Last week, a client wrote in with concerns about her "busy" countertop.
(By "busy" she just meant that it had a lot of pattern, different colors, etc.)
Her question was: If her countertop already had a lot of pattern going on, could she still pick a patterned backsplash?
Shown Above: Benjamin Moore White Dove Cabinet / Taj Mahal Countertops with 4.25 x 4.25" Field Tile in Wheat, 3x3" Field Tile in Glossy Taupe, and Pearl Liner Trim in Glossy White / Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray (50% Strength) Walls (Upper Right) / Damask Handmade Tile in Glossy White (Lower RIght)
The short answer (in my opinion) is yes!
But there's a little more to the story so stay with me here. There's a key concept to keep in mind:
"Busy" has a lot more to do with the amount of contrast between the tile & grout colors, and less to do with how "busy" the tile pattern actually is.
In other words, even if you went with a simple subway tile you may end up with a backsplash that looks "busy". If you chose, say, a black subway tile and white grout - that would still look busy.
What I would suggest in this situation is to keep a minimal amount of contrast between the grout and tile color.
Low Contrast Backsplash = Ideal for "Busy" Counters
The combination below, for example, shows very low contrast between the tile color and the grout color - they're pretty much the same color, right?
Shown Above: Brocade Handmade Tile in Glossy Soft White with MAPEI Keracolor Sanded Grout in White
When installed, the example above will read more like a solid, single color with a cool texture to it. With a backsplash like this, you could absolutely get away with a countertop that had a busier pattern.
In fact, here's an example of a kitchen below that shows this concept exactly - The backsplash tile color and grout are both cream, which doesn't look overly busy next to the admittedly "busy" countertops.
Shown Above: Bloom Handmade Tile in FC Cream Crackle with MAPEI Keracolor Sanded Grout in Biscuit
High Contrast Backsplash = Ideal for Solid Counters
And here's an example of the opposite - a high contrast tile & grout combination. The photo below shows a dark glaze with a light grout.
Shown Above: Brocade Handmade Tile in Steel Gray with MAPEI Keracolor Sanded Grout in Biscuit
The combination above will make a really beautiful backsplash, but I would advise choosing a solid colored countertop if possible.
As with any interior decorating "rule", I'm not saying it can never be broken - I have no doubt that there are plenty of gorgeous kitchens with busy countertops and busy backsplashes.
My point is that these are good guidelines to keep in mind as you're making decisions regarding your hard finishes - especially if you want a kitchen that doesn't look... busy!
Ready to start your own kitchen renovation? You can find samples here: