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Best Backsplash Colour for Stained Wood Cabinets

By 04/11/2012January 18th, 202324 Comments

Trying to update your kitchen with stained wood cabinets can be challenging. But, I’ve got a few simple tips to help you choose the best backsplash colour. 

Well, you all know that my favourite kitchen is white.

However, I got lots of questions from readers who need help choosing a backsplash for wood cabinetry – because if you don’t have any white or cream in your kitchen countertop or floor, white or cream subway tile is not the answer. So, here’s what you should do…

How to choose the best backsplash colour for stained wood cabinets

If painting your stained wood kitchen cabinets is not an option (see my designer secret for updating old kitchen cabinets) then I’ve got three steps to help you choose the best backsplash colour for your kitchen.

1. Choose your wall colour first.

When I’m helping a client choose finishes for their house, I look at every hard finish that isn’t just plain white like tile or countertops  and make sure that the potential wall colour that relates to the hard finishes actually works with the scheme of the entire house.

These countertops (below) are a solid pinky/taupe shade so blue is a great choice for the backsplash because more of the countertop colour (pink beige/taupe) on the backsplash or walls would not have looked the best with the ginger coloured cabinets. That leaves blue as the best choice for the wall colour since taupe is out.

So choose a wall colour that looks the best with the cabinets first!


I wrote a post ages ago talking about wood flooring and how it’s pretty much like a pair of jeans when it comes to wall colours. But, this is not true when it goes vertical like on wood cabinets and wood trim and doors.

Below, you can see the ceiling/wall colour inspired the colour of the green glass backsplash tiles. 

backsplash colour matches wall colour

Remember in last months newsletter ‘Two Ways to Decorate around Carpet you Hate? Those same guidelines apply here. You can have two unrelated colours in the same room together but three looks like you don’t know what you’re doing.

2. If you have granite countertops pick a backsplash colour from the granite.

Here you can see that the backsplash and wall colour was chosen from colours in the granite.


Naturally I chose an image with a SOLID tile backsplash because in my opinion it’s pretty much impossible to find another pattern in tile that will not result in a clash of patterns and undertones with your granite countertop.

Best backsplash colour for granite countertop

Source: LiLu Interiors

3. Repeat your stone countertop on the backsplash.

Here the carrara has been continued onto the backsplash, so this butterscotch or orange beige colour on the walls works.

If you have a really busy granite countertop, I would not install it on the backsplash as well. It’s just too much pattern and a busy look that you will tire of quickly.


Technically the creamy cabinets in the kitchen above are a bit too creamy to relate to the countertops but they are far enough away from the stone, that it’s fine. One of my clients told me that many readers on the garden forums are posting that carrara is so blue/white it glows and that will happen if you don’t choose the correct shade of white to go with it.

full stone backsplash with wood cabinets


Backsplash Colour Advice

Bottom line, if you have not already:

  1. Chosen a white or cream countertop for your wood stained kitchen
  2. Chosen a granite countertop with white or cream in it so you can choose the same colour for your backsplash
  3. Then white or cream is pretty much out as a backsplash tile colour choice

For example, if your countertops are black, it will look odd to have a white backsplash unless your walls are also white. But beware, white walls in a kitchen with no white walls in any of the other rooms could look like you haven’t painted the kitchen yet.

Read more: Will a white kitchen work with my existing granite countertops?

Which brings me back to where we started… 1. Choose your wall colour first, or if you already have a painted kitchen, find a backsplash that relates to your walls.

It’s also the reason why my dream kitchen is white on white. Because then you won’t be married to the same colour palette for the rest of your life.

I’m curious, what colour is your backsplash?

Related posts:

5 Steps to a Kitchen you will Love!

Which Backsplash Tile goes with Granite?

How Important is the Colour of Wood Floors vs. Wall Colour?

Would you like to look at an image and know which category of undertones it belongs? Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours: It’s All in the Undertones

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large painted colour samples!

If you would like to learn to how choose the right colours for your home or for your clients, become a True Colour Expert.

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  • Maria,

    I’m debating if I should paint my cabinets or not. We all know that we should play around with it, since they’re not cheap. So you really need to think it over and try to hire a professional help in case you don’t have any experience with it.

    I really enjoyed your post. Very resourceful! Like always!

    Have a great day!


    Luciane at

  • Diane says:

    I’ve been enjoying your blog for a while. This post confused me a bit, though. Lots of examples but not enough info to back them up. Why do the rules change when wood goes vertical? And why does that Carrara marble work simply because it’s been continued up the walls? I think it looks out of place in that kitchen. A warmer stone would have been better. Or else some cooler colors elsewhere in the room, like a French grey on the glazed cabinet.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Diane,
      The rules change when wood goes vertical because paint is vertical, once you install carpet and furniture on top of hardwood floors, you don’t notice them in quite the same way as it’s the paint colour that should relate to the furniture. Anyway, it’s a post for another day.
      A warmer stone in this kitchen would definitely have been better which is why I said that the adjoining white cabinets were too creamy. Maria

  • Noel says:

    I have not seen any information on what color to paint ceilings. Do you use white or a lighter shade of the wall color?

  • Cathy Z says:

    Yeh, I’ve been waiting for this post! I too have stained cherry wood cabinets and a very busy New Venetian Gold granite countertop. The surrounding walls are soft yellow and one deep red accent wall in the adjoining family room. My solution to updating this traditional warm-colored space was stainless steel subway tile! I love it! Maria, I already sent you a picture of my project 🙂 But for anybody else looking for another alternative, check out my befores and afters here:

  • Kelly says:

    Good ideas in the article. Maria, I am subscribed to your newsletter and received the e-mail saying that the newsletter on “carpet colour you hate” was coming but then never received it. Then I can’t look at it on your website. I am really interested in that article because it is exactly the predicament I am in. Thank-you.

    • Maria Killam says:

      To anyone who has this problem with my newsletter, check your junk box, sometimes they land there. I’ll send it to you Kelly. Maria

  • What a great post, and I so agree!! I made this mistake just recently. We had oak cabinets (selling soon and didn’t want to take the time to paint white) and no backsplash. Installed dark granite counters, and the wall behind it was really damaged. So instead of fixing it we decided to just do a backsplash, and I LOVED that white Beveled Arabesque tile. So up it went, and down went my heart. Love, love the tile, but it looks really off in my kitchen. There’s nothing for it to relate to, like you said. Lesson learned for the next house I guess.

    Thanks Maria!

    • Mary says:

      If Kelly@Notable Nest had white appliances, would her white tiled backsplash have worked? Can a white backsplash relate to white appliances?

  • Debbie says:

    My circa-1999 kitchen has cherry cabinets, black granite countertops & backsplash, and tile floor similar to the 2nd picture in this post. Does that give me pretty much a clean slate for wall color? I love the blue shown in the first pic (looks similar to BM Wythe Blue maybe?). Any ideas whether that might work?

  • Your info in your posts is the best on the web. 🙂
    Have a great weekend Maria.

  • Your info in your posts is the best on the web. 🙂
    Have a great weekend Maria.

  • Elizabeth Danna says:

    I just purchased my own house. I lean towards a robins egg blue and cream color palette. The kitchen cabinets and both bathroom cabinets are stock home depot wood (orangie look) I cannot paint them or reface but can you suggest a back splash color scheme for the kitchen and baths.

  • Deja says:

    Our cabinets are just a little darker than the first kitchen pictured in this post (the one with the blue walls). The laminate countertop are a speckled medium/dark grey with a small amount of beige-ish color throughout, and our kitchen floors are light creamy beige ceramic tile. The walls are Martha Stewart Bedford Gray, which has quite a bit of blue/green undertones, depending on the light. The main space is open concept (same paint color), with the rest of the flooring being Brazilian cherry.

    I know you said if you don’t have 1) a white or cream countertop for your wood stained kitchen, OR, 2) granite counters with white or cream in it, then white or cream is pretty much out as a backsplash tile. BUT if I have white curtains, white trim, and other white accents throughout the room, is white subway tile still not an option? Or what about matching the backsplash to our floor, which is creamy beige? Any other suggestions?


  • Cathy says:

    My lake house kitchen has light oak cabinets, my walls are dark grey, and the backsplash is white with a tile with fruit on it every once in a while, which I hate. The granite is brown with some specks of different specks of brown. My floor is off white tile. I have alot of windows that bring in light.I want to do away with the white backsplash. What would be a good color that would blend the light and the dark together?

    • Maria Killam says:

      There’s no such thing as blending the light and the dark. If you try and do that, you’ll end up with pink beige tile. There’s enough kitchens with that horrible colour tile, don’t add yours to the list. What you hate is the dated fruit. What you need is off-white subway tile to relate to your floor. Otherwise you need an actual colour like blue or green or rusty orange, which you probably won’t want on your backsplash. Hope this helps, Maria

  • Renee woodie says:

    I just put in a Quartz countertop with Browns and creams and new oak cabinets. The floor is ceramic brown tile. Well, it’s too much brown. I lightened up with light cream walls and light cream roman shades. I need a backsplash that will contrast and break up all the brown. I don’t know what to get. Can you help with what looks good??

  • Maureen says:

    I am renovating my bungalow. Kitchen will have custom cherry inset door shaker style cabinets and I’ve found beautiful soapstone with a bit of slightly green veining in it. Had hoped to find a very light green/grey subway tile but am striking out. What do you recommend.?

  • Ann says:

    I have lighter cabinets and thinking of putting a white countertop. Can i add a color glass backsplash ? It’s a smaller kitchen.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Sounds pretty! Keep in mind, I don’t know what other colours are there but if you don’t have flooring that conflicts, sounds good. Maria

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