Which Backsplash Tile goes with Granite?

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I have rarely seen a patterned porcelain or stone tile actually coordinate with a busy granite countertop. Recently, I was discussing this very issue with a client and she was lamenting that her kitchen was only five years old and she hated the backsplash tile because it clashed to badly with her granite countertops.

I always let my clients know that years ago I heard that it’s not until you build your third house (if you are lucky enough to have that luxury) that your house is exactly what you want.  It takes time to learn what works and what you like and dislike enough about your space and then actually be able to translate that into the house of your dreams.  So don’t despair if your house isn’t perfect yet, it will be eventually.

Image via Cote de Texas

Okay so back to the patterned porcelain tile, I’m here to tell you, DON’T DO IT.  If you are installing granite countertops—unless they’re black—they will be busy looking enough on their own.

No need to drive yourself nuts trying to find a coordinating patterned backsplash to match.

Tile is not the same as pattern mixing with fabrics.  With fabric you can mix stripes, flowers, paisley’s, checks together (above) as long as the colours harmonize together—not so with tile.

Personally, I find the 2 x 2 mosaic backsplash in this kitchen (above) too busy, but at least the undertones of both the granite and the mosaic backsplash seem to coordinate. The one below, pretty kitchen but the backsplash, too much!

Should you continue the granite onto the backsplash (below)?  It’s busy as well, there’s enough going on with what’s just sitting on the countertops.  But some people really love the patterned look of granite, so if you are one of those, keep going with it.  It will look way better than a clashing tile.

And perhaps install it like this (below). It might be the only exception to the rule of keeping the 4″ kick which is so bad in most kitchens.

As a general rule, DO NOT, let your granite installer stick one of those 4 inch bands of granite all around where your backsplash tile should be.  I don’t know why many of them still install them! If it’s too late and you already have one, I would leave it and just paint the rest of the backsplash the same colour as the rest of the kitchen.


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Truly what has developed my ‘clean’ aesthetic over the years is the hundreds of kitchens and bathrooms I have seen with bad accent tile or simply tiles that aren’t even in the same colour family.

So take my advice and go for a simple subway tile or ANYTHING else but in a solid colour NOT a pattern.

What is boring about this kitchen (above). Absolutely nothing. But you will be cranky if you try to match your granite and it’s a FAIL. Which is 99% of the time going to be the result.

If you don’t believe me, just try and find a granite countertop online with a matching patterned backsplash that you actually like?

Did you find one that you like?

Then make sure it’s the same granite that you have, and make sure you can find the exact tile that’s in the photo.

If you can’t do that, then go back to plan A which is subway tile.

Hope this helps you with your backsplash choices.  If all else fails and you don’t know what to do, simple is always better!

If you need help finalizing your finishes or colours for your kitchen contact me for a Happy Kitchen you will love walking into!

Related posts:

First Rule of Design; Boring Equals Timeless

Is Quartz sexier than Granite?

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

White Kitchen Cabinets

5 Steps to a Kitchen you will Love!

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  1. We are in the process of redoing our kitchen! I have painted our cabinets “old white” by Annie Sloan and we had installed St.Cecilia granite. I am having the hardest time picking out a backsplash and floor that doesn’t clash horribly with the granite!! Help please 🙂

    • You WILL have a hard time! So much tile is blotchy and just plain ugly. Go with cream subway on your backsplash and hardwood flooring if you can. If not, look for something creamy with barely any pattern or it will look terrible once it’s all installed. Maria

  2. Installing black galaxy countertops with shiny white subway tiles up to the underside of the honey oak cabinets, and up over my range slightly. Have all white appliances, one bowl brushed stainless steel sink with black onyx and brushed stainless steel single hole faucet. I have found a classy accent tile consisting of black, charcoal, brushed stainless that is contemporary and sharp and was thinking of a 2 row (an inch high insert) to bring it together, running around the countertop wall inserting somewhere in the subway. I am troubled though as I don’t want a cheap looking project or a busy to the eye one. I want it clean and stylish. If I use the insert tile will paint exposed walls in a charcoal gray color. The knobs on the cabinets are brushed oiled bronze which looks fabulous with the fleck in the granite, and I plan to use oiled bronze accents around the room, like chandelier, bronze/black curtain rods, just a splash to pick up the bronze. The floor is a lighter shadowy gray vinyl now, but will change either to wood to match cabinets or a deeper gray of some sort later. I can’t decide to use the accent tile strip or do just plain white subway. I do love the accent tile, but maybe should do just a framed strip over the range and leave it at that instead of around the walls. Comments welcome. Thanks.

    • Kill the accent tile. Go with your intuition which is that it’s cheap and busy.

      But you knew I would say that? 🙂

      • Thanks for the comment. If not using the accent tile where do I get my inspiration for wall color and flooring? Countertops are just black with a fleck of bronze here and there, not a color one could match to easily. Thanks.

  3. The reason granite suppliers do the 4″ backsplash, in addition to selling more of their product, is to prevent moisture from coming off of the back of the counter and eroding the drywall. If you just caulk the joint where the back of the counter and the drywall meet it will eventually dry out and water will trickle down the back of your cabinets and also start to attach the drywall.

  4. Maria, I M stressing over the backsplash for my remodeled kitchen
    We are getting African Ivory granite
    With either 4×4 or 6×6 tile backsplash.
    I want a simple diamond pattern
    with one row of straight tiles at the
    bottom of our 16 in high space above
    Cooktop and below microwave.
    The tile has some shading but is
    Fairly neutral. Would it be too much
    To add one row of a solo sliver that is
    One inch high and a Color that is in
    The granite just above the straight
    Row of tile at the bottom?
    Thanks for your input.
    Barbara
    San Jose, Ca.

    • Yes it absolutely would be too much. Your kitchen would then be the same as everyone else’s with a backsplash that will date in 5 minutes. Stick to simple and clean (but of course I would say that 🙂

  5. Hello,
    I am re-doing my kitchen. I am doing white cabinets with new venetian gold countertops. We have hard wood floors and stainless appliances. I have been struggling back and forth between subway tile and travertine. I found a subway tile in a creamy color that looks good with the granite, but I’m not convinced this is the route. If I choose subway tile, should I just go with white? I don’t want the whole kitchen to be blah with too much white. Any ideas would be helpful.
    Thanks in advance.

    • How can it be blah when you have this patterned countertop already? New venetian gold is yellow based. Travertine is most often pink. Very bad.
      Go with the subway tile that relates to your countertop in white or cream. The end. Maria

  6. Hi
    I chose the Nracado granite but dying to match with a simple backsplash, the granite seller is urging me to continue the granite on the backsplash but I feel it is too much.
    Help Please.

  7. Hi Maria,

    I’m having trouble deciding on a backsplash for my first home! Cabinets are a cherry wood, appliances are stainless steel, floor is an off white/cream tiling, countertop is a beige/grey/black granite. Plan is to paint the rest of the house a light grey.

    Originally, I thought of using basic white subway tiles, but now I’m hesitating. Would you recommend an off grey instead to match the walls, or a cream to match the granite? Unfortunate there is a 4″ adder on the countertop.

    Thanks so much in advance!
    Mandy

    • Hi Mandy, matching the grey rarely looks good and finding the perfect shade is usually like looking for a needle in a haystack anyway. Also it won’t be as timeless as white or cream. I would look for a cream colour to coordinate with the granite. However, if you have a 4″ kick, I might not introduce a backsplash at all. If you need more help, you can buy a hard finish consultation on my edesign shop page. Hope that helps, Maria

  8. OMG thank you, I got a beautiful granite counter, need to do back splash and I am struggling . want plain simple bisque, light gray, the receptacles and stainless steel with black glass top stove controls on back are an issue I want them to blend in .

  9. After reading all you responses, I’m sure you are tired of backsplash questions,!!!!!! cream it is I got that point simplistic with no whistles……

  10. I am stuck with brown tropic granite. I have reddish maple builder colored cabinets. I am in a senior area and at the time we only had a choice of four granites….nothing special. I am thinking of painting the cabinets off white because of the granite color. I think true white would be too stark. I laughed at your video because I have had back splash tiles sitting on my counter and I haven’t liked one. I don’t like things busy, either, so I loved your video. I laughed so hard because although I am certainly not a decorator, I find it so true. Most of the taupe tiles I have had at home seem too grey for the kind of reddish brown granite. Any Ideas???

  11. We are putting in venetian ice leather granite in a hill country home. Would white matte subway tile work or should i get the gloss white subway tile? Our cabinets are white and we have stainless appliances.

  12. We will be installing granite in our kitchen. We will be painting the cabinets white. I do not like when the backsplash clashes with the granite. So I am wanting to put up subway tile. My husband thinks it’s boring. Would it work with a different pattern, such as herringbone, and not clash?