How to Pick a Backsplash With Granite Countertops

You've splashed out on the granite countertops and custom cabinets, and all that's left is to choose the backsplash.

Cool Cook's Kitchen

Don't do this to the backsplash over your granite counters.Don't do this to the backsplash over your granite counters.
So many choices, such a small space -- it's a daunting task to decide. Take inspiration from the color of the granite and from the varied hues in its pattern. Adapt your choice to the style of your decor, but pay closest attention to what's closest to the backsplash -- the attention-grabbing granite.

The kitchen has brushed stainless appliances, offset by natural maple cabinets and cream walls. The black granite counters are sleek and shiny, so a backsplash of stainless steel tiles gives the decor a professional edge. The backsplash integrates the modern stove and refrigerator with the hard glossy stone and the timeless cabinet material. This kitchen is minimalist but not cold, neutral but not bland. The textures play off one another to create a room that's all about food prep in an elegant space.

Faux and Funky

Your kitchen has a little bit of everything fabulous -- vintage-style appliances, checkerboard linoleum floors, a farm sink and pale granite counters. Paint the cabinets with chipped milk paint to simulate age and install pressed tin tiles as a backsplash, painted to resemble worn, distressed tin with several layers of paint colors showing through. A first coat of deep barn red gets painted over with cream to match the cabinets or pick up the main color of the stone counters. Lightly sand the raised design edges of the tin to reveal some of the red paint and some bare metal. Because the counters get heavy use and a lot of wiping down, protect the faux finish on the backsplash with clear, non-yellowing lacquer.

Glass Fantastic

It looks super-busy to install mosaic tile next to patterned granite, so keep the backsplash simple and let the granite shine. The most "pattern" you should attempt is glass horizontal subway tile in the exact colors of the granite counters. The variegated tile looks best if the majority of tiles match the main granite color, with just a few random tiles picking up deeper, lighter or brighter highlights of the granite. Plain light-colored cabinets are almost a requirement with this approach if you want to avoid a kitchen that looks like a cave. Try off-white or linen cabinet paint with lighter granite counters and a backsplash in mostly off-whites with rust, fawn and brown highlights that mimic the granite. Or pick up the smoky gray or burnt umber predominant color in the granite with random highlights of purple, blue, gold, white or parchment -- whatever matches the stone.

Safe, Solid and Spectacular

Granite is a rich, showy stone. Don't eclipse its star quality with a competing backsplash. Solid color subway tile is a decor default that always works well with granite counters. In a mainly white kitchen, stick to white subway tile, no matter what color the counters are. Or introduce a single solid color -- cyan, chartreuse or celadon -- in the backsplash tile but let that be the only color in a neutral room. Bring the backsplash from the bottom edge of the upper cabinets right to the granite counters, with no granite "lip" curving up from the counter surface to break the clean lines. In a kitchen with bare upper walls, take the tile either about 18 inches up the wall or all the way to the ceiling.

About the Author

Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .