How to Choose a Backsplash for Your Granite Counters

If you’ve fallen for a gorgeous slab, pair it with a backsplash material that will show it at its best

By Becky Harris  / Courtesy of Houzz.com

So you’ve chosen granite countertops for their beauty and durability, but now you’re stumped about what to use for your backsplash. Granite is a tricky one. There are so many different color and pattern choices. Some are very busy, while others are subtler. Some are dark; others are light. Some have large swooping vein patterns, while others are dotty or splattered. 

Each slab is unique, so it’s not possible to make sweeping generalities about what works with every piece of granite. But if you look at why and how these pairings are pleasing, you’ll get some good ideas for a material to pair with the particular stone you’ve fallen for.

The same granite, all the way up. In this kitchen, the beautiful slab of Cashmere White granite extends to the bottom of the upper cabinets and vent hood. This shows off its pattern beautifully — much like art. Note how the designer plucked a color from the granite for the cabinet paint.

Likewise, Ivory Fantasy granite adds a rich, natural texture below these light wood cabinets. The range wall is where you’ll get the most bang for your buck, giving the wall an easy-to-clean surface and the room a seamless look. 

When considering this, look at the whole slab and choose the part you want to highlight. There may be a distinct part of the pattern you’ll enjoy seeing on the wall.

The standard 4-inch backsplash in the same granite. White walls keep this kitchen looking cheerful and light. Splashes of red are more attention-grabbing than the countertops, which gracefully take a backseat. Extending the granite any higher or using a different backsplash material would have overwhelmed the room.

Large rectangular tile. In this case, the designer chose travertine to coordinate with the Stargazer granite’s creamy veins. The result is a kitchen that’s minimalist and warm. 

Bar stools: vintage, Charlotte Perriand; pendants: Alison Berger

A ceramic tile in a color you pluck from the granite. While this granite is mostly white and gray, the backsplash brings out a blue-gray color in the pattern. Using large subway tiles keeps the grout lines from looking busy.

Glass tile. The gloss of glass tile complements many granites. Consider a neutral tone that’s a close match for the main color field in the granite. The understated soft green of this tile highlights why Colonial Gold granite was a good choice.

A subtly variegated ceramic tile. The changes in tone in each of these handmade ceramic tiles are quiet and lovely, enhancing the look of the Typhoon Green granite.

Crema Marfil mini mosaic tile. This one may seem counterintuitive (no pun intended), but the small tile in this elegant material plays nicely with the Santa Cecilia granite here. It might seem like they would be two busy patterns, but the material and coloring of the backsplash is a calming counterpoint (pun intended).

Here is the same idea with a larger-scale tile. Note that the pattern and color variation of this granite is less distinct than the one in the previous photo, so it can take on the more powerful backsplash. These pairings are all about finding the right balance. 

Tile: Mizu Umi collection in Tea, Honey, Tatami and Rice Paper, Walker Zanger; granite: Kashmir White

A simple tile with eclectic accents. Plain subway tile might have been too plain here, but the dotting in the eclectic tile pattern plucked from the range mosaic adds a playful touch.

If you’re looking at a palette that has a lively granite pattern but feel like the color blocks of simple white or cream tile and miles of cabinets needs breaking up, consider livening things up over the range. Here the designer helped his clients find a geometric mosaic. He even took it a step further by adding a few circles plucked from the range mosaic’s pattern all around the room. 

Circular tile and White Crackle 3-inch-by-6-inch subway tile: Mercury Mosaics; granite: White Spring

Tumbled marble tile. This backsplash works in a similar way; it mostly has just slight variations in color that coordinate with the creamy tones of the Giallo Ornamental granite counters, punctuated by darker tiles here and there. 

When choosing your accent tiles, you’ll have a few places to pick up the right hues. Look to the range of colors in your granite pattern to find the right darker tones. Look to your cabinet color as well. Tie the cabinets to the countertops with these accent tiles.

Glass mosaic tile. This one is tricky; you’ve really got to find the right combination of granite and tile here, or it can come off as too busy. Glass mosaic tile works best with a granite with a large-scale pattern (one that has big veins and less contrast between the colors in it). The granite in this kitchen, Monserrat, has large swoops and a lovely gray and gray-green color palette that’s more subdued than many of the ones we’ve seen thus far. 

The key in this kitchen is that the granite counters and wood cabinets are calm — it’s like they are asking for a dynamic backsplash to liven things up. Another important factor is that the backsplash real estate is relatively small — wedged just between the upper and lower cabinets, the backsplash has just the right amount of space to make a statement. 

The tiny tiles accentuate the green tones of the granite, while the iridescent finish of the glass tiles adds a dynamic touch that draws attention to it. The tiles even pick up on the colors of the Mason jar pendants that hang over the island countertop, tying the room together.

Jade iridescent 1¼-inch-by-½-inch tiles: Vinara Glass

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Traditional subway tile. While in some kitchens, I pointed out eclectic touches added to the subway tile, this kitchen is different. It is in a historic shingle-style house built in the 1890s, and the intention of this renovation was to respect the home’s historic style.

Cream-colored subway tiles let the beautiful Bianco Romano granite counters stand out. They also lend an authentic period look to the 1890 shingle-style home’s kitchen. 

Tile: American Olean; paint: Natural Cream OC-14, Benjamin Moore

Now that you have seen some designers’ ideas, you can start to play with the color, size, shape, scale, material, finish and pattern of your backsplash-counter combination until you get it right. Remember to pay attention to the colors and materials of the cabinets and walls too.  

Still stumped? If you’ve fallen in love with a granite slab but aren’t sure what to pair it with, post a photo in the Comments section so that Houzzers can chime in with ideas for you.