Backsplash for Tiny Kitchens: How to Make Your Small Kitchen Feel Larger with Tile

A small kitchen can feel cramped and cluttered, but the right backsplash can help open it up and make it feel more spacious. Choosing the perfect backsplash tile for a tiny kitchen is all about illusion – using color, patterns, and lighting to create the perception of a larger space. With a few smart design tricks, you can make your modest kitchen feel grand.

Use Light Toned Tiles to Brighten

Opt for backsplash tiles in light colors like white, off-white, light grey or subtle pastels. Light colored tiles will reflect light around the room, making it feel more open and airy. Dark backsplashes can have the opposite effect in a small kitchen, closing in the space.

A glossy light tile will also add depth and dimension, creating the illusion of more room. Subway tiles, glass tiles or marble tiles in soft hues are great choices. Stay away from dark grout, which can make the backsplash look too busy. Choose a matching grout color instead.

White subway tile backsplash in a small kitchen

White subway tiles help brighten and open up this tiny kitchen.

Use Smaller Tiles for a Seamless Look

Large tiles can overwhelm a petite kitchen, making it feel choppy and closed in. Instead, opt for smaller tiles, 2-4 inches in size, which will provide a smoother, less intrusive finish. The smaller grout lines will fade into the background, maximizing the feeling of space.

Mosaics, penny rounds, mini subway tiles or hexagons all work beautifully to open up a small kitchen. Just be sure to use uniform sizing and only minimal grout lines for the most seamless look.

White mini subway tile backsplash in small kitchen

Tiny white mini subway tiles cover the backsplash seamlessly, without disrupting the small kitchen.

Extend Backsplash Tile to the Ceiling

Take backsplash tile all the way up to the ceiling, which will make walls appear taller and rooms seem larger. It will also hide any discoloration where walls meet ceiling.

Continuous tile is best but horizontal staggered tiles, or a decorative trim piece can also work well. Just be sure not to leave any empty space between backsplash and ceiling or it will feel disjointed.

Backsplash tiles extended to ceiling

Extending backsplash tile to the ceiling makes this petite kitchen feel more expansive.

Use Reflective Surfaces to Bounce Light

Reflective and light-colored backsplashes will bounce natural and artificial light around, making a small space feel bright and open.

Glossy subway tiles, polished stone, mirror tiles, stainless steel, glass mosaics or metallic finishes are all great reflective surfaces that will maximize light.

Avoid darker grout colors and opt for something closer to your tile color. Contrasting grout can create too much busyness in a tiny kitchen.

White glossy backsplash tiles

Glossy white backsplash tiles reflect light beautifully in this petite kitchen.

Add Visual Interest With Shapes and Patterns

While you want to keep tiles relatively small in a little kitchen, don’t be afraid to add some shape and pattern. Geometric tiles, creative mosaics, arabesque patterns and artistic shapes can all provide visual interest without cluttering up the space.

Just be sure to use bolder patterns sparingly, like only behind the stove or on a focal wall. Stick to solid tiles or subtle textures for the majority of the backsplash to prevent overwhelm.

Geometric pattern backsplash tile

A geometric backsplash adds interest without cluttering up this compact kitchen.

Use Accent Tiles or Bands Thoughtfully

While most of your backsplash should be simple and light, consider bringing in some darker accent tiles sparingly. Frame the range hood, window or shelves with a contrasting border, or add a strip of mosaic tiles as a chair rail.

Thin bands of darker tiles along the top or bottom can elongate walls, while vertical stripes make them appear wider. Just don’t overdo the accent tiles in a small space.

White and grey backsplash with grey accent band

A slim grey accent band adds subtle interest without overwhelming the petite kitchen.

Open Shelving Maintains Airiness

Closed upper cabinets can loom over a tiny kitchen, making it feel cramped and enclosed. Consider open shelves instead, which will maintain a feeling of openness.

Make sure to style shelves neatly so they don’t add clutter. Opt for clear or white dishes to blend with the backsplash. A few strategically placed upper cabinets can provide needed storage without suffocating the room.

White backsplash with open shelving

The airy feeling remains intact in this small kitchen thanks to open shelving instead of upper cabinets.

Use Backsplash Tile to Expand Horizontally

You can make a narrow galley kitchen feel wider by taking the backsplash tile past the corners to visually expand the space. Tiling around onto side walls or continuing into open shelving helps spaces feel more expansive and cohesive.

Just be sure to use the same tile, colors, patterns and grout for the most seamless, uniform look. Don’t leave the sides blank or it may feel boxy and closed in.

Backsplash continuing to open shelves

Tiling the backsplash onto the open shelves helps this slim kitchen feel wider and more open.

Install Under Cabinet Lighting

Task lighting is important in any kitchen, but especially in a small one where natural light may be limited. Under cabinet lighting will illuminate countertops and backsplashes, making the space feel bright and expansive.

Go for LED strip lighting or puck lights spaced closely together for even coverage across the backsplash and counters. Dimmable lights allow you to set the perfect mood and ambiance.

Under cabinet lighting on backsplash

Under cabinet lighting keeps this small kitchen bright and visually open.

Use Backsplash to Create Focal Points

Strategically highlight certain areas of the backsplash to create ‘focal points’ that draw the eye, adding visual interest and dimension.

Frame the range with an elaborate tile design, light up a recessed niche or shelve with artful tiles inside, or install a decorative insert over the stove. This focused adornment prevents the need for overly busy backsplashes in a tiny kitchen.

Decorative tile insert backsplash focal point

A decorative tile insert steals the show in this small kitchen backsplash.

FAQ About Backsplashes in Small Kitchens

What is the best tile size for small kitchen backsplashes?

In a small kitchen, 2 to 4 inch tiles work best. Large tiles can overwhelm the space while mosaics and mini tiles create a streamlined look.

What color backsplash is best for a tiny kitchen?

Light, reflective tile colors like white, off-white, light grey and subtle pastels open up tiny kitchens. Dark or bold backsplash colors can close in the space.

Should you put tile on the ceiling in a small kitchen?

Extending backsplash tile all the way to the ceiling can help a cramped kitchen feel more expansive and cohesive. Use the same tile or a coordinating trim.

Can you use an accent tile in a tiny kitchen?

Use an accent tile sparingly, like a row framing the range hood or open shelves. Avoid large dark accent areas which can overwhelm.

Should you have open or closed shelving with a small kitchen backsplash?

Open shelving maintains an airy feeling while closed cabinets can loom over a tiny kitchen. Get the best of both with some open and some closed.

How do you add visual interest to a small kitchen backsplash?

Use shapely or patterned tiles sparingly as accents. Frame focal points like the range or recessed niches. Under cabinet lighting adds dimension.


With careful tile selection and strategic design, a backsplash can help transform a cramped kitchen into a chef’s oasis. Light colors, smaller tiles, reflective materials and accent lighting are key to opening up petite kitchens. Just avoid dark, bold statements and instead opt for a streamlined, seamless look. Extending the backsplash tile vertically and horizontally adds to the spacious aesthetic. With clever tricks and illusion, you can make your tiny kitchen feel grand.