Filling in that Awkward Space Above the Cabinets {Kitchen Progress}

Filling in that Awkward Space Above the Cabinets {Kitchen Progress}Wallpaper via Graham Brown – Kelly Hoppen

While we were waiting on my new bank of cabinets to arrive, the ones that go to the right of my dishwasher, there hasn’t been much progress on the kitchen since the day everything was torn apart. Fortunately we’ve been busy watching our wood floors go in so we weren’t bored around here. Heh. But today the cabinet guy not only brought the new cabinets but he fixed up a little area of my kitchen that has bugged me since we moved in.

What problem area am I talking about?

Filling in that Awkward Space Above the Cabinets {Kitchen Progress}


Filling in that Awkward Space Above the Cabinets {Kitchen Progress}

Dun…dun…dun….That rather awkward space above the cabinets.

You know, the space that isn’t big enough to display anything (even if you wanted to feature more dusty collections that require ladders to clean). That space that makes it impossible to paint the walls above the cabinets. The space that makes your cabinets look squatty but the space that isn’t really big enough to add more cabinets to make it look normal. THAT space. Maybe you don’t have that problem, but I did.

Filling in that Awkward Space Above the Cabinets {Kitchen Progress}

So, we decided to box that awkward space in so it would no longer bug me.  The cabinets will be completely painted so this is NOT the finished product, this is the progress so far.

There were so many ways we could have filled in that space above the cabinets. From installing brand new cabinets that fit the space, to raising the existing cabinets, to adding open shelves to creating small doors to adding some elaborate crown molding. Endless options, it seemed.  I don’t like to climb up ladders to get stuff and if it is too high I tend to forget what is up there, so I really didn’t want that space for storage. It wasn’t tall enough for much of anything. Plus, new cabinet doors are not cheap. In the end, we opted for a fairly simple remedy to our awkward space.

Filling in that Awkward Space Above the Cabinets {Kitchen Progress}

Our house is a new, northwest craftsman style, so while it does have a bit of personality, it is still simple with mostly straight flat moldings and only our dining room and powder room have crown molding. It isn’t a fancy house at all. We didn’t want to overdo details in the kitchen at this point or we’d outshine the rest of the house or overdraw our bank account, you know what I mean?

So a simple fix with a simple finishing detail fit the bill nicely.

We’ll be painting those upper cabinets white, so that entire upper cabinet wall will be white with simple white subway tile. I think the boxed in cabinets make the cabinets look much more finished and substantial and less squatty new house builder style. A nice little upgrade without a hefty price tag, I think!

Filling in that Awkward Space Above the Cabinets {Kitchen Progress}

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the kitchen the new sink and drawers were put in place!  Progress is so exciting! Even though we are eventually painting all of our cabinets, it was decided to install new ones of the same finish as our existing cabinets so that when we paint them there will be no chance of finishes taking the paint differently.

The space where that red compressor thing is sitting is where our dishwasher will go. I’m excited about that nice long counter to the right of the sink and NO upper cabinets to crowd the space. I’ll have a simple open shelf above that double bank of cabinets for functional display. The yellow table thing is just sitting there so we have a surface to set stuff, like my new faucet. HOORAY! We do plan to have a not-yet-decided-upon movable island in the middle of the room for extra prep space.

Next steps, the counters (which I have not talked about yet but promise to very soon!) will be measured, created and installed, and then the subway tile will go up on the walls. Then we will get our sink and dishwasher all hooked up!

Do you have an awkward space above your kitchen cabinets?

You can catch up on all the posts on my kitchen update project here, head straight to the reveal post here, or see all of my kitchen sources and details here.

UPDATE: Here is what that awkward space above the cabinet looks like now (below!)!

Before & After Cabinet Kitchen Makeover

Filling in that Awkward Space Above the Cabinets {Kitchen Progress}

Filling in that Awkward Space Above the Cabinets {Kitchen Progress}

Filling in that Awkward Space Above the Cabinets {Kitchen Progress}


  1. I have that horrible space and I can’t WAIT to get rid of it. I’m hoping to put mini cabinets up there because I’m a firm believer of creating storage space wherever you can (and I have a tall husband who loves to fetch things for me). Your option is beautiful and will be even better after you paint the cabinets. And really, let’s be honest here, anything is better than that icky space up there, for all the reasons you mentioned!

  2. Had that awkward space in my old home and never considered what to do to fill it. Most of the time I was there I had the odd dust-catching nick-knacks. Current home someone put in drywall bulkheads up there, but seeing yours makes me fantasize about putting some veneer and simple trim over that the next time we touch that room. It looks very smart in yours! Filed away!

  3. Oh this looks awesome! Really great job, this makes me want to do mine!

  4. Cheryl Thornton says

    ok I have that space too…but I never thought of it as an ucky dust filled space…more of an opportunity to accessorize…I have seen other blogs with open cabinetry and baskets up there…but I really like what you did…I’m trying to picture that now in my kitchen and I really think it would make the ceilings look taller – we are thinking of re-staining our cabinets darker (we have the honey oak popular in the 90’s) and that might be a project for the future…thanks for sharing

    Cheryl from Ontario

    • My space was too close to the ceiing properly accessorize. In some cases with higher ceilings or a vaulted ceiling you can put baskets up there or something and it can look great, but mine was just a too short for anything but dust!

  5. I think like Cheryl in the comment above. I’ve always looked at it as another opportunity for a kitchen vignette, but I LOVE what you did there, and like Cheryl, I think it would make my kitchen look taller…hmmm…might have to put this on the honey-do list!. Painting it white is going to make SUCH a difference. Your progress is looking good and exciting!

  6. i LOVE that little space. a soffit? mine is painted ceiling white and it’s filled with {wait, I’m going to run and count!} 105 sifters, graters, pans, utensils, spoons, tins, knife boxes, sifters, shakers, rolling pins, ETC.!

    i’ve LOVED displaying this collection of old stuff … but am pretty sure that when we move on from here all these treasures will probably not re-appear on my wall.

    any takers?

    • Laina Lamb says

      I, too, have vintage kitchen tools displayed on top of by cabinets. Even an old electric mixer from the 1920’s… I love them! I’m glad you like yours, too, Linda. I may donate mine to a local recreation of a 1930’s farm for their kitchen when I decide to change, but no time soon :)

    • Elizabeth Calhoon says

      My boyfriend and I are getting ready to “undo”, or unbox this area above the cabinets in our kitchen! For the 35 years he and his ex lived here, no remoeling was done so imagine my excitement in doing that with him! I too have many vintage bowls/sifters, etc that were my Nana’s, and the area above our kitchen cabinets will be perfect to display it! I don’t mind dusting things if I get to ow them off!

  7. We “filled ours in,” too. It just makes it look finished and the eye doesn’t stop. LUV the open shelf concept. It’s REALLY COMING together! franki

  8. No awkward space…ceilings are too low for that. I really like your solution. No decorating dilemmas, no extra dust, no climbing, yes, a very good choice.

  9. We’ve always wanted to do something about the empty space above the cabinets. May I ask if your solution was handcrafted? Or is that something that can be purchased as part of a cabinet set?
    I’ve loved the look of your former homes! But anticipating with pleasure how this one is going to end up!

  10. perfect! I love that trick and especially how it adds height!

  11. We also have that space above the cabinets (it is the bane of my existence!) I thought about small cabinets but I’m not so tall & don’t want to spend much time on a step stool. I’m going to show this to hubby and see if we can get this done (wonder if this can be a DIY project or should I just hire pros.)

  12. so agree about that space…too dusty for me but your solution was a great idea. We are in similar stages of our kitchen remodel and am so jealous of your wood flooring already in! Our granite and white subway tile should be in next week and looking forward to seeing your granite selection. Thanks for sharing the process with us….check my blog out as well to see how we are coming along.

  13. Fun! I love seeing the progress! But, what a pain it must be now to be living without your sink. Ugh!
    All my homes have had sofits above the cupboards so that has not been anything I’ve given a lot of thought to. But, my mom had cupboards built and the cabinet guy created these tricky little panels that popped out for storage. Not really all that helpful. I had to stand on the counters to get at them. I think your solution is much better. And I do love the look of ceiling touching cabinets.
    Hope your weekend is Extraordinary!!

  14. Love what you did with that space Melissa! We have a bit larger space above the whole bank of cabinets so it is large enough for my baskets and large cast iron pots. My kitchen (and whole house) has so little storage space I was pleased to be able to use this space. I also put a rope light up there and had it wired in so that we have some lovely indirect lighting.

    • I bet that looks great, I love baskets and cast iron pots! I really wanted to be able to put baskets or cool stuff there when I first moved in but nothing fit and it looked ridiculous so it just sat there empty and dusty. :-) Glad to finally have a solution that works for us!

  15. We had an awkward space above our refrigerator and filled it up with a large cabinet… Love that cabinet, it’s great for hiding away the big items we don’t use often :) PS. I saw you in my House Beautiful magazine and screamed out loud a little bit! hahaha! The ad for My Colortopia with the Caribbean Sea color, congrats!!

  16. We live in a rental and have that awkward spaces between cabinets and ceiling also. It is so dusty and gross, I don’t want to put anything up there even if I could reach it. I think the way you did yours actually makes the ceilings look taller and the space bigger. Well done! It looks great!!!

  17. That was a great idea. It really makes your cabinets look even bigger and draws your eye up more. Looking good!

  18. It looks great and such a simple but effective idea. I am so excited to see your finished kitchen.

  19. I’m lucky in that my cabinets go up to the ceiling. I use a pair of tongs or my super tall hubby to get things down from the top shelves most of the time, but I do have a kitchen stool in the dinette that I can use when the tongs aren’t gripping and hubby isn’t around. It’s perfect for my roasters, infrequently used pretty shaped pans, bulk bags that I refill from, etc.

    I used to keep copper pieces in that awkward spot in the last house, and pulling them down to wash once a month was a pain!

  20. I love this idea.. that space above the cabinets is a real challenge!!!

  21. ah a stylish answer to an age-old question…to accessorize or not? from the before pics, it looks like the area above your cabinets was pretty short so hard to accessorize, but what a fantastic solution you devised! I love that all-the-way-to-the-ceiling look and wish we’d done it in our own kitchen. great decision!

  22. HI Melissa, I like the progress you are making. We are just getting ready to dive into our kitchen and remodel all of it. Painting cabinets (that reach the ceiling), change the floor, and paint everything! Can’t wait. I can’t seem to get enough of looking at kitchens and getting new ideas. Hope you are doing well!

  23. I love what you did to make the cabinets look better — that change really looks great! I can’t wait to see more!

  24. I so have this problem! And have often wondered how to remedy it. I can’t think of anything looking decent above the cabinets. And you’re right, it’s nearly impossible to paint above them. I did paint above them, but such a pain. Maybe we’ll do the same thing once money allows. :) Thanks for sharing.

  25. I have this problem too. Ugh.

  26. Have you been at my house and I didn’t know it?! That’s exactly what we did at our house, before the cabinets went white. Ours isn’t quite as dramatic since I still have 18″ to the top on one end and nearly 3 feet on the other end (kitchen ceiling vaults to 12 feet). Can’t wait to see your progress. Do let me know if you want photos so you can get super excited about how lovely the cabinets will be! :)

  27. can i just say how happy i am to see this?! i am super happy. we have this look in our kitchen, but with our dark cherry cabinets, i’m afraid it makes the whole space look too dark. i was thinking of removing them-essentially the opposite of all your comments, lol-and putting more white vases up there. but now, i’m rethinking!

  28. i have the exact same issue in my new house- we are moving the cabinets a few inches higher and adding crown molding, however, i have no idea how to match them… BUT they are identical to yours! could you please share the make/stain color/material/company of your cabinets or how you matched the finish?! thanks so much!

    • We actually painted our cabinets but if you know the manufacturer of your cabinets you can buy trim pieces and possible make it work without painting! Good luck!

  29. I had this issue in an apartment once. Obviously couldn’t make any serious changes and needed more storage, so I did something different. I got some thick foam board and measured the pieces to fit the openings over the cabinets. I then covered the pieces with fabric (wrapping paper or paint would also work) using mod podge. I found some boxes that were slightly smaller than the spaces and attached the fabric covered piece to the front. (you could make boxes but i just cut existing boxes I found down to size with an exacto) I put some things I didn’t need daily in the boxes and put into place. I put two tiny pieces of clear fishing line in bottom corners to be able to use as “pulls”. Could do with wood (pallet?) and even change out fabric for seasons but I didn’t want to worry about sawing any wood.

  30. The white makes it look so different!

  31. I’m late to the game, but I just love this. Can you tell me what you used as the trim at the top please?

  32. christina says

    Hi! They look great! I HATE HATE HATE the empty space above my cabinets (we awe also in a new construction home – so I’m not sure i will be able to convince the hubby to go with my desire to paint the cabinets, which would make filling that space in a little easier as i wouldn’t have to match the current cabinet finish and it could be a DIY) SO i guess my question is, you did use a cabinet company to fill in your space? and if you didn’t HOW did you get the top framed in part to match your current cabinet color? Thanks!

  33. I love, love, love this idea! We are currently building and it wasn’t in the budget to extend the cabinets to the ceiling. Although the lovely husband did say we could down the road extend them up with those mini cabinets above but this seems like a great option too and for much less I’m sure. Thanks for sharing, so gorgeous!

  34. I love this solution. My cabinets already go up to the ceiling but I’m saving this just in case house #2 has this same issue!

  35. I could not afford the extra in my builder grade home. I bought matching baskets and keep seasonal placemats and kitchen towels in them. I tuck a white trash bag on the top and push it down out of sight. When it comes time to get down that holiday’s decor, I take down one basket and discard the trash bag. No dusting. When the season is over they go back up for a year with a fresh trash bag. Works for me. Each basket only comes down once a year.

  36. I too have this problem with the awkward space above cabinets. Our house was built in 1988 and we did an upgrade in 2006 but did nothing to change the structure of the cabinets just refinished the honey oak which my husband loves! Ugh! I’m patiently waiting for a remodeled kitchen which barring a disaster should come soon. Over the years I have had all sorts of things up there from collectable tins to antique canisters, baskets vignettes and bottles. After studying designs and reading from the experts unless you have 2 feet above your cabinets, nothing should rest up there. I have removed everything NOT because someone thinks it’s a decorating no no but because I’m tired of all of it and my style is ever hanging and I prefer to simplify. On that note if I had thought of this earlier I would have done it and painted those cabinets!
    Thanks for all your inspiration

  37. Kyla Benson says

    Did a contractor fill in this awkward space? Or did you do it? If so, how? I’m looking to fill in that same space with my kitchen cabinets! Thanks! Beautiful kitchen by the way!

  38. I would really appreciate a picture of the shelves above the long counter.
    What you’ve shown us is just outstanding!

  39. What did you use for paint? My cabinets are closed off like yours but the carpenter did an awful job and I’m going to have to paint the closed off area and the cabinets.

  40. Francesca Gunn says

    I had to laugh. We have that space you created and have seriously considered opening it up! The cabinets are original( and built into the house) so we don’t want to alter them too much and lose the character.

  41. Jelena Fine says

    Genius! The “real life” feel of your blogs and books really speaks to me.


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