Which came first: the counter or the backsplash tile?

Another brief apology for the delay in posts; it has been a busy, busy week for me!

A bit of exciting news: I have finally come to the place in my life where I can both afford to spend the money (false) and the time (true) to start working on my formal design education! I received my formal acceptance this week after my portfolio was met with a standing ovation (also false, but they were very impressed) and I begin in September.

I have spent the entire week poring over all the classes I will get to take and having a very difficult time choosing…but considering one of my design idols happens to also be an instructor, I think it’s safe to say I’ll at least be taking Colour Theory!

Getting on with business…

There is a wide and intense (not really) debate at my showroom over the subject of which to choose first: countertops vs. backsplash tile. My favorite coworker likes to advocate for customers to choose their countertops first. I like to advocate choosing the tile first. And not just because I like to argue with him.

Although I do tend to like to do that.

But which is the right option?

The answer is that there is no right option. Like the famous chicken vs. egg conundrum, the one that comes first is just the one you happen to choose. However, you should consider the implications of choosing one over the other first.

Designed by Formica Group

Option 1: Choosing your countertop first.

There are so many different options for countertops out there it’s ridiculous. There are countertops to fit every style and budget. In fact, there are so many options, many customers are choosing two different countertops, one for their islands and one for the rest of their kitchen (like I pictured above)!

My coworker suggests that people choose their countertop first because it greatly narrows down the options for a backsplash.

For example, if you choose this counter:

Marble and Granite

"Arandis" Granite

You can’t coordinate with a tile like this:

Walker Zanger

Walker Zanger's Chelsea Art Glass in "Horn"


But what if you fell in love with that tile after you had already chosen your countertop? You’re outta luck!

Although if you really wanted to use it, it would be a good excuse to build a wet bar or re-do your bathroom. That’s how I tend to justify things.

However, if you really have your heart set on a dark, sleek countertop like pictured below, your tile choices remain wide open.

Caesarstone's "Concrete 2003"

Option 2: Choosing your tile first.

Likewise, the same thing can happen if you choose your tile first and then fall in love with a certain counter. It’s my personal belief that this is less likely to happen than the first scenario, but I’m obviously biased towards the benefits of pretty tile.

But, if you know that you have your heart set on a detailed backsplash like the tile I pictured below, it greatly narrows down your countertop options.

Design by Claudia Martin

In this instance, if you knew that you wanted this tile for your backsplash, your counter options turn to something very simple in either a cream or brown tone.

So the moral of the story: figure out what your first priority is BEFORE you purchase anything. If your first priority is a dark counter, pick that out first and let the tile follow. If your priority is a unique backsplash, go tile shopping before you touch those counter samples.

And if you have no idea which you prefer, I highly recommend poring over some design photos at houzz.com for inspiration. Save photos that you particularly like, and look for patterns. Are you drawn to the tile or the counter? That should give you a pretty good idea of where to start.

And if you want my advice on your current kitchen project, don’t hesitate to email me at tiletramp@gmail.com.

7 Responses to “Which came first: the counter or the backsplash tile?”
  1. I really pleased to find this site on bing, just what I was looking for : D likewise saved to my bookmarks .

  2. Phil Smith says:

    Excellent insight into which comes first in a kitchen and the backsplash/countertop chicken-or-the-egg decision-making involved. Keep blogging, loving the site.

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