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Dos and Don’ts for Installing a Countersplash

Have you started seeing kitchens with countertops being installed as a backsplash on the wall? I have a few designer tips to help guide you if you’re considering a “countersplash” for your kitchen or bathroom design. 

Recently I opened up my House Beautiful magazine and learned this term for the first time. It’s called “countersplash” and it’s the hot new trend to continue the countertop onto the backsplash.

So, after seeing quite a few good ones and bad ones, I thought we should talk about when you should (or should not)  consider this idea for your home.

Because, as you know, every other article you’ll read out there about the countersplash trend will tell you what a fabulous–’There’s something about a marble backsplash that will never go out of style’–idea this is.

NOT

And we can’t eliminate bathrooms from this conversation because it’s happening there too.

This trend will be done badly a thousand to one times. 

So that means for every bathroom or kitchen that looks amazing, there will be 1000 that missed it.  The ones that we see in magazines are the ones everyone will use as inspiration but without that designer considering all the details. And it will 99% of the time go wrong.

How do I know this to be true?

Because 99% of the kitchens and bathrooms in real estate listings are bad. Keep reading you’ll see what I mean.

Dos and Don’ts for Installing a Countersplash

✅ DO include a shelf if you’re only running the slab up this far for the ‘no uppers’ look

Without the shelf, it looks like we ran out of money or marble.

Sarah Elliot Photography

✅ DO create a statement wall with the range so you can actually see the marble

Otherwise, what’s the point? Marble is a lot more expensive than subway tile, just saying.

Atlanta Homes

HGTV

✅ DO Keep your marble quiet unless it’s a smaller area like this. 

Just my opinion, but this very busy marble (below) would stop looking like art on a countersplash and just look, well busy.

Old House Online

I get that this book matched blue slab might be fabulous, but look at all the other details that are correct. And remember, there will be thousands of kitchens inspired by this one but only a few that will look this good. 

Frankly, I would only install this kitchen if I was in love with blue and I was going to live in this house for the next 15 years.

House & Home

❌ DON’T install marble that’s this much of a zebra statement

UNLESS you’re rich and can rip it out 10 minutes later after you’re bored. I’m not kidding.

And especially do NOT create a ‘carpet moment’ with it smack in the middle. This is just way too much of a good thing that could have stayed just on the countertops.

Artistic Tile

❌ DON’T use quartz with a prominent veining for this look because it doesn’t look natural

Not to mention this bathroom looks like old floors, new wall tile – did you notice that? Even though I find it hard to believe someone would spend this much money on slabs on the walls and leave the old floor so maybe this flooring was new at the time? 

A real estate listing photo sent to me by a follower on Instagram where the owners shall remain anonymous.

Also, look further into the shower and it seemed like the designer felt like the crescent window also needed to be accented with penny tile as well. All that money for a look that still leaves us saying, “They left the old floor from the Tuscan trend.”

PS. Everyone keeps asking me about shiplap so if you actually have a farmhouse or a cottage, that’s when I’d install it. Love this kitchen so much and especially the huge lamp!! 

A side note (if we’re being picky) since the lamp and the chair appear to be a violet grey, the art should have matched better but otherwise this kitchen is perfection.

Atlanta Homes

Remember, Boring Now Equals Timeless Later

So here’s the bottom line of all this. When you watch the trends come and go with your boring now equals timeless later subway tile, you won’t have to be upset that you just installed Encaustic Tile on your backsplash just a few short years ago when it was trending (for example) and now wish you had a slab there instead.

Remember, backsplash fads change every two years and we often fall madly in love when they do arrive because they are NEW. As human beings, we love new and when you see it done well all over social media, you think you have to have it too until they change, AGAIN. 

Over to you my lovelies, do you have a countersplash planned in an upcoming renovation? Were you thinking Zellige but then changed your mind when you started seeing slabs all over the walls?

If you’d like help with the details, see my edesign packages here.

If  you’d like to become a True Colour Expert and learn even more about how to navigate the trends in your new build or renovation, there are two dates left in my Fall Virtual Specify Colour with Confidence workshops!

October 5 & 6, 2022 – SOLD OUT

October 15 & 16, 2022 (weekend)

November 10 & 11, 2022

Register here

Related posts:

Can you use Large Tiles for your Kitchen Backsplash?

A 10 Year Review of Accent Tile; Should you Install the Current Trend?

DO’S & DON’TS for Installing Accent Tile

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34 Comments

  • Penny says:

    And all your “dos” have beautiful, custom inset cabinetry…

    1
  • Linda Gail Trammel says:

    Yeah, some of that is too much! When will open shelving hit the dust? Which by the way that’s what they are good for. Dust. They look good but they are not very functional. If you were to have open shelving I’d say do a plant or something very minimal that you can dust off and put back with little maintenance. Some of the big slabs look nice if they are very subdued in my opinion. I hate grout but it’s necessary with tiling.

    6
    • Kay says:

      A small amount of open shelving, carefully curated with items you use frequently, obviates the dust problem. My open shelves are on either side of the sink and hold carefully arranged, pretty china that I use every day. Every four months or so I take everything down and wash it and the shelves. They never look dusty, and the whole job takes maybe an hour.

      2
  • Sheri says:

    Working on my kitchen remodel as we speak and yes I am (was?) planning on using LG Viatera Minuet quartz countertop on the backsplash too. Now I’m not sure.My cabinets will be BM Chantilly Lace. Hoping I can see a full slab for pattern and movement before it’s installed. Love your blog!

    • Rebecca Burlingham says:

      Minuet is a beautiful subdued quartz. Go to the fabricator or slab yard and view an entire sheet to be sure you like how the pattern moves across the slab. It does not have huge flowey veins, a good thing in my opinion. There is some warmth in the coloration, which I also like.

      1
  • Yolanda says:

    I personally think that the black and white bathroom with the old floor is merely a faux finished “wannabe” marble wall treatment. If the designer had truly used that marble, I feel like it would have been installed in the shower as well. Don’t you think? Either way, it’s just too much!

    2
  • Bette says:

    LOL. The most hideous bathroom, ever.

    But let me add, even tasteful marble can be misplaced. The photo that includes the ridged drain countertop, with the beautiful peaches and cherries, is a nightmare. Water will collect in the ridges and it will be impossible to keep clean and maintained. Ugh.

    5
  • Lorri says:

    That ugly bath has to be a remodel by someone without design sense. Just look at those naked budget blinds in addition to the floor. It looks like they painted the old cabinets black, put in flack faucets, and just went to town from there.

    4
  • Sheree Jones says:

    So what would look good with the old tile from the tuscan trend?

    1
  • Mary says:

    I don’t understand a lamp in a kitchen—seems so impractical and it’s going to get greasy! And a picture behind a stove? Gross—more grease!

    10
    • Julie B. says:

      You would have to take the art down when you used the stove, which seems very inconvenient.

  • Cindi says:

    I think all marble with veins is too busy, let alone those horrible examples. I also have never liked Zellige tiles; I like the color variation but the tiles themselves always look “sharp”.

    But more than any specific thing, it’s how it blends with and works with other things in the space. When I put a subtle glass tile backsplash in my kitchen 5 years ago I already was totally over glass mosaics. But after testing dozens of subway and other tiles, the glass backsplash looked the best in the overall composition with the granite counters etc. 5 years later and glass is even more out of style, but in that room it still looks great because it was the right choice for the room.

    6
  • M says:

    Thanks for another great post and good examples. OMG that Zebra kitchen and the black and white (marble?) bathroom are horrendous!! That bathroom looks like someone had a Silly String war in there! Can’t believe they got published anywhere.
    Agree about counter/backsplash needing to have minimal pattern if the same, but I’ve seen that done for a long time so I don’t think of it as a trend.

    I don’t like the lamp in the kitchen. Stands out and not in a good way. So big the lampshade looks like it extends to end of the counter rendering a prime work area useless. Too much over-staging in photos, unrealistic.

    7
  • Brenda Viney says:

    I redid our kitchen 2 years ago with BM Revere Pewter coloured cabinets. We chose a quartz countertop and ran it up as the backsplash up to the upper cupboards. I LOVE it and it’s so easy to clean. I feel it gives a calm, sophisticated look especially as the quartz is white with faint veins of taupe, grey and white in it. It makes for a monotone kitchen which we like but others might not. Can’t insert a photo otherwise I would show the result.

    4
  • Oooooh, I love the shelf idea in the kitchen without uppers!

  • Kim says:

    What great examples of what NOT to do! That black and white bathroom looks like a graffiti artist had projectile vomiting all over the room. I am someone who detests grout and I’d love a backsplash that was a solid slab of something very subtle.

  • Janet R says:

    When I’m not sure I wait until I am. My staircase ceiling was just white primer for years until I saw Radiant Orchid and thought “That’s it!” . It’s been almost 20 years since we added on and I just never saw anything that really grabbed me for a backsplash. If I ever paint the hickory cabinets white, I can see subway tile. In the meanwhile, I used chalkboard paint about 10 years ago. I did a checked border (just by hand, not too fancy) and it looks very intentional with my MacKenzie Child’s pieces. If it gets some thing on it, I just chalk it up and erase! I saw the idea on a blog that I would love to credit, but I don’t recall what it was.

  • Margaret says:

    Countersplash? A new term for my 1980s kitchen formica counter that also ran halfway up the wall. It was dated when I purchased my house 15 years ago. Finally got rid of it in a kitchen remodel 2 years ago and am glad it’s gone for so many reasons. Love the first photo, though, with the shelf that pulls that look together.

    1
  • Jess says:

    The only time I’d like to see a countersplash/or tile running all the way up to the ceiling is like in a bathroom if there is a potential mold problem, and the drywall needs to be covered. (I don’t mean to hide the mold, I mean to prevent mold.)

  • Lillian says:

    We just did a major kitchen expansion and remodel and now have lovely flat front white oak cabinets that match all the solid oak doors inside our house.

    We had very expensive natural stone slabs picked out to do exactly this countersplash look, but I just could not pull the trigger. I canceled that order and ordered a nice soft white and off white quartz countertop that matches any type of white is next to it, but nicely hides crumbs. The quartz also looks similar to the fireplace surround in the next room and the floors in the bathrooms… because I pay attention to Maria!

    Our backsplash is currently painted blue while we dither over tile… I started thinking green, then blue, and am now onto white. I have two suitcases of rejected tile samples. I really did not want to do this out of fear that it, too, will date, but the white zellige sample sure is beautiful, and a pleasing textural contrast to the quartz… But what do you think, Maria? Will I regret the white zellige?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Not unless your kitchen doesn’t suit a more organic, countrified look which is what zellige is. Hope that helps, Maria

      2
  • Lisa says:

    Hmm… So I never thought this was a trend. I actually just did this to my kitchen remodel last year. I like the clean look. It’s a very subdued quartz. In fact my mom has had a counter splash since the 1980s.

  • Rebecca Burlingham says:

    Holy cow! My eyes!
    How did they look at a full slab of the zebra stripe marble and think this would be a good idea?

    As a kitchen designer, I have learned so much from your decorating blog.

    Thank you!

  • Tamara says:

    I recently did a kitchen remodel and I was thinking about using the quartzite from the counters on the wall just behind the range I figured it would be pretty and easy to clean.
    Ultimately I decided that I wanted white subway tile that went from the counter to the ceiling (no uppers). I love the way it looks and it was less expensive:-)

  • Alex says:

    Actually, I think the zebra counter and backsplash work in the the kitchen with the bright green cabinets because it’s so tiny and has no windows. It’s like a powder room and needs a little zing.

  • Kelly K says:

    I never saw countersplash as a trend as it has been a thing for decades if someone has the budget for it. High end kitchen photos often have countersplash walls. It is possible it is being used enough to hit trend status and those who do it poorly will make it feel dated in years to come.

    I get the appeal of eliminating grout but obviously any busy pattern can go wrong very quickly. I do think the right subtle pattern can look stunning, in a kitchen or bathroom (it’s always been in high end bathrooms).

    It is definitely a pricy fail if done poorly due to cost of material, removal, and install. A tiled backsplash is much cheaper to fix if you want to try something busy.

  • Barbara says:

    That black and white bathroom looks like a bored child was let loose with a giant black Sharpie. Certainly not a calming place to take a bath; headache inducing to be sure!

    1
  • KJG says:

    I really like the shiplap kitchen and I think the blue picture is just right. The fact it doesn’t have exactly the same undertone is charming to me and OK in a casual kitchen. Also, I have a white subway tile backsplash and it’s very easy to keep clean, especially since you can actually see splatters so no surprises when viewing from another angle. Grout is sealed, so no problems there.

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