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Vancouver Interior Designer: The Best Backsplash Tile for Your Kitchen

By 08/21/2011January 24th, 201856 Comments

Image via Pinterest

This post is strictly for those of you who are still trying to decide on a backsplash for your kitchen. I get so many questions on backsplash tile that I thought I’d cover it in a little more detail in this video.

 Images in video Kitchen #1, Kitchen #2

Read my post on Which Backsplash Tile Goes with Granite before you watch the video.

Image via Pinterest

The only time a patterned tile of any kind (above) looks good is with a solid colour countertop. Even then, keep in mind, most patterns are super trendy and will still be the first thing that that dates your kitchen.

Related posts:

Selecting Your Kitchen or Bath Backsplash; Accent Tile or Not?

Five Questions to Consider When Selecting a New Colour for Your Kitchen

Slate or Porcelain Tile in the Bathroom?


Download my eBook, It’s All in the Undertones. If you have a computer, you can download my book!

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 samples!

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  • Anonymous says:

    Hi Maria, I love your blog, and the tone of your blog posts are great: happy, professional and helpful. However, the tone of this video is a little harsh. Please be easy on us. We wouldn't be coming to you if we knew what we were doing.

  • Coley says:

    AMEN. Thank you for posting again, maybe people will understand this time around!

    And in regards to the comment above, it wasn't harsh at all 🙂 Even if it was, this issue needs to be hammered into people's minds. haha

  • Jeannine 520 says:

    Most are guilty of this decorating crime and I've thought about why this simple rule is rejected by so many. I think they grew up with busy wallpaper on the back splash (as was the trend in the 60's, 70's and most of the 80's) and are just used to seeing huge visual impact in that area. Anything less seems plain or boring to them.

    I worked with one family who I thought I had convinced that they needed an off white subway tile and in the end they added two thin stripes, a hunter green and a burgundy!

  • Miki says:

    Hey Maria, great post! I was wondering though, can you tell me your thoughts on the first picture you posted? I have seen that picture somewhere before and immediately loved it and put it in my inspiration file and can't quite figure out how to bring that same look to my home. Your insight on that photo would be awesome!

    • Paula in Atlanta says:

      This picture is from the Southern Living April 2011 edition. The kitchen featured was designed by Tobi Fairley of Arkansas. I love the green and blue color scheme too!

  • Elements says:

    Great post Maria, as always..;-)

  • An Eye for Detail says:

    Oh so true, so true . Keep it simple! I am amazed at how "complicated" people get with their kitchens…I too am a huge fan of good looking white subway tile. I feel it will stand the test of time, always looks fresh, and yes, goes with almost any counter top. Enough with the trendy!

  • Alecia says:

    Maria, first let me say that I love your blog and have been following it for quite a while. I've learned so much and wanted to thank you. However, I have to admit that I shy away from any video posts. I like reading blogs and I love pictures but I just don't care for watching videos (not to mention it draws my kids from the playroom to see whatever it is I have on my computer). Would love if you could also provide the same info through text as well. Sorry…

  • pve design says:

    The apple is to Eve as the tile backsplash is to one's kitchen. Tile can be a devil (to choose)

  • Anonymous says:

    I understand the trendy glass tiles are going to be the first thing to date a kitchen… but aren't white subway tiles going to be also? Yes, they are plain and neutral and also very, very trendy. Just a thought.

  • Anonymous says:

    I like reading your blog but found your last video very condecending. The words stated how you feel but the tone of your voice and eye rolling caused me to focus on your attitude not the good advice.

  • Julie says:

    So to summarize, if you have have granite countertops, don't do a backsplash? We recently installed white cabinetry and a light granite (St. Cecelia Rio) countertop. (We orginally wanted a manufactered countertop, such as Corian, but were very unhappy with the lack of durability we saw in the samples.And as much as I love the honed marble, I discovered in my research that it isn't practical for a kitchen.)
    I'm afraid white subway tile will be too much white. So would painting be our only other option?

  • apartments in romeoville il says:

    Thanks for sharing this! Now I know what tile is best for what.

  • Stephanie says:

    So what backsplash tile would you recommend with Venetian Gold granite counters?

  • rtalberts says:

    Hi, Marla. I love your blog. I've gained so much good information about color. Thank you.

    I do have to agree with Alecia above, however. I prefer to read text over watching video (for various reasons), and would love it if the video posts had the information in writing as well.

  • Beth says:

    You did it again with timing, Maria. Last night when watching tv with my husband, I kept saying "Ugh, awful," about busy backsplashes next to busy granite on Int'l. House Hunters (Roatan).

    He asked if it was just me who thought that was bad. No!

    I'm trying to decide what backsplash to use in my own kitchen. And even though every week I see the backsplash mistakes my clients have made, I see how it's beyond easy to be seduced by the amazing tile out there!

  • Linda @ a design snack says:

    A client had no backskplash (except for paint), stainless steel cabinet hardware, stainless appliances and Absolute Black countertops. I did a copper metal hexagonal tile backsplash that looked fabuous with the black. Swapped the stainless steel cabinet hardware for hammered copper.

    Client loved it.

    I suppose 10 years from now it will look dated.

    Stainless looks dated to me, but then I was not a fan when it surfaced in the early 90's. I thought it was too institutional looking.

    And to the persistent thinking that honed marble is not a good choice for countertops: if it is sealed properly it is perfectly fine and in fact, BEAUTIFUL. Aquamix makes a sealer called "Sealers Choice".

  • Bebe says:

    Maria…your subject today could not be more timely for me. We have just spoken with a granite installer who suggested the 4" backsplash, tumbled tile, all to go with a Volga blue granite countertop. This is a huge investment for us and I don't want to make a BIG mistake. We have hickory cabinets and oak flooring with black appliances. Trying to keep it simple as well, but if you use a black granite, then what do you suggest as a backsplash?

  • Cindy Usic says:

    I enjoy your video blogs, and I also appreciate your sense of humor!

  • Susan Seale says:

    I love your video blogs!

    They are informative and I love your sense of humour so I laugh too. I'm not always a fan of video blogs (it's taking me a while to get used to them…a function of getting older I guess) so please take this as a compliment:)

  • Maria Killam says:

    I have seen so much complicated, contrived, trendy, busy, completely mismatched and wrong backsplash tile in the hundreds of homes I have been in over the years, I reserve the right to roll my eyes once in my video. I did that specifically so that anyone that is about to make another SERIOUS backsplash mistake might think twice.

    I write this blog so that anyone reading it might end up with something more beautiful than before they started reading, so if it takes a little attitude to get you there, I'm okay with it.

    My advice is simple; if you have a granite countertop use a solid, plain coloured tile for the backsplash to coordinate with the colours in the granite. If you have a black granite countertop, I would choose a tile to coordinate with the wall colour in the room, (if you have cabinets any colour other than white–otherwise go with white) (that's what you'll have to do anyway).

    The question in my video where the client wanted to use stacked glass tile will give you a backsplash with a blue undertone which dictates that the colour of the room then go to blue. If you don't coordinate the tile to the colour of the walls you end up with colour #1, cabinet, #2, countertop #3 backsplash and #4 the colour of the walls – if it doesn't coordinate. You now have 4 colours in the room that don't relate to each other.

    Hope this clears it up. Thanks everyone for your comments,

  • susan wintersteen says:

    Let's not all kid ourselves…trends last 10 years, and are hot for 5. 5 years ago every backsplash was tumbled travertine on the diagonal with dots. Not it's subway tile in bevel or glass tiles. The good news is that in 10 years it's an easy re-do to stay current with the times. Small square footage and new materials will lure us to something new. There is no "classic" tile that will be timeless…just new tile that is a new rendition of something old…just like clothing. In my opinion? .just go with it and personalize it to what YOU want and makes you happy….keep it simple.

  • Luciane at says:


    I liked the video and your comment above! I don't think you were "harsh" on the video… I think you were HONES . Simple as that.

    Have a blessed week!


    Luciane at

  • Anonymous says:

    I don't think white subway tile (or white square tiles) is trendy. It's classic and has been around a long time…like in the subways of NYC since *forever.* Stainless steel appliances aren't exactly new either. My grandparents built their home in 1933. The stove was stainless. It might not have been mainstream back then…but it was around..and certainly it was around commercially. I just can't put stainless on the same trendy list as avocado green or harvest gold or the copper brown appliance color that was popular in the 70s. It's more neutral than that.

  • Anonymous says:

    I also agree that the subway tile is going to be out soon. What will come next, who knows, but it is a huge cost to keep replacing something like this IMO. I opted to paint the backsplash the same as my walls in the kitchen and am going to put tile only behind the stove area. That won't cost near as much to replace if I get tired of it and the wall color can change anytime and give the room a whole new look.

    My aunt just had a new beach house built and used the granite you showed in your video, she put in a cream subway tile that has lots of texture to it. It honestly does look GREAT right now. But I do fell like that backsplash is going to date that beautiful kitchen before anything else. She also has off white/beige cabinets so it does all match up nicely. But that tile was WAY expensive! I would hate to think it might not look so up to date soon enough.

  • Anonymous says:

    Great post Maria you are aways insightful, professional and most of all a delight to watch….hear ……read etc..simply put you are fabulous! Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us!

  • Nana Burleigh says:

    Great post Maria as usual you rock! Thank you for your insight and great blogs!

  • Maria Killam says:

    For those who think subway tile will be dated very soon:

    I'll say it again another way, a SOLID or PLAIN COLOUR whether it becomes 'dated or not' will look way better with a patterned, busy granite than a failed attempt (because it mostly is that) at coordinating it with any number of patterned, marbles, tiles, or chopped up mosaics.


  • Anonymous says:

    There is no way to have a truly "timeless" room. Everything will look dated. The comment that subway tile has been in the subway for forever is not the same as saying people have used it their homes non-stop since the turn of the last century. There are several things to keep in mind when decorating your home. How long will I be living in this house? If it's for the long haul, do what you love. When you go to sell the house in 10, 15, 25 years, the new owners will want (and need) to update anyway. How important is decoration to you? Many people want their house to look pretty and presentable. Some people want a "wow". Some people want it to say something about them. All these are valid. You just need to be honest about what you want. Unfortunately or fortunately, there is no one answer (including and especially subway tile) to to the question "What's the best tile for my backslpash?".

  • Lazy Gardens says:

    MARIA: I think people are influenced by the displays in tile stores, where they have all the coordinating bits lined out as accent stripes as a display device to get it all on the wall.

    They see the displays and think that three kinds of liner tiles, with inset accents and diagonal field tiles and a fancy medallion over the cooktop is the way it should be done.

    You will be happy to know that the tile store guy took one look at my granite (Juparana Florencia**) and said, "That rock is going to get into a catfight with any pattern you put near it. It needs a calming influence like a plain field tile in a neutral color. Beige would be good.

    BeBe – That's an emphatic granite, for a dark one, because of the way the light refracts off the inclusions at some angles with a shimmer. I have seen a couple of kitchens that played off the blues in it, with subtle grey-blue tiles (porcelain or glass), and most others went for something neutral to go with the floor and wood, or just paint. With modern paints, a painted backsplash is not going to be a cleaning problem.

    Ever consider a mirror back there? It would reflect the lovely granite and be easy to clean.

    Alecia – I agree. If someone has low bandwidth, a firewall that blocks YouTube, or their flash player is acting up, the video is useless. And there are reported to be some deaf Internet users who would be completely baffled.

    I for one, prefer text, because I am distracted by the way Maria's head is so precisely centered with the intersection of the curtain and wall.

    And I read fast, so 2 minutes of listening to what I could grok in 15 seconds of reading makes me fidgety.

    **It's light rust with cream, orange, beige, maroon, black, and grey spots. Mine also has peridot crystal inclusions, and the cutting team was asked to take advantage of the veining, which they did.

  • Maria Killam says:

    I would also like to point out that the headline of this post is THE BEST BACKSPLASH TILE, not THE MOST TIMELESS BACKSPLASH TILE. Although I personally feel that subway tile is the most timeless out of the whole lot of complicated ways that people can mess up their backsplash.

  • Maria Killam says:

    HI Miki,
    That first kitchen is designed by Tobi Fairley. Notice how she chose a colour on the walls to coordinate with the glass subway tile backsplash. The green and cream drapery in the breakfast area and roman shade above the sink also coordinate the the walls and then she brought in the blue polka dots for an added injection of colour.

    I think the best kitchen for you is the one you find in a photo. This way you know you'll be happy with it in the end.

  • Anonymous says:

    Your point is valueble for me. Thanks!

    My blog:
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  • Jennifer @ Timeless Interiors says:

    Another great post to your fantastic blog! I could not agree with you more. This is the advise I give to my clients over and over again. One example is where I have used a beautiful beveled Limestone subway tile that worked beautifully with Crema Flakes Granite and cabinets painted with Ben. Moore Bone white with an umber Glaze (see here: I am finishing up a kitchen with a subway tile in a crackle finish in a yellow based neutral to work with the yellow based neutral of the cabinet paint and granite. When using granite with its beautiful natural patterns, it is the star of the show, and everything else must be the supporting cast. And yes, subway tile is classic and timeless. Look at great houses from the 1920's (great designs that continue to appeal today) and you will find fabulous subway tile!

  • Audrey says:

    I love to READ your blog and all the great info! I wish you would include the same information written in your posts that you put in the videos. If I have a few minutes of quiet time to read, I don't want to click on videos.

  • Lisa says:

    Just laughing at some of the things people have to complain about. Come on people, free advice that you are not forced to watch, read or use. I have tropic brown granite with maple cabinets and have been apprehensive about choosing tile. Thank you Maria for your advice, it is very much appreciated.

  • Maria Killam says:

    HI Audrey,
    I appreciate your feedback about videos and my blog is not turning into a video blog. When I feel strongly about something and I feel that it is best conveyed 'in person' so to speak, it'll be on video.
    Thanks for reading my blog,

  • Mary says:

    Hi. I love your blog Maria, and I totally get the simple is better.
    To be honest, I am almost feeling like subway is dated, maybe I am just tired of talking about it, lol. I was planning that for my kitchen. I used to really dislike the idea of subway tile. I felt it "depressing". But that is just me, and not that I wanted something "cheery" or busy or artsy or whatever. Perhaps I wish it just had a different name? SILLY, I know. Anyway,, I do see some responses of only putting a backsplash above the cooktop or rangetop….I am installing granite and I do want/need a very simple wall space next to it.
    What IS the "rule" for backslpashes??? And when can the rule be broken?
    Would love some comments…MUST a backsplach even be there?
    Thank you all so much, I really enjoy learning from all the comments.
    Thanks Maria for the forum,

  • Anonymous says:

    White cabinets, busy granite and white subway tile may not put you in the category of committing any "style crimes," but everyone seems to be doing the same thing. And when a look is overdone, people will naturally veer away from it, which will end up dating a kitchen.

    It is possible to do something unique, use beautiful, colorful tiles AND have your kitchen be in good taste. I'm surprised people don't go with a simple quartz top more often and give themselves more latitude to choose a special backsplash tile.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi! LOVE your blog and I think you come across as very sweet and funny in your videos! Keep doing them!

    I have white cabinets, stainless appliances, medium dark wood floors, and lots of browns and creams in my family room which my kitchen opens up too. I love the white subway tile/honed absolute black granite. But if I were going to choose a lighter granite to pick up some browns, is there one you would recommend that would go best? I love the two in your original blog post about this – from Southern Living and Decor Pad, but couldn't find a mention on those sites of what either one is.

    Thank you!!!!!

  • Carolyn says:

    Love your blog! The kitchen photos are gorgeous.
    Jamie Herzlinger

  • Nichole@40daysof says:

    This one cracked me up! I have black splotched with white granite counters and large slate tiles on the back splash. I did not do this, the former owners did. And while the slight color variations in the slate do bring together the Cabinet, floor and wall colors along with the black granite – I so wish it was just plain. But I've convinced myself of the good points because I know it's not changing anytime soon. 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    love your confident tone in all your posts and videos! read your blog this past spring….went with white cabs, black/dark charcoal granite, white subway tile and med. wood floor….and LOVE my kitchen now! Still small, but now my favorite room in the house! Kitchen guy tried to sway me from the "plain white subways because it will look a bathroom" He wanted a patterned, marbled looking tile….so glad I didn't listen to him! THANK YOU MARIA! -olivia

  • Teresa says:

    Great post! You crack me up. I am going to have to phone you and let you choose the counter tops and backsplash. I'm more confused than ever.
    Currently I have white cabinets, white countertops with white tile squares set on the diagonal. They have stood by me for 25 years and I have loved them but they are tired.

  • charu says:

    I was thinking of using Ann Sacks Heath in White (just like in this for my white kitchen. Could this become dated since its not as simple as a regular subway tile? I was thinking of a kashmire white granite for countertop

  • Janet Hawley says:

    Hi Maria:

    I just stumbled unto your blog and love it! Like you I am a fan of the classic white kitchen.

    I am in the process of renovating my house and wonder what you think of Bianco Antico granite. What colors for cabinets/islands/wall and floor (wood) would you pair with this granite that bring out the taupes and grey. Not a fan of the pinkish look.

    Thank you! Would love to participate in your seminar but I am on the East Coast in Halifax.


  • Laura says:


    In the first picture, with the cool polka-dot patterned chairs, do you know the pattern for the curtains? I love this pattern and would love to have it in our new kitchen! Can’t find it anywhere.

    Thanks! Laura

  • Grover Deborah says:

    With granite countertops do you like plain metal tiles as a backsplash? The only place I have for a backsplash is behind the cooktop.

    I agree people have gone crazy with back splashes

  • Lisa says:

    Subway tile is cold and institutional looking. A kitchen needs some personality. I agree, it shouldn’t be too busy or clash; but saying that subway tile is for everyone makes clones of everyone’s kitchens. There is never only one right way. I understand your point; but you’re doing a major disservice to your readers and clients. How boring. One size NEVER fits all.

  • Vee says:

    I understand the idea behind not being too trendy- you don’t want to pour money into a project only to have it look silly in a few years. However, my feeling is that I just don’t want to generic “look” that everyone has with subway tiles. It’s very subdued and it I feel it is very American (which is great if you want that) and does not appeal to the growing number of Americans from other backgrounds who want some color, salsa, curry, spice, and global feel in their homes. You might think that the splashy tiles are too much; I think that the subdued subway tile look is sooooo plain Jane vanilla. There’s room for different tastes, that is what makes it so fun.

  • Kimmer says:

    Thank you, this was the most helpful post I’ve read in choosing a backsplash!

  • Kristine says:

    Why can’t I view this video? Your blog is the first blog that has made sense, and I am in the very process of choosing my backsplash–the LAST step!! HELP!

  • DAS says:

    Three years later and white subway is still going strong in spite of many of the comments above. Maria is vindicated. Subway is a classic, same as the Barcelona chair by van der Rohe 1929 which today costs $5,2000, Eames chair 1948ish (and severely still knocked off today), Thonet chair 1859, Wassily Chair by Marcel Breuer. Classics. Still produced, still wanted by great designers. How about your fireplace designs? Most of you are using tackier versions of historic designers which are better–and it goes on and on with all room elements. Can you create a design that lasts? Yes, that’s the whole idea behind “interior design.” I think what most people are referring to in this thread is “interior decoration,” i.e., applied ornamentation not necessarily constructed from the basic elements and principles of interiors, which follow cultural and manufacturing whims. Maria is just gently trying to expose, educate and guide a mindset. PS: I just looked at a room done by David Hicks the mold eclectic designer of the ages, he died some years ago–EVEN with his trendy eclectic designs, they still hold up. Interesting. How is it that modern and historic mixed can hold up? Use the classics!

  • Carey says:

    Hi Maria,
    Thanks for the great information. I just bought my first property and your posts are helping me figure out what to do with pinky beige carpet, yellow-beige walls, and gold-brown faux-granite countertops. Though they are fortunately not all in the same room, I have 2 of each in all rooms. Sigh. Would that all homeowners read your blog!

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