Tile can be an excellent flooring choice for small kitchens. It is durable, easy to clean, and available in a wide range of colors, textures, shapes, and styles to fit any design aesthetic. With careful planning and layout, tile can make a small kitchen feel open and spacious. Here are some tips for choosing and installing tile in a small kitchen.

Measure the Space and Plan the Layout

The first step is to carefully measure the entire kitchen floor space. This will allow you to calculate exactly how much tile you need to purchase. It will also help you plan the most effective tile layout.

Aim to make the floor look larger by:

  • Selecting rectangular shaped tiles and laying them on the diagonal which makes the space appear wider.
  • Using smaller sized tiles which have more grout lines that can give the illusion of expanded space. Mosaic tiles or tiles under 4 inches work best.
  • Limiting the number of different tile sizes and colors. Too many variations can make a small kitchen feel cluttered.
  • Creating a layout with simplicity. For example, opting for an all over grid pattern.

Choose the Right Tile Size

Tile sizes under 4 inches are ideal for small kitchens. Some specific sizes to consider:

  • Mosaic tiles: 1/2 inch, 1 inch or 2 inch mosaic tiles have a seamless look that doesn’t interrupt the flow of the room.
  • 2 inch tile: A 2×2 inch standard size tile is a square that suits a grid layout.
  • Subway tile: 3×6 inch classic subway tiles create the illusion of length.
  • Hexagon tile: Hexagon shaped tiles fit together to create movement and interest underfoot.

Select the Proper Tile Material

The material you choose for your small kitchen should be durable, easy to maintain and have slip resistance. Top options include:

  • Porcelain: Harder than ceramic, more durable and water resistant. Has a modern appearance.
  • Ceramic: Budget friendly option that comes in a huge range of styles. Use a tile with texture to increase slip resistance.
  • Stone: Natural material like slate, marble or granite adds timeless elegance. Requires sealing.
  • Glass: Provides a sleek, bright reflective surface. Can be slippery. Textured glass is a safer option.

Use Light Tile Colors

Light and soft colored tiles open up a small kitchen visually to make it feel more spacious. Solid whites, off-whites, light grays and beiges are smart background choices.

If you want to add color, use it strategically as an accent. For example, a bold mosaic tile backsplash, contrasting border or geometric design inset.

Carefully Layout Grout Lines

Grout lines should be uniform in color and width (typically 1/8 inch). Consistent grout lines make the space look orderly and cohesive.

It is wise to align the most visible grout lines (for example, at entrances or defining kitchen zones) with cabinetry or appliances to conceal unevenness.

Install in a Grid Pattern

Laying tile in a simple grid pattern is ideal for a small kitchen. A basic technique many DIYers can tackle. Consistent perpendicular joints lend harmony and make the space feel neatly expansive.

Begin laying tile from the center of the room working outward. Use spacers between tiles to keep grid lines even and straight.

Consider Inset Accents

While all over tile can be overwhelming, strategically placed inset tile accents can provide interest underfoot without clutter.

Accent areas to highlight include:

  • Inside the entryway
  • Under the sink or cooking range
  • Bordering countertops and cabinets
  • Dividing separate zones like dining and cooking

Geometric mosaic tiles, decorative tiles and medallions are beautiful choices.

Use Large Format Tile Minimally

While 12×24 inch tiles might seem like a quick and easy way to cover a floor, large tiles can make a small kitchen feel boxed in and crowded if used wall to wall.

However, incorporating some large format tile is a good idea. Limiting it to one section, like inside the entrance or around the perimeter of the room, can give a nice contrast.

Transition Between Rooms

Creating defined transitions between rooms using tile can make a small kitchen feel like a separate, intentional space.

Some great options include:

  • A row of mosaic tile between the kitchen and other rooms
  • A contrasting tile border or threshold at doorways
  • Inset decorative strips to mark changes in flooring

Consider Open Shelving

Trading some upper cabinets for open shelving can make a small kitchen feel more expansive. This works best if you have nice dishes, glassware or decorative cookware to display.

Be sure to coordinating your shelf finish with other metals in the kitchen, like appliances or lighting. For example, stainless steel for a contemporary look or brass for traditional style.

Add Reflective Surfaces

Just like floor tile, strategically adding mirrored surfaces enlarges a kitchen visually. Well-placed mirrors reflect light and the illusion of space.

Some good locations include:

  • Across the backsplash behind sinks or stoves
  • On the insides of glass front cabinet doors
  • Behind open corner shelving
  • On side walls to expand counters and reflect windows

Use Glass Cabinet Doors

Swapping out solid cabinet fronts for glass doors opens up the sightlines to make a small kitchen appear less boxy and confined.

For safety, choose tempered or laminated glass. Etching, textured or low iron glass are other options to create privacy or translucency.

Installing glass doors on both upper and lower cabinets creates visual continuity from floor to ceiling.

Take Advantage of Natural Light

Sunlight streaming into a small kitchen makes it feel roomier and more airy. Strategies to maximize natural light include:

  • Keeping windows, skylights and glass doors clean and obstruction free.
  • Adding mirrors and reflective metal finishes to bounce light around.
  • Painting walls white or pale hues to prevent light absorption.
  • Removing upper cabinet doors and replacing with glass fronts.

Install Under Cabinet Lighting

Task lighting under cabinets illuminates workspaces and eliminates shadows in a small kitchen. Hardwired puck lights, magnetic strips or battery powered LEDs are all good options.

Choose warm light temperature around 2700-3000K to prevent a clinical feel. Dimmer switches allow adjusting brightness levels.

Layer Lighting

While an overhead fixture does provide overall ambient lighting, it is rarely sufficient alone. Layering lighting creates a warm, welcoming and productive space.

Be sure to incorporate multiple types of lighting at various heights:

  • Overheads like flush or pendant fixtures
  • Under cabinet lighting
  • Decorative like sconces or track lighting
  • Portables like table and floor lamps


Tile can be an excellent flooring choice to make a small kitchen feel more open and spacious with proper planning and design. Measure carefully, choose sizes under 4 inches, limit tile variations, use patterns, reflect light with mirrors and glass. With thoughtful tile installation, it is possible to gain an illusion of expanded square footage and a functionally enjoyable cooking space.

FAQs About Tile for Small Kitchens

What size tile is best for small kitchens?

Tiles smaller than 4 inches are ideal for small kitchens. Options like 1-inch mosaics, 2-inch squares, 3×6 inch subway tile or hexagons fit well and make the space seem larger. Avoid tiles over 12 inches, as fewer grout lines can close the space in.

Should I use light or dark tile in my small kitchen?

Lighter colored tiles in whites, beiges and soft grays visually open up the space. Use darker colors sparingly for accents, borders or mosaic patterns. An all-over dark tile floor makes walls seem closer.

What tile layout works in small kitchens?

A basic grid pattern aligned square with the room creates a seamless, expansive effect. Lay out tiles beginning in the center and working outward to keep the grid even. Avoid complicated layouts or too many sizes, materials and colors.

Should I use matte or glossy tile?

Tiles with a matte or textured finish increase slip resistance for safety. However, moderate shine from polished porcelain or glass tile helps reflect light to make a small kitchen brighter. Find balance with glossy accents in safer areas not prone to spills.

Can I use large format tile in a small kitchen?

Limiting large tile over 12 inches to selective areas can provide nice contrast without overwhelming the room. For example, framing the floor perimeter or defining zones like an eat-in dining space. Use extra caution laying large tiles to prevent lippage and uneven grout lines.

How can I make a narrow galley kitchen feel bigger?

In an extremely narrow galley, elongate the space visually by choosing a rectangular tile and laying it in a bricklike pattern. Use subway, planks or mosaic strips installed diagonally. Carry the floor tile up the wall a few inches as a wainscoting effect. Mirror the backsplash to maximize reflection.

What flooring contrasts well with white tile?

White or off-white tile floors and backsplashes provide a clean, bright backdrop. Pair with contrasting flooring in adjoining rooms or hallways to define the kitchen boundaries. Darker woods, slate, distressed concrete, black granite and patterned vinyl floors coordinate beautifully.

Should I avoid patterns if I have a small kitchen?

Not necessarily! A mosaic floor insert, decorative accent tile border or geometric backsplash make a fun statement without overwhelming a tiny kitchen. Keep other surfaces simple to balance busy floors. Limit patterns to 30% or less of the total floor space.

How can I hide uneven grout lines in small kitchens?

Careful tile prep and installation prevents uneven grout lines. Allowing proper time and spacing for grout to fully cure reduces cracking. Strategically aligning grout lines with cabinets or appliances also helps disguise imperfections. Caulk corner joints and areas prone to settlement.

Can I install tile myself in a small kitchen?

An avid DIYer can tackle a basic grid layout install. To prevent uneven tiles or grout, rent tools, use spacers and caulk corners. However, for complicated patterns, tricky demolition or uncertain subfloors, consider hiring a professional tiler comfortable working in tight spaces.


A small kitchen presents unique challenges when selecting new flooring. However, tile can be an excellent choice aesthetically and functionally. With thoughtful planning, strategic layout and the right tile size, color and design, it is possible to open up and expand a tiny kitchen visually. Tiles under 4 inches, uniform colors, grid patterns and reflective accents are all techniques to try. While DIY installation is an option, professional expertise may ensure quality results on complicated layouts or problem subfloors. With careful selection and design considerations, tile can make a small kitchen feel elegant, expansive and gracefully practical.