Decorating Ideas for a Blank Wall Above a Sink in a Kitchen

Benna Crawford

The lost space behind the kitchen sink is worth reclaiming. In the corner or under the cabinets, update old decor with something useful and beautiful.

A minimalist would leave the wall above the kitchen sink blank, and that's a spare and serene option for your very Zen kitchen. But that small chunk of real estate can deliver some real returns with the right treatment. Consider your decor style, placement of the sink, kitchen architecture and budget when dreaming up big plans to transform your tired old sink area.

The Cover-Up

If the wall over the sink is just plain ugly -- bumpy old plaster, scary 1950s wallpaper, some kind of wood laminate paneling --just cover it up.

  • Look out over the world while you're elbow-deep in suds with colorful maps glued to the wall and lacquered to make them splatter-proof. The virtues of maps include low cost, or free, and custom fitting with a simple pair of scissors or a straight-edge. 
  • If maps aren't your thing, blow up a photograph to fit the space. Have it printed and laminated like an outdoor poster, and affix it to the wall with strong adhesive. A vintage family photo in black-and-white is urban-sophisticated in an all-white kitchen with black-and-white tile floors. A hand-tinted photo turns your pedestrian kitchen into an art gallery; frame a few more photos to hang on other walls.    

Tile and Paint

A dated kitchen will likely have a 4-inch lip on the counter that bends up the wall under the cabinets. Tres tacky. Ditch the lip; replace the molded fiberglass counter, and wall-mount a single stretch of backsplash from countertops and sink edge to the upper cabinets. Subway tile in a solid color is au courant and the trend is a new classic, not a passing fancy. A matching panel of granite or marble is clean and elegant over the stone counters.

Alternatively, Paint the wall from the cabinets to the counter and sink, and hang a couple of enameled metal colanders or a few old-fashioned vegetable scrapers and bamboo-handled sieves and skimmers over the sink -- decorative and practical.

Liven It Up With a Plant

Even if you have no upper cabinets -- a cool and contemporary design choice -- don't cede the space to a pyramid of gaudy nylon cleaning scrubbers. Refresh the wall space with a flourishing green or flowering plant. A terra-cotta pot is country-style or Tuscan but will require more watering. A clear acrylic pot will reveal the roots of your thriving basil plant, so handy for snipping into the salad or the pesto. A small gro-lite, mounted on the wall or under the cabinet, takes care of daylight in a dim corner. In a sunny kitchen, just keep the chives or the African violets trimmed and watered.