Are Backsplashes Outdated?

Backsplashes have been a staple of kitchen design for decades, providing a practical and stylish accent wall behind sinks and stoves. However, some argue that backsplashes are now outdated and no longer fit with contemporary kitchen aesthetics. In this article, we’ll examine both sides of the backsplash debate to help you decide if backsplashes are outdated for your next kitchen remodel.

The Case Against Backsplashes

Here are some of the main arguments that backsplashes are outdated:

Minimalist Design Trends

The current trend in kitchen design is towards a minimalist, uncluttered look. Backsplashes introduce visual clutter and busyness that goes against this aesthetic. Flat, full-height walls create a cleaner, more modern appearance.

Dated Styles

Many backsplashes feature intricate tile designs like subway tile or decorative inserts. While classic, some view these styles as dated and no longer fresh or contemporary.

High Maintenance

Backsplashes require regular cleaning to keep grout looking new and prevent buildup of grease and grime. The maintenance can be tedious compared to a full back wall.

Reduced Counter Space

Backsplashes take up space between countertops and cabinets that could otherwise be used for additional counter area. For small or galley kitchens, this can mean reduced workspace.

The Case For Backsplashes

However, there are still some compelling reasons backsplashes remain a relevant choice:


Backsplashes serve the important purpose of protecting walls from moisture, grease, food splatter, and more. This damage prevention preserves walls above countertops.

Visual Interest

While minimalism is in, backsplashes can add character, color, and interest to kitchens. The tile designs and textures provide visual depth and a pop of style.

Easy to Clean

Backsplashes wipe clean more easily than drywall. Their smooth tile or glass surface makes maintenance simple with fewer stains.


With endless tile options from colors to shapes to materials, backsplashes offer the opportunity to personalize and customize. They can match cabinetry tones or provide contrast.

Resale Value

While tastes change, backsplashes are still considered a classic, expected kitchen feature by many home buyers. They can enhance resale potential.

Key Considerations

When deciding between backsplashes or no backsplashes for your kitchen, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Consider your overall design aesthetic – if aiming for an ultra-modern, minimalist look, skip the backsplash. If wanting a more traditional or eclectic kitchen, a backsplash may work.
  • Weigh practicality vs. aesthetics – backsplashes do serve functional purposes, so factor this into decisions. But you may opt to prioritize style instead.
  • Evaluate maintenance requirements – backsplashes do need occasional regrouting and cleaning that full walls avoid. Decide if this upkeep is reasonable.
  • Look at tiles thoughtfully – standard subway tiles may read as dated. But using modern materials like glass or unique shapes can update backsplash visuals.
  • Incorporate only where needed – to compromise, consider a full back wall with a small backsplash just behind the range or sink. This limits the accent to the most utilized areas.

The Verdict

Ultimately, whether backsplashes are outdated or not comes down to personal preference and priorities. While minimalism is in, backsplashes still offer benefits like protectiveness and the ability to personalize with tile designs. For those wanting a touch of classic appeal or added functionality, backsplashes can still have a place in contemporary kitchens. But for those focused solely on achieving a streamlined look, skipping the backsplash may work best. As with all design decisions, take into account how you use the space and your own style sensibilities. With the right choices, backsplashes can still look current while serving your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are backsplashes completely outdated?

No, backsplashes are not completely outdated, but they are considered by some to have a more traditional or classic look. The clean, minimalist trend has caused them to fall out of favor in some contemporary kitchens. However, they still offer functional benefits.

What are some alternatives to a backsplash?

Popular backsplash alternatives include full tile walls, painted accent walls, wallpaper, shiplap, or simply no accent treatment at all. The full wall options create a streamlined, cohesive look.

Should I rip out an existing backsplash during a remodel?

If the existing backsplash is in good condition, you may be able to keep it. Replace only the countertops and cabinets. However, if it looks very dated, you may want to remove it and replace with a new style.

What backsplash styles look modern?

Modern backsplash styles include hexagon tile, oversized statement tiles, subway tiles in saturated colors or funky patterns, industrial metal like stainless steel, and sleek glass backsplashes.

Can you make a traditional backsplash look updated?

Yes, you can give a traditional backsplash a fresh new look by using modern materials like glass tile or metal sheets. You can also go for an unexpected color or unique tile shape to make it feel current.

What is a good alternative to tile for backsplashes?

Alternatives to tile include metal panels or sheets, tempered glass panels, stone slabs, recycled glass, and even vinyl stickers. These materials give a sleek, smooth appearance instead of grout lines.

Should I avoid patterned or colorful backsplash tiles?

Not necessarily – vibrant, bold backsplash tiles can look modern if done right. Keep patterns geometric and echo shapes elsewhere in the kitchen. If colors feel dated, opt instead for saturated hues.


While the era of backsplashes as a default kitchen feature may be ending, they can maintain a place in the right style of kitchen today. For those less concerned with a strict minimalist look or those wanting added function, backsplashes still offer benefits. Home chefs can modernize them through material and color choices to sidestep a dated vibe. With careful selection, backsplashes can consistently work within contemporary kitchen designs rather than looking obsolete. Pay attention to current trends and personal style preferences when deciding where you fall in the backsplash debate. Ultimately, aim for a cohesive kitchen design that includes or omits a backsplash according to your vision.