Backsplash for Tiny Kitchens: Make Your Kitchen Feel Larger with Tiles

A small kitchen can feel cramped and cluttered very easily. However, with some clever design choices, you can make a tiny kitchen feel more spacious and open. One of the best ways to visually expand a small kitchen is to use an eye-catching backsplash.

Choosing the right backsplash tiles can make your kitchen appear larger and brighter. The reflective qualities of tile bounce light around the room, making the space feel more expansive. Glossy subway tiles or mosaic tiles are great options for small kitchens, as they have a shiny finish that maximizes light reflection.

In addition to making a small kitchen look bigger, a backsplash is also an opportunity to add style, color and personality. Vibrantly colored or patterned tiles prevent a tiny kitchen from feeling boring or generic. Consider using backsplash tile to incorporate pops of color or to complement your existing decor.

Read on for our top tips on selecting a backsplash that will make your small kitchen feel larger and more visually appealing.

Use Light Colors for a Sense of Space

One of the best tricks for opening up a small kitchen is to use light and bright colors on the walls, cabinetry and backsplash. Dark shades can make a tiny kitchen feel closed in and claustrophobic.

Aim for a light, neutral shade like white, beige or light gray for your backsplash tiles. You can also look for tiles in pale blue, green or yellow – anything to keep the space looking airy and fresh.

White subway tile is a popular backsplash choice for small kitchens because it keeps things light and simple. White reflects light extremely well throughout the kitchen.

Beige and light gray backsplash tiles also work beautifully to bounce light around and prevent a cramped feeling. Just avoid choosing tiles that are too glossy if you’ll be using the kitchen under bright, direct lighting. Too much glare can strain the eyes.

Reflective Tiles Maximize Light

As mentioned, reflective backsplash tiles are a great choice for small kitchens because they make the most of available light. Glossy tile finishes like polished porcelain or glass tile cause light to glance off the surface, brightening up the whole kitchen.

Subway tiles are a classic choice because their rectangular shape creates rows of grout lines that add to the reflective effect. Subway tiles come in glossy finishes that look great in small spaces.

Mosaic tile made of polished porcelain or glass is another excellent reflective surface. The small scale of each mosaic tile piece multiplies the light bouncing effect. Just make sure the tile itself has a shiny finish.

Metallic backsplash tile is also highly reflective, thanks to its high glaze finish and the natural glimmer of metal. From copper penny rounds to stainless steel, metal tile brings great shine.

Use Large-Scale Tiles for Fewer Grout Lines

Tile that has fewer grout lines helps maintain the illusion of space in a small kitchen. The grout used between tiles ends up looking like a grid, visually chopping up the backsplash surface. Large tiles mean bigger swaths of uninterrupted color, which read as more expansive.

Good options for large-scale tile include 12×24-inch subway tile, 6×12-inch rectangular tile, or massive sheets of porcelain slab tile. The bigger the tile, the fewer grout lines will be marching across the backsplash surface.

If you opt for small tile like mosaics, use tiles mounted together on a mesh sheet, with grout only between each sheet panel. This will minimize the appearance of a grid.

Extend Backsplash Tile to Ceiling

Tile that spans from countertop to ceiling makes a small kitchen feel taller and more spacious. It also allows you to use the backsplash as a decorative focal point.

Continuing subway tile, mosaic tile or other small backsplash tiles onto the ceiling can feel busy or overwhelming. Consider large-scale porcelain slab tile for a ceiling-height backsplash with minimal grout lines.

If your ceiling is textured or otherwise unsuitable for tile, install a decorative trim piece at the top to give the backsplash a finished look. Consider crown molding, rope trim or quarter-round.

Avoid Cluttering Bottom Edge

If your backsplash tile stops short of the ceilings and windows, be careful not clutter the countertop with decor below the tile. Leave the countertop clear to maintain an illusion of openness at eye level.

Resist the urge to line up jars, canisters or decorative bowls along the countertop beneath the backsplash. This will make a narrow kitchen feel tighter due to visual clutter along the bottom edge.

The space between the countertop and bottom of the backsplash should be kept simple and streamlined. At most, a few neat essentials like a knife block, fruit bowl or vase can sit below the tile without feeling cluttered.

Add Mirrors to Reflect and Expand

Hanging mirrors is one of the easiest ways to optically enlarge a small kitchen. Mirrors reflect light and imagery, creating the illusion of more space beyond.

Place a large mirror strategically on the wall opposite the backsplash to double the tile’s reflective brightness. The mirror will also echo the colors and shapes on the backsplash, expanding the visual space.

For small kitchens with limited wall space, consider hanging mirrors inside cabinet doors or integrating mirrored tiles into the backsplash design. Just repeat any mirrored tiles sparingly to avoid too disjointed a look.

A round or oval mirror can help soften hard corners in a small kitchen. Hang one near a corner to make the area feel more open. Avoid hanging mirrors too close to work areas to reduce glare.

Open Shelving Maintains Lightness

Wall-mounted open shelving is great for small kitchens because it keeps things light and airy rather than closing things off with bulky overhead cabinets.

Plus, the contents of the shelves become part of the decor. Use shelving to display pretty dishware, which causes the eye to linger and notice the surrounding backsplash more as well.

If you need enclosed storage too, try a few glass-front upper cabinets so the contents don’t disappear behind solid doors. Maintaining visibility keeps things feeling open.

Paint or stain open shelves the same color as the walls for a streamlined look. Or coordinate shelf color with the backsplash – just avoid additional busy patterns.

Backsplash Ideas for Tiny Kitchens

Now that we’ve covered the design elements that can make a small kitchen feel bigger, here are some specific backsplash tile ideas to consider:

All-White Backsplash

Create a clean, spacious look with an all-white backsplash spanning to the ceiling. White reflects light extremely well. Use subway tiles, rectangular porcelain tiles or ceramic tiles. Keep the countertop free of clutter.

All white kitchen backsplash

Credit Image: Home Stratosphere

Bold Colored Subway Tile

Make a statement and add cheer with brightly colored glossy subway tiles. The elongated shape will make the room feel taller. Keep grout color neutral. Pair with white cabinets and counters.

Blue subway tile backsplash

Credit Image: Home Depot

Stainless Steel Mosaic

The mosaic scale and metallic sheen of stainless steel tile will reflect light beautifully. Use sheets of mosaic tiles and minimal grout. Keep the rest of the scheme neutral.

Stainless steel mosaic tile

Credit Image: Heritage Tile

Geometric Patterned Tile

Bold patterns like chevron add visual interest to a tiny kitchen. Use glossy tiles in black and white for high contrast and light reflection. Keep counters and cabinets neutral.

Geometric tile backsplash

Credit Image: Mercury Mosaics

Vertical Striped Tile

Elongated vertical stripes make the eye travel up and down, which translates to a feeling of height. Glossy tiles work best to reflect light. For wide stripes, use slab tile.

Vertical striped tile backsplash

Credit Image: TileBar

Mirror Tiles

Add mirrored tile sparingly into a polished-finish mosaic tile backsplash. The mirrors will double light reflection. Keep remaining tiles neutral colored so the look isn’t too busy.

Mirrored tile backsplash

Credit Image: Houzz

White Subway + Accent Color

Brighten up white subway tiles with bold color in the form of a single course or custom tile shape. Try a tile stripe, row of dots, or colorful geometric shape.

White subway tile backsplash with blue accent

Credit Image: Houzz

Hanging Shelves + Colorful Tile

Wall-mounted open shelves maintain a lightweight visual, as does bold colorful tile. Try a mosaic backsplash in shades like deep orange, turquoise or lime green. Keep shelving free of clutter.

Hanging shelves with colorful tile backsplash

Credit Image: HGTV

Opt for Backsplash Alternatives

While tile is the most common material for kitchen backsplashes, it’s not your only option for adding style to the wall behind the stove and sink. Consider one of these backsplash ideas if tile seems unsuitable for your tiny kitchen:

Painted Drywall

Simply paint the wall behind the countertops with high-gloss enamel paint in a cheery accent color for an economical backsplash solution. Use white or neutral wall color to maintain lightness.

Stainless Steel Sheet

Metal backsplashes like stainless steel are sleek and modern. Stainless steel sheets install seamlessly. Use industrial fasteners and caulk for a watertight finish.

Tin Backsplash

Overlay the wall with tin backsplash sheets. Often called tin ceiling tiles or tin wall tiles. Use contemporary metallic finishes or vintage patinas.

Wood Planks

Use tongue-and-groove wood planks for a rustic cottage backsplash alternative. Opt for painted or naturally weathered finishes that can withstand moisture and heat.

Beadboard Panels

Beadboard offers charming texture in backsplash form. Use white painted beadboard to bounce light. Install panels horizontally for clean lines.

Laminate Sheets

Install moisture-resistant laminate sheets right over existing walls or drywall. Look for laminates with a reflective finish to mimic tile.

Removable Wallpaper

Modern removable wallpaper styles like geometrics, florals and metallics make great temporary backsplash choices. Peel off and replace patterns when desired.

Creative Touches for Openness and Interest

Aside from the tiles themselves, don’t overlook other details of the backsplash design that can make a small kitchen feel more spacious. Here are some finishing touches to implement:

Contrasting Grout Color

White or very light gray grout suits a small kitchen best. But consider choosing a darker grout color that contrasts with your tile to add visual interest. Just don’t go too dark or it may feel closed in.

Decorative Borders

Borders along the top, bottom or sides of the backsplash keep the look tailored and elongate the space. Use strips of decorative tile, beadboard, or trim.

Floating Shelves

Incorporate the backsplash storage with floating shelves mounted in front of portions of the tile. Keep items light and minimal. Add lighting underneath for a light, open look.

Slim Trim Around Windows

Frame windows above the backsplash using simple, skinny trim pieces. This elongates the windows for a taller look. Coordinate trim color with backsplash tiles.

Backlit Niches

Work sconces or other lighting into shallow niches carved out of the backsplash tile area. Illumination coming through the tile adds ambiance and bounce.

Accent Tile Shape

Create a focal point and reinforce the kitchen’s shape by using special tile cuts in geometric shapes like circles and triangles. Shiny metallic or glass tile works best to catch the eye.

FAQs about Backsplashes for Tiny Kitchens

What color backsplash makes a small kitchen look bigger?

Lighter, paler colors like white, off-white, light gray and beige make small kitchens look larger by reflecting light and keeping things visibly airy. Avoid dark backsplash colors which can feel confining.

How high should backsplash go in small kitchen?

It’s best to extend backsplash tile from counter to ceiling in a small kitchen, in order to elongate the room. If ceiling height installation isn’t possible, at least set tile above the upper cabinets.

What kind of backsplash is best for small kitchen?

Reflective materials like polished porcelain, glass and metal tile make the best backsplashes for tiny kitchens, as they maximize light reflection to make the room feel more expansive.

Should you put backsplash in a small kitchen?

Yes, a great backsplash design is key for a small kitchen. The right tile can reflect light to open up the space, add style, and draw the eye up to counteract feelings of confinement. Skip bulky backsplash materials.

What tricks make a small kitchen look bigger?

Using light colors, limiting wall clutter, extending backsplash tile to the ceiling, adding mirrors and open shelving, and keeping the room well-lit all help make a tiny kitchen look more spacious.

Should you have an accent wall in a small kitchen?

It’s best to avoid dark accent walls in a small kitchen since this will close off the space. But using one wall for a light, reflective backsplash tile accent can help expand a tiny kitchen visually.


Designing a stylish, light-enhancing backsplash is key for making the most of a tiny kitchen space. The right tile choice and backsplash height can work wonders at opening up a small kitchen visually.

Keep the backsplash light and reflective with glossy finishes. Minimize grout lines and clutter. Extend tile from counter to ceiling when possible. And incorporate mirrors, floating shelves and accent tiles to introduce more light, height and interest.

With careful planning and strategic use of backsplash tile, even the tiniest kitchen can take on an open, expansive look and feel larger than its square footage. Light, creativity and minimal distractions are all you need to transform a cramped kitchen into a chef’s dream space.






Leave a Reply