The Beauty of Backsplashes: From Minimalistic to Artistic

One of the most exciting parts of undergoing a kitchen or bath remodel is putting your personal touch on the newly transformed space. Backsplashes present incredible possibilities—from minimalistic to artistic. There exists an array of colors, textures, sizes, materials, and designs from which to choose, all of which can take your remodeled kitchen or bath to the next level.

Interested in a kitchen or bath remodel? Harrell Design + Build can help!

A standard backsplash used to be a single 4- to 6-inch-high run of material that matched the countertop. Strictly functional, its purpose was to protect the painted wall from being damaged by heavy pots and kitchen messes. A single run format works a bit better in a bathroom but leaves a significant area of painted wall exposed to dirt and grease in a kitchen, which is much more challenging to clean and maintain than tile.

Lisa Mellberg, Harrell Design + Build Allied ASID CAD/Designer, explains that these days, a backsplash isn’t limited to this thin, linear arrangement. “When it comes to designing a backsplash, many clients want to embrace what’s on-trend, while others have a very firm sense of personal style,” she emphasizes. Trendy or unique, the options are endless, and the impact is impressive.

Budget, material, and application are three primary points to consider when designing a backsplash in a kitchen or bath.


Your backsplash budget determines the type and amount of material options at your disposal. Tile and solid slab material come in a large range of price points. Standard tile sizes keep the price down, while novel tile formats such as mosaic, hand painted, or dimensional patterns have higher price tags for the material and installation. Solid slab can also be on the higher end depending on the specific type and the intricacy of fabrication.


Tile comes in all sizes, shapes, colors, textures, finishes, and patterns and is the cornerstone of the overall design. Colors range from neutral to bold and opaque to a mutable watercolor wash. Textured tile creates a rustic, handcrafted artisanal appearance, or you can use matte, metallic, or glossy finishes for a modern, sleek backsplash design.

Lisa loves the textural handcrafted appearance of Moroccan Zellige tile. “The uneven, rough edges and monochromatic yet varied color is striking.”

Three-dimensional and decorative tiles are bursting with character and personality. For homeowners who want a dramatic visual, hand painted tiles make an artistic statement with distinct colors and patterns. Applied as a focal point behind a range or covering entire walls, hand painted tiles produce a strong pattern and color statement in any space.

“Subway tiles are still in high demand because they’re timeless,” states Lisa. “Choosing an unconventional size, color, or finish can create a dramatic result.”

Full slab quartz that matches the countertop is yet another popular backsplash material. It’s durable, low maintenance, and offers incredible variation. Lisa also points out that quartz can come at a higher price point due to the material, fabrication, and installation which can be relatively costly.


Application, or the tile layout, is another essential backsplash element.

Rectangular subway tiles continue to be a popular choice, and now they are available in a wide variety of sizes, colors, finishes, and textures. The term “subway tile” comes from the first 3” x 6” rectangular tile installed in the New York City subway system in 1904.

Lisa suggests that rather than installing the horizontal layout typically found with subway tile, that you can use a vertical application to add interest while retaining the classic appeal. “Installing the tile upright in a stacked layout gives new life to a standard look.”

Collage of white bathroom sink and kitchen with blue backsplash

Choosing a unique shape is another way to make a visual statement. Mosaic layouts using hexagon, wave, picket, chevron, and diamond shapes create eye-catching designs. Still, they can involve a higher cost for installation and require more maintenance due to the numerous grout lines.

In kitchens, backsplashes can span an entire wall from countertop to ceiling or be a focal point behind the range or floating shelves, which are very on-trend. They can also wrap a sink window or fill the area between the countertops and the underside of the cabinets.

In bathrooms, a backsplash can be minimal and straightforward, or it can run countertop to ceiling, even flowing into a shower and tub space, as shown below.

Bathroom with green wave backsplash

Modern, rustic, bold, neutral, luxurious, decorative, textural. Backsplashes offer a magnificently creative way to express and embrace your style while also serving a functional purpose.

Are you considering ways to reimagine your residence? We invite you to schedule a complimentary discussion with one of our experienced Designers.

Or, attend one of our virtual workshops to learn more about the Harrell Remodel Design + Build experience.

Woman Founded and 100% Employee-Owned, Harrell Design + Build has created distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and on the mid-Peninsula since 1985. Our Design + Build Team is here to help you reimagine your home inside and out.

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We are so thrilled with our beautiful new kitchen and family room, designed and built by Harrell Design + Build! The Harrell team combines creativity in design and solutions with the highest standards of craftsmanship and construction.

The ‘Harrell Crew’ was the best contractor we’ve ever had in our home! In addition, everyone was careful and respectful of my allergies and asthma and did extra prep work & careful clean-up to minimize problems for me.

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We wanted to let you know that we had our first major entertaining event last weekend with a party for my library staff. Everyone was very impressed with the remodel and I spent a lot of time showing off various features to the guests.

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