Kitchens without backsplashes – 6 beautiful alternatives to the conventional backsplash

Tradition has it that every home kitchen must have a backsplash, designed to fend off all those messy splashes and stains created as you cook up a storm at home. However, in chic contemporary kitchen design, the old guidelines have been replaced with original ideas to ensure your kitchen is not only smear-free but entirely elegant. 

So, do we need backsplashes in our kitchens? The short answer is no, of course not, but that does not mean that they have disappeared entirely in modern kitchen design, they have just had a major rehaul. 

First and foremost, a kitchen backsplash is designed to protect your walls from the spills, stains, and splashes that are inevitable in the kitchen, however, while they are beneficial, they are not always necessary, in fact, there are many aesthetically-beautiful ways to protects walls and surfaces without being restricted to a conventional backsplash. This is your chance to be creative when designing a kitchen. 

Kitchens without backsplashes

Modern kitchen design is shifting to embrace an aesthetic that is far more holistic, using materials that seamlessly cover the countertops and the walls, or use different materials altogether. Projects by interior designers tend to lean towards a kitchen space that is not just about functionality but encompasses a fashion to ensure that your kitchen feels as comfortable and sumptuous as your other rooms at home.

1. Paint your way to a beautiful backsplash

Color is, without doubt, de rigueur in design right now, so choosing a tone that can function as both a personal style choice and a backsplash alternative is a smart decision. Modern wall paints are washable and can work beautifully and effectively.

Conventional cooking will always produce some mess, there is no way around that, a simple solution is to use washable paint on the wall behind your workspace. Modern paints can be simply wiped over with a sponge to remove spots and dirt. The advantage of using an eggshell paint that is wipeable is that you can change the kitchen color at any time to suit your style, making the cost of updating your kitchen far more accessible.

‘There are alternatives to the conventional steel, glass, tiled or stone backsplash,’ says design director, Merlin Wright, at Plain English Kitchens. ‘For a minimal look, the simplest solution is to paint a band or panel of washable paint behind the countertop and cooker, this can be a washable emulsion or, a gloss or eggshell panel in the same color as the rest of the wall. Alternatively, the panel of washable paint can be in a contrasting tone or color. Another variation of this is to use tongue and groove boarding behind the cabinets, again with gloss or washable paint.’

2. Stay away from ‘trends’ – opt for a varnished wall instead

Backsplashes are not going out of fashion, but there is a revolution in the way this area is treated. Just tiling behind a cooker where this is no chimney breast can feel old-fashioned and out of place in kitchens today.

‘We try to make our kitchens look and feel less practical by adding more decorative features and creating a flow and beauty to the room. A backsplash can look jarring and awkward if not given a more sympathetic approach,’ says, Helen Parker, creative director, at deVol Kitchens.

A more sympathetic approach could include, tiling entire walls, rather than small specific areas of the kitchen. Parker adds: ‘I would avoid too many small shiny tiles that are fashionable but go for something a little utilitarian to avoid a, love it then hate it scenario! The idea of no backsplash is perhaps considered a little foolish, but in my experience, a washable matt varnish that is wipeable and almost undetectable is a great way to keep your kitchen feeling cohesive and simple.’

2. Choose an upstand – the new micro backsplash

Upstands are so very in vogue and offer a neat solution to connect the worksurface to the wall. An upstand can be created from the same material as the kitchen countertop providing a seamless join or from an entirely new fabric to add sleek design detail. 

The decision to include an upstand in your kitchen design can provide you with a beautiful excuse to create an original feature. A beautiful piece of marble has been cut to frame the sink, creating a pretty and entirely original characteristic in your home.

Founder and designer of McCormack Joinery, Paul McCormack, says that they are often asked by clients if they need a backsplash, he explains why they are not always necessary: ‘The objection to a backsplash can be because it dominates your eye line and therefore is not always suitable, especially if the kitchen design is more informal in style.’

3. Wallpaper your workspace

Not everyone would consider choosing wallpaper for their kitchens, but it is incredibly versatile, beautifully unique, and provided it is sealed with a clear varnish. It is ideal to use in messy corners of the kitchen, as you can simply wipe it down afterward. 

Choosing kitchen wallpaper as an alternative to paint, tiles or traditional backsplashes will give you a plethora of choices across the thousands of patterns and colors that are available and if you do not want to varnish the paper you can choose to cover the wallpaper design in glass, which is easy to keep smear free.

‘Kitchens are a wonderful space to embrace pattern, it is one of the quickest ways to change a space,’ says Ruth Mottershead, creative director at Little Green. ‘It can radically change the feel of a kitchen in just a few hours. Often the busiest room and the heart of the home, kitchens are the perfect place to be adventurous with all-over prints or more energetic colors.’

4. Mix up materials for a modern look

With a gradual movement away from the classic look of tiles as backsplashes, kitchen companies, and designers offer clients practical solutions to protecting their kitchen walls and workspaces.

Designing for elegant and refined flexibility is the principle behind the innovations of Henry built kitchens. Functionality is key, using wood, hooks, and shelving to deliver all manner of practical home-cooking solutions.

‘Our Opencase system (above) includes kitchen storage pieces like wine racks or pot holders that can be added or subtracted with a twist of a knob (no tools required) and can be incorporated as a backsplash,’ says Julianna Morais, vice president of design at Henrybuilt. ‘Think of it as a wall that works for you.’

5. Warm up with a metal option 

A blistering blast of pure sheet metal is extremely avant-garde and if you are looking for a chic, utilitarian, and industrial look for your backsplash alternative, then look no further.

‘Copper in this kitchen provided a great sense of warmth that complements the timber elsewhere,’ says Gary Tynan, director at the architecture firm, Studio 304. ‘The intention is for the material to develop a patina with time. Sheet metals such as burnished copper, stainless steel, or waxed bronze work well and are considered hygienic materials that are relatively easy to wipe clean, and if you do not mind watermarks. The depth of rich tones and beauty found in a sheet of copper creates an intense beauty as can be seen here.’

Are backsplashes going out of fashion?

Absolutely not, they are evolving rather like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. What was once the preserve of a small, tiled area of the kitchen, is now a multi-faceted design choice, with color, paint, paper, materials, and fabrics all serious contenders to provide the backdrop and tone of your unique kitchen look.

Story by Hannah Newton