Never underestimate the power of a backsplash. It's the perfect example of how thoughtful design can be the crossroads of form and function, adding a dose of color, pattern, and texture while also keeping your walls safe from wayward spaghetti sauce. When you're working with white cabinets, a backsplash is all the more important for setting the tone of your dream kitchen's style.
While choosing white seems like a safe, easy option for a cabinet color, be mindful of the various moods different shades of white can create. "White can vary from cool or warm toned and can appear very stark or creamy depending on the tone," says interior designer Cristina Lehman of C.Lehman Home. "Cooler tones work better in modern kitchens, and warmer works better in more traditional kitchens."
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"White cabinets convey a fresh and clean vibe," says Lehman. "It's a classic look that can brighten a space and can make spaces feel bigger."
Equally as important to conveying a fresh and clean vibe is your backsplash. Not only do they protect walls from stains and damage, but in terms of design, they can drastically change the look of a space. Most often you'll find kitchen backsplashes are made of tiles, either ceramic or porcelain, but you could also extend your countertop surface up the wall as a backsplash for a seamless, streamlined look. Other backsplash materials include stone, stainless steel, glass, wood, and brick.
For a neutral like white, the challenge of picking a backsplash color might be that there are simply too many options. Whereas with other cabinets you may use color theory — using primary, secondary, and tertiary colors to create a captivating color scheme — with white it's a free-for-all. That's why we've narrowed down (more than a) few options for you.
How to Choose a Backsplash for White Cabinets
When it comes to choosing what color backsplash to pair with your white cabinets, first start with your material. All materials come in various color options, but each one has its pros and cons. Tile backsplashes, for instance, are durable and easy to clean, but the grout can get dirty and stained. Solid stone slab is even easier to clean than tile, but it can be expensive. Before committing to a material, be sure you understand how to clean it, how the color will pair with your cabinets, and how it will withstand the wear and tear of daily kitchen life.
If you opt for tile, you have a few more decisions to make: installation pattern (vertical, straight stack, herringbone, or chevron, for starters), grout color, and tile size. Each will dramatically change the overall look of your kitchen. "Tile can have more intricate pattern and color options for more of an interesting look," says Lehman, "but stone can also have different [patterns] in it that can vary greatly."
You also need to consider the height at which you stop the backsplash. "A standard height under cabinets looks great, but for an elevated look, you can take the material up to the ceiling for more impact," says Lehman.
So many decisions to make. First up is color, so scroll on for kitchen backsplash ideas to pair with your white cabinets.
15 Backsplash Colors for White Cabinets
What's black and white and elegant all over? This kitchen, with a sleek black tiled backsplash popping again clean white kitchen cabinets. In this space, interior designer Margarita Bravo has created contrast, sophistication, and a timeless look no homeowner will tire of. "A black backsplash against a stark white cabinet is a dramatic but elevated look," she says.
2. Olive Green
No one says you have to choose a single color for your backsplash. Take this colorful mosaic tile from a kitchen designed by M. Lavender Interiors as inspiration. A variety of colors, with olive green being the star, adds a down-to-earth yet playful feel against white cabinets. Stick to colors within the same family for a monochromatic look, or go wild with color theory for a serious pop.
Don't you feel at peace just looking at this kitchen by Joshua Smith Inc.? For his own kitchen's design, Smith kept a calming neutral tone-on-tone feel that extends from the kitchen to the dining room. The star of the show is the camel-colored backsplash, an extension of the kitchen countertops, which makes for a seamless and easy-on-the-eyes look.
If you're not the play-it-safe type, let us introduce you to a wonderfully wild color combination: white cabinets, aqua backsplash tiles, and orange bar stools. The wood tones bring it all back to earth, while the glossiness of the tiles provide an under-the-sea vibe. It's bold and seriously beautiful.
It doesn't get more classic than this: a white backsplash with white shaker cabinets. Overall the minimalist color scheme provides an open, airy feeling no matter how big (or small) your space is, as demonstrated by this farmhouse-style kitchen. "White kitchens feel clean, and I think that's definitely a factor in their staying power," says Lauren Sullivan of Well x Design. "Plus, white cabinets work well within a variety of design styles — and especially for a modern, coastal aesthetic."
There's a vividness to cobalt blue that's truly irresistible, especially when paired with white cabinets, stainless steel appliances, and down-to-earth touches like wooden open shelving. Peter Spalding of Portland, Oregon-based design studio Daniel House didn't stop with the mosaic backsplash. He also used the vibrant hue on the door for a warm welcome, and a Julia Child-inspired pegboard to hang pots and pans against a stunning backdrop. He even extended the cobalt theme into the next room, with a bookcase just visible through the doorway.
Take this kitchen, a vision of JL Design, as proof that you don't have to be conventional with your backsplash design, shape, or placement. While the majority of this kitchen is outfitted in a counter-to-ceiling white subway tile backsplash, the stovetop gets its own special treatment with this bronze, white, and black design. The bronze particularly stands out against the other neutrals, while the vertical design draws your eye up to the standout range hood. Go ahead, mix and match backsplash colors and styles as you like.
8. Light Gray
"While more colorful backsplashes are definitely in, I think gray backsplashes are still a timeless option with white cabinets when incorporated with plenty of texture and warmth," says Sullivan. We couldn't agree more. Take this marble tile backsplash, for instance. The touch of gray adds a much-needed depth to the overall design, while white grout keeps the color scheme cohesive. It's an equally classic and modern look.
9. Sky Blue
When designer Allison Knizek is faced towards the kitchen in her Laguna Beach condo, she's greeted with this cheerful, retro backsplash, comprised of petite, square, sky blue tiles. When she turns the other direction, she's greeted by the breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean and the equally blue sky. Add fresh white cabinets and geometric hardware and you have the makings for a bright, beautiful kitchen.
10. Canary Yellow
Hello, sunshine! Yellow, in general, is not for the faint of heart, but when paired with white cabinets, this yellow backsplash is allowed to be the focal point without having to compete with another color. There's a richness to the hue that brings a much-needed depth — imperative if you're going the yellow route. Add a deep teal island and wood floors, and the results are rich, vibrant, energetic, and unforgettable.
In this Brooklyn kitchen, New York City-based BAAO Architects created an airy space that doesn't take itself too seriously, thanks to the combination of a geometric green tiled backsplash and white cabinets. The modern-meets-traditional concrete Moroccan tiles by Popham Design are a true standout, creating a playful look against the white IKEA cabinets. (Proof you can spend in certain areas and save in others, and no one will be the wiser.) Add a couple houseplants and you have an energetic, lively space.
12. Cream, Mustard Yellow, Coral, and Rust
Leave it to Fireclay Tile to provide multiple color backsplash ideas in one stunning kitchen. Take your pick as to which color of this layered pattern in an Aker Interiors-designed kitchen speaks to you, or take in the lively color scheme as a whole. Here, the coral tone is the hero of the bunch, as it matches with the flooring, an equally beautiful patterned. Each element is a winner in terms of individual colors, palette, shape, pattern, and overall "can we live here?" effect.
Here's proof that you can use a punchy color as stand-out as red, like the rich, eye-catching shade in this kitchen by House on Cameron, without creating an overwhelming effect. Instead, when just a sliver of backsplash breaks up the white upper (and then more upper) and lower cabinets, it creates a big design in a small space. The patterned tiles mimic the mosaic on the floor just enough without being matchy-matchy — and don't even get us started on that Beauty and the Beast-style ladder.
Take it from DIY-er Alexandra Gater: peel-and-stick tiles can be the way to go, especially if you're looking for a budget- or rental-friendly option. With some patience and a little bit of measuring, you can add your favorite bold color — like this sweet pink that pops perfectly against the white cabinet and gold-hued faucet — to your kitchen, too. Pretty in pink, indeed.
15. Slate Gray
We've already proven that a whisper of barely-there gray goes a long way in a kitchen backsplash. So does a darker slate gray. This kitchen, designed by Living With Lolo, is example of how a melange of stronger grays can create a stunning backdrop for your kitchen. They play well with other neutrals, like the white cabinetry and black hardware, as well as soft colors, like the dusty blue island and hood.
Backsplash Colors That Go With White Cabinets
Just one of the many great things about white kitchen cabinets is that they pair with nearly any backsplash color, from calming neutrals to vibrant hues and every shade in between. To narrow down which colors most inspire you, consider the lighting in your kitchen, the warmth (or coolness) of the white cabinets, and the overall energy you're going for. And don't forget: have a little fun.
Here are some of our favorite backsplash colors for white cabinets:
- Olive green
- Light gray
- Sky blue
- Canary yellow
- Mustard yellow
- Slate gray