That Space Above the Cabinets

Decorating Above the Cabinets at CreatingThisLife.comWhen we built our first house back in 1988, I remember specifically requesting no soffits! in the kitchen. I wanted to have a space above the cabinets to decorate.

Ah, yes, decorating above the cabinets. I went a little nuts with that for a while.

A long while.

Here’s a before picture of my current kitchen:


I know it’s hard to make out, so I’ll paint you a visual picture: lots of baskets, lots of fake greenery, a bird house, a bird cage, and not one – but two – tiered plate stands. All creatively styled in a big, long line.

Looking at it now gives me that fingernails on a chalkboard feeling. That would be a decorative chalkboard placed above the cabinets, no doubt.

When we remodeled our kitchen, I wanted a better solution for that space above the cabinets. Something clean and uncluttered.

My first thought was to have another half row of cabinets built, so the cabinets would extend all the way to the ceiling. This kitchen definitely could have accommodated taller cabinets. And I pictured them all with glass fronts.

But our budget had something to say about that idea. Specifically, it said: “No. Not happening.”

My next thought was to use crown molding to help visually fill in the space. And while we did use crown molding, and I really like the finished look it gives the kitchen, I didn’t pick molding nearly tall enough to make a difference in that space above the cabinets. (I blame this on severe remodeling decision-making fatigue.)

So when all the dust had (literally) settled, I still had a space up above the cabinets. And it wasn’t looking clean and uncluttered to me; it was looking bare.

Around that time we went to the fundraising auction at our kids’ high school, and I came home with a lantern that I paid way too much for. (I’d had a few glasses of wine and, hey, it was a good cause.) While deciding where to put it, I tried it out above the cabinets.

Decorating the space above the cabinets at

I liked it.

So I started shopping the house for some more things that might look good up there and – after a lot of hopping onto and off of the countertops trying different things – I stumbled onto a combination I liked: something white + something rustic + something architectural.

Rustic + White + Architectural at

I ended up with two small groupings that included one of each of those things and then I stuck another basket (hard to see in this pic) in the corner for good measure.

Decorating above kitchen cabinets at

It’s been a year now and I still really like this combination. It feels simple and organic to me. It feels like it adds to the space instead of detracting from it.

Kitchen entry

Oh, and rustic and architectural? Those things don’t show dust. Which is a good thing, because I don’t mind hopping on and off the counters to decorate, but to dust? Ha!

White + Rustic + Architectural at

Sometimes I think I should add a bit more to each grouping, to extend them a bit horizontally, but so far I’ve left them alone. I’m erring on the side of less, at least for now.

Styling the space above the cabinets at

What are your thoughts on that space above the cabinets?

Have you found a combination of things you like up there or do you like having it bare? And if you have cabinets that go all the way the ceiling, feel free to break my heart with that bit of info too.

P.S. A bookish resolution and dining rooms as libraries.

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  1. I like your choices for above the cabinets. I’ve seen a lot of decorating above cabinets, and usually it’s too much. I think you have just the right amount up there. The crown molding looks great too- it really trims a room out nicely! Removing the wallpaper, painting the walls taupe and changing your light fixtures was a huge enhancement.
    When we remodeled I ended up with soffits to fill that space above my cabinets. I just knew I wouldn’t be good about getting up there to clean and my cabinet budget was spent so I couldn’t go all the way up. I had a light fixture like your old one before too- so glad to get rid of that one!

    1. Oh yes, the florescent box light. That thing was the bane of my husband’s existence. He HATED it.

  2. Hi, I recently discovered your blog and wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying it. I think you have great taste and can’t wait for a complete tour of your home.
    Love the new look of the kitchen. Your before photo gave me flashbacks to how we ALL decorated back then. I have the same type of cabinets and have also decorated with a few items on the tops. Good luck with your blog!

    1. Hi Jean. Thank you so much for your nice comments. I’m very happy to have you as a reader.

  3. Hi, I’ve just discovered your blog, hopping over from Stone Gable. I love your formula for the space above the cabinets. I have that decorating challenge for the first time in my new home, and will try your solution. Thanks!

    1. Hi Mary, I hope it works for you. Congrats on your new home!

  4. Very pretty kitchen, and you just gave me a great idea to decorate the top of my fridge! Thank you!

    1. I’m so glad, Lucy. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  5. I really love your kitchen remodel. It’s simple and elegant. Using that space above the cabinets for creativity is a great idea. Our cabinets extend all the way to the ceiling, but sometimes I wish we had a little more room for decor.

    1. I guess we always want what we don’t have, LH. lol

  6. I love the color of the walls. It sets off the white cabinets beautifully.

    Our cabinets stop about 12 inches short of the ceiling. Since I haven’t found anything I love to put up there, I have a strand of lights draped towards the back of the cabinet to add some light.

    1. The light sounds lovely, Barb. Great idea.

  7. Miriam Gebhart says:

    Just saw this and wanted to comment. I live in an older home, pre 1950’s. Someone had the idea of cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling. I want you to know what you have is so much better! I am not able to place anything above my cabinets and the space really looks wasted and stagnant, I feel.. I would trade you in a heartbeat. I think yours are lovely just as they are–arrangements and all!

    1. Well you’re the second commenter to mention that, Miriam, so I guess I’ll appreciate what I have. 🙂

  8. Love the remodel! Whew!
    Thanks for this – I have been looking for ideas for that tricky space that is typically so horribly done with fake plants. I better get to a fundraiser or two!

  9. Just out of curiosity, have you done any thing to change the space above your cabinets? It’s been a couple of years since this post and I’m stressing over my space. I also have a long alcove high on the wall that needs to be filled. I’ve gone with some large tin letters to spell “Live” and “Love”, but am at a loss for the wall alcove.

    1. Tracy, I’ve added just one other thing, but I do have plans to try a couple of pictures up there. I’ll try to remember to take pics when I do.

  10. I love the simple but so classy decor above cabinets! Where did you find the artichoke thing ( next to plate and lantern)?
    Thanks for sharing as I begin to shop for above cabinet decor!

    1. Terese, I picked that up at an estate sale, but you could probably find something similar at Home Goods or places like that. Good luck with your shopping!

      1. Thank you! Love your kitchen

  11. Patty in Texas says:

    Hi! I seem to have no idea how to decorate over the kitchen cabinets. Thank you so much for the clean ideas! QUESTION: What do you use to prop up the items? The moulding on the top of our cabinets is quite tall and cake stands, etc all sink below them and you can’t see them!
    What do you use? Besides old Amazon boxes, etc. ha ha. There must be a grown-up solution. Thank you!

    1. Hi Patty. I use any old thing! I think some of my kids’ old wooden blocks might be up there now. lol If an Amazon box works, I say go for it.

  12. PJ Charnock says:

    Hello! Love these photos. I’m interested in how to get those light fixtures that you put above the island. They are darling! I have the fluorescent light box thing now :/

    1. PJ, I ordered those online and they were discontinued right after I bought them. Sorry I’m not more help.

    2. They have them at Lowe’s or Home Depot Wayfair. Just look around.

  13. Elizabeth Porter says:

    Okay…it is 2022. I bought a house with laminate white cabinets (short) that are in PERFECT condition. I keep thinking I will add to the top with glass cabinets at some because there is probably a good 20 inches between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling. But if I could find a way to fill the space and not have it look cluttered, I would prefer to
    do it that way. What are your ideas on decorating the tops of the cabinets now?

    1. Hi Elizabeth. My thoughts are pretty much the same as before. If/when I do a kitchen remodel with new cabinets, I will take them all the way to the ceiling. Until then, they’re pretty much the same, although I have toyed with just removing everything and leaving them bare. Congrats on the house!

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