Backsplashes are the decorative focal point of your kitchen, adding visual flair, exuding personal style, and setting the mood for the heart of your home.

But what’s regarded as a distinctive design element today began as a purely functional one—backsplashes were first installed as a way to protect the wall over the stove or sink from splashes of water, grease, and food spatter. The first backsplashes stood only 4 inches tall for this utilitarian purpose and were made of inexpensive ceramic tile.

It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that designers began to view backsplashes as an ornamental element. Backsplashes started to stretch taller, cover more space, and become more elaborate, featuring various colors, shapes, sizes, and materials. Design trends ebbed and flowed, ranging from the ceramic accent tiles of the 1980s to the glass subway tiles and stone mosaics that are popular today.

Choosing a Backsplash Design

The most important thing to consider when selecting the design of your backsplash is how it will complement or contrast with your countertop and floor. Depending on your taste, either matching or artfully mismatching the materials and colors can work well to bring everything together. Complementary variations on the prevailing color of the kitchen can create a sleek and harmonious effect, while contrasting materials and colors can add intrigue and excitement.

The strategic placement of a backsplash can produce different effects as well. One that wraps around the entire kitchen radiates continuity, providing a visually satisfying experience and making small spaces seem larger. On the other hand, selectively adding backsplash tiles to certain parts of the kitchen can spotlight those areas effectively and make a striking statement.

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