brown. Although it chips more quickly than other stones, this one is still a safe choice for a backsplash.
Are Stacked Stone Backsplash Tiles in Style?
Stacked stone backsplash tiles are usually made of granite, marble, or slate and can be a great way to make a stylish statement in any kitchen, no matter what era it is.
Available in regular and peel-and-stick panels, a huge range of colors, styles, and sizes, these tiles are quick to install and offer an elegant and timeless look in your kitchen that will last for years.
One good thing about the stacked stones is you can use them directly to cover old ugly tile backsplash without removing them.
Can Formica or Laminate be Used as a Backsplash?
For those looking to add a modern touch to their kitchen, Formica is the perfect plastic laminate solution available in fanciful geometric patterns.
Not only can wipeable materials like laminate and linoleum sheets be used for countertops, but you can also extend them up onto your backsplash – giving your kitchen an updated look that will last.
That said, it’s essential to be cautious of the material when using it behind your kitchen stove or cooktop – it can easily be damaged by the hot pans and burners you use daily.
For the backsplash behind the stove, you’ll want to stick with other materials like ceramic, stone, or stainless steel that are easier to keep clean from splatters and grease without worrying about heat or fire.
Should the Backsplash be Lighter or Darker than the Countertops?
While it may be tempting to select the same materials and colors for your countertop and backsplash, this option can often lead to a dull appearance.
To achieve an aesthetically pleasing kitchen design, carefully coordinating these two components is key.
When considering what elements and shades you’d like in your space, I recommend beginning with selecting the countertops first and then basing the backsplash color on them.
Generally, a lighter shade of backsplash tile will open up and brighten the kitchen, while a darker backsplash will provide contrast and depth.
For a modern look, you can choose a backsplash that is one or two shades lighter than the countertop. Just keep in mind to balance the shades nearby, like the colors of your cabinets, walls, etc.
The bottom line
Gone are the days when installing a tile backsplash was the only option for your kitchen.
Today, there are many different kitchen backsplash ideas and alternatives to choose from; just be sure to find one that matches your kitchen’s style and personality.
Whether you’re looking for a classic white subway tile backsplash or something more modern like stainless steel, there’s an option for you.
Don’t forget to take into account the maintenance required for each type before making your final decision. And if needed, consult a professional to get the job done right the first time.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.