10 Reasons I Removed My Upper Kitchen Cabinets

10 Reasons I Removed My Upper Kitchen Cabinets

How do you have enough storage in your kitchen without your upper cabinets?

YO. That is one of my most FAQ from new readers or people who find my kitchen on Pinterest.

Yes, I’m a rebel. When we remodeled our kitchen, I removed some upper cabinets. I left some on one side of the kitchen (in my baking area and around the fridge) but I decided that I would be happier WITHOUT the rest.

Why would I do that?

How could I be happier by removing storage?

10 Reasons I Removed My Upper Kitchen Cabinets

Here are 10 Reasons I Removed My Upper Cabinets.

And BEING CRAZY isn’t one of them. At least I don’t think so :).

1. I wanted to LOVE being in my kitchen and I really disliked everything about my upper cabinets.

2. My kitchen felt cramped. Removing upper cabinets opened up the visual space around the room, making the kitchen appear much larger.

3. Most of the upper cabinets were hard to reach.

4. The upper cabinets cast a shadow over the counters, making the workspace feel darker than necessary.

5. Drawers are more efficient for me than upper cabinets.

I only removed two single width cabinets from above the stove area, and one additional small upper cabinet that was awkward and not very helpful. The cabinets above the microwave (which is now in the pantry) was unusable due to a vent. When we first bought the house we removed one extremely awkward cabinet above the counters to the right of the sink area, so I had not had that cabinet for years. I could basically only reach the bottom shelf of each upper and I used them all for dishes. Since I prefer drawers, I decided to add drawers in place of the upper cabinets!

10 Reasons I Removed My Upper Kitchen Cabinets

When the upper cabinets were removed, I added two new lower cabinets with six heavy duty drawers conveniently to the right of the dishwasher. They hold a LOT of dishes (four deep drawer cabinets for dishes and two wide shallow drawers, one for silverware and one for small plates.) We actually ended up needing only two of the four deep cabinets for every day dishes, the other two hold random things like our magic bullet blender and extra glasses.

10 Reasons I Removed My Upper Kitchen Cabinets

6. I added an island for more storage. Our island isn’t huge, but it has two shelves for some extra baking dishes and a few overflow items. It has two drawers we use for ziplock baggies.

7. I keep on hand only what we actually use on a regular basis, so I don’t need to store excess or rarely used items in the kitchen. Actually, I take that back. We have excess stuff in a completely disorganized poorly used drawer to the left of our stove and a cabinet filled of random stuff to the right of the refrigerator. I totally could empty that drawer and cabinet and have surplus space if I needed it. But I have plenty of storage! If I don’t use something regularly, I can either get rid of it or it goes out to garage shelves.

10 Reasons I Removed My Upper Kitchen Cabinets

8. Removing the upper cabinets opened up the space so we could cover the walls with white subway tile, which  not only feels clean and airy, but it reflects glorious light into the room.

9. Removing most of the upper cabinets made it feel like I doubled my usable counter space — I find it is much more enjoyable to work at a counter without a cabinet overhead.

10 Reasons I Removed My Upper Kitchen Cabinets

10. We made better use of our walk in pantry (which is still SMALL, remember, it’s under the stairs!) to increase our overall functional kitchen storage. The walk in pantry was dark and awkward before we removed the door and switched out the rubber wire shelves for more functional solid ones. Now we have plenty of space for organizing every day items and even space for extra serving bowls, so I really haven’t once missed my upper cabinets!

10 Reasons I Removed My Upper Kitchen Cabinets

So there you have it! Maybe I’m a little crazy, but at least I love my kitchen!

Click here for kitchen sources!

PS. Update…Did you see THE NEWS? Go see! {FAINTS}.


  1. Melissa — how does having your microwave in your pantry work? That seems like an inconvenience (even though it would be nice to not have the microwave in the middle of everything). There ARE days when I wonder if we could do without ours… I was just curious how that works out for you. ~Sally

  2. The kitchen is so inviting and airy. I was wondering where you store your glassware. In drawers also? I’m looking at removing our upper cabinets too, to lighten the feel of the room and I’m trying to consider all where I will put the stuff that’s in them as a remodel isn’t in the budget just yet. :)

  3. When remodeled out kitchen, I took most of the upper cabinets down for the same reasons, and I wanted a huge window that overlooked our best asset-the backyard. My island has 11 deep industrial strength draws that hold our plates, bowls, silverware, linens, microwave, etc.-which makes it super easy to set the island for meals. I’ll never go back to upper cabinets for plates-they get so heavy when stacked, and the draw makes it much more practical for even the kids to help out :)

  4. This is so timely for me…I am building a new house and am meeting my kitchen guy today. I designed the kitchen without upper cabinets along the range wall but I have been second guessing myself. My question is…would you be able to live without uppers if you didn’t have a separate pantry?

    • I think if I didn’t have a separate pantry and still had my size of kitchen, I would just create a pantry with a free standing piece if possible rather than put in upper cabinets!

    • After seeing Melissa’s kitchen here I did the same! (We start tearing out the old kitchen on Monday– yay!) It helped when I realized that having cabinets over the range would also mean having to clean up all the gross grease and steam hanging out on those cabinets. The sheer grodiness of it (even with a hood over my range) made it an easy decision. And there is something about the cabinets just HULKING over you while you cook, chop, or mix that is depressing. I cook everything (everything!) from scratch due to food allergies in the house, so I have loads of special flours and stuff as well as the usual pantry items. But a 30-inch pantry with pullout shelves nearby (plus the drawers in the island) are going to hold everything.

  5. I don’t know that I could be so brave. We have so little space as it is. But I have a spot that I would rather extend the cabinets and then take the uppers down and remove the wall where those uppers were. You have inspired me. :) Thanks Melissa

  6. Mary Anne Looby says

    I don’think you are crazy at all! That is my plan for my next house. No uppers, only drawers and a pantry. Ihave a great antique chestnut wood tripple door and door cabinet that can hold all of my dishes and glasses , plus flatware and placemats and napkins. The drawers will be large and hold the small appliances and bakewaere. Pots and pans will hange from the pot rack, as always. Iwill have shelves near the stove for oil and spices, also at the sink for soap etc. Still tring to come uo with a way to have the coffee pot “out” with out being out!

  7. Congrats on your BHG award!!! I am remembering that I knew you when you first started your blog…time sure flies. I am betting that your son no longer wears underwear on his head

  8. LOVE it! looks so fresh and pretty!

  9. Upper cabs — yay or nay is but one of many differences of opinion that my significant other (G.O.) + I have.
    We, too, are putting in a new kitchen — one that I am designing. Yikes.
    We’re using IKEA cabs, + they have awesome drawer storage accessories.
    I love huge drawers in the kitchen!

  10. Mary Crozier says

    I don’t think you are crazy. It was a wonderful choice. I, too have only a few upper cabinets in my kitchen and the rest are windows. I love the look and your kitchen is mighty attractive!

  11. Melissa, I have been trying to find Mug Trees to put my favorite mugs on. I/m having no luck. I love the ones you have on your countertop. Could you please point me in the right direction in locating one.
    Love the kitchen makeover.

  12. Definitely interesting! We obviously lost a few of our upper cabinets when we removed the wall they were located on, but I don’t know if I would have been able to ditch the rest of our upper cabinets. This was an interesting read and I’m glad this is working for you! That’s the most important thing in kitchens, don’t do what works for someone else, do what works for you!


  13. I LOVE this post. I have been seriously considering removing some of my upper cabinets and installing subway tile all over the wall. I was actually thinking about this before your wrote this post. Now I’m even more convinced. I have a little more of an issue than you did in that I really use my upper cabinets. My solution is to put up open shelving for dishes and glasses. My DH is totally against this move but, as I often do, I am planning on moving forward with or without his approval. Now, having read this and seen your pictures I am even more convinced.

    Thank you for blogging.

  14. I love your redone kitchen. My upper cabinets are so tall, and I can only reach the lower shelf as well. I am only five feet tall, so it is a real problem for me. Your kitchen is so open and refreshing.

  15. I also adore your kitchen. When we renovated ours, there just wasn’t enough room to forego the upper cabinets, but in an ideal world, I would do as you have done. We did put in nice deep substantial drawers all down one wall and beside the sink which are fabulous. I love having all my pots in a drawer as well as baking things, pasta things. We don’t have a walk-in pantry but we did install a “pantry” unit to match the kitchen with pull-out drawers and that holds a ton of things.

    When we have visited England (which we have done 8 times in our lives) we noticed that they design their kitchens, for the most part, without the upper cabinets also. Our friends who live there, in the Yorkshire Dales, had no upper cabinets and I loved the look and the space it gave them. It’s definitely a good way to do, if you have the room.

  16. Your kitchen is absolutely wonderful! You made some gorgeous choices, but what I love the most is that you made the right choices for you and your family.
    It seems like we’re all slowly making our way in this direction…it starts with removing cabinet doors to display the open shelves inside. Then we say huh what if we actually just had *shelves*? :-)

    Wonderful job!

  17. I love your kitchen, especially the tiled wall. I hadn’t considered doing that in my kitchen, but it seems to really brighten the place up. Is it convenient to unload dishes directly from the dishwasher to the drawers to the right? It seems like it would be cramped, or that you’d have to do it in two steps (unloading onto the counter, closing the dishwasher, walking to the left, placing in drawers).

  18. I LOVE it. Maybe one of these days I’ll do the same. Until then, I’ll be scheming new ways to find storage down below. Well done, Melissa!

  19. Kitchen without upper cabinets feel open and airy. They also feel a little more industrial. I love this look. Getting rid of uppers is a great way to pair down your kitchen supplies and get rid of unwanted clutter. Your kitchen is so bright and beautiful!

  20. I love your light-filled bright airy kitchen. When we remodeled ours, we removed uppers on the focal wall on either side of the stove. It allowed me to hang a big piece of art on one side. On the other, I have a metal rack meant for wine that holds oils & vinegars. It adds so much personality to the space. Years after making the decision I look at it & it still makes me happy. My only wish would be for more glorious bright light. I love your idea of taking the white tile to the ceiling. AND ~ Congratulations are in order!! I saw today that you were chosen for the Better Homes & Gardens Reader’s Choice award for Decorating Blogs. You inspire me & You certainly deserve it!

  21. My husband is disabled. It hurts him to BEND over in any way so I MUST have upper cabinets. I have to use the lover cabinets because I am only 4’11 so I can’t reach the top! My kitchen is tiny also so I have decided to minimalize my counter space so it won’t look so cramped and small. That helped so much. Congrats on the rest. Maybe some day I will start blogging too. God Bless!

  22. Your kitchen was very nice before but just beautiful after! We moved into a fixer-upper after getting married (many, many years ago…) which made me much more daring as far as DIY goes. I have rarely been afraid to try something new. Had we moved into a new or even newish home I wonder if I would have felt the same way. We still have most of our upper cabinets but I am constantly pining after the open shelving pictures so maybe one day we will go for that too.

  23. OK, Melissa, you totally talked me into that one! I was like “really? why in the world would you get rid of upper cabinets?” but I am totally convinced you are right – especially about it being dark to work!! Now, to get all new cabinets in my kitchen!!

    Organizing Made Fun

  24. Amen to all 10 reasons!

  25. After 10 years of dreaming about it, we’re meeting with an architect next month to talk about our remodel/addition to the back of our house. The kitchen will be the main focus. I do have one question–how have you liked the apron front sink? And this might be silly, but I always have a dishcloth folded over the center divider in my sink. Without the center divider, where will I put my dishcloth? I’ve never thought of that until just now.

  26. Wendy Fish says

    Love how big the cabinet removal makes your kitchen look. How big is your kitchen? We are moving to new house and trying to determine how to reconfigure kitchen layout…..maybe we just need to take down the cabinets on the walls!

  27. Karen on bainbridge island says

    I took am a huge fan of drawers, drawers and more drawers, and have few cabinets in my kitchen. I also have open shelf storage where I can. There is one thing I did not do because my corner sink wouldn’t allow it, and that is to put a drawer under the sink rather than a cabinet. Think about it…how dumb is it to put two doors under the sink then have to open that up and dig around under there for the stuff you have to reach every day for clean up. If you have a big, deep drawer you can open it up so much easier and just reach down and grab what you need. Next kitchen for sure!

  28. looks great but I am already short on space and could not do it. as someone else mentioned I wish I had more draws especially love pot draws.

  29. Melissa, did you use dark grout for your backsplash and if so how are you liking it. Pondering this as I am worried about being able to clean white grout. Thanks!

  30. Claudia Gonzalez says

    Hi Melissa! I have a quick question what size subway tile did you use in your kitchen?

  31. Debra Baldwin says

    We just opened up our kitchen by taking walls down and decided to remove all the Wall cabinets. Now we just have some open shelving and it now looks so big and bright and homely. And it has made me much more aware of what I need and keep in the kitchen, so even my lower cabinets have less in them. Everything that is useful AND pretty goes on the shelves. I even get compliments about the microwave as I bought a sage green retro look one, and instead of looking like it uses up space on the worktop it looks like a feature.

  32. Great job! I actually never thought it would be possible but seeing the transformation in your kitchen proved otherwise. But wait, where’s your microwave?

  33. Thank you! We’ve just built a new house & I said from day one, NO UPPER CABINETS. I’ve been questioned repeatedly by my husband, my mother, the builders & the in-laws (not that I really care what they say lol) to the point of sitting & crying over MY kitchen design. Every reason you’ve written is so ME! I’m short (5’3) & things are hard to reach & get lost in my old house in those cabinets. I have a nice walk in pantry in the new house as well as a 10 ft island with storage below. I’m saving your 10 reasons & leaving it on the island for others to read while the house is being finished. Thanks for making me feel not crazy too!

  34. I love your kitchen! I love the colors, the simplicity , the bottom drawers too. I will be copying! Thanks so much for your ideas!

  35. I have always thought that upper cabinets were useless and ugly. If your kitchen is small and you dont have a pantry, another solution is a tall (possibly antique) cabinet with shelves also at eye level.Far more stuff can be stored in it and it can be a real wow factor. I find modern kitchens so very boring and totaly without character. Be inventive, its your kitchen and you will probably end up spending far less than if you listen to those who are trying to sell you as many cabinets as possible. I also agree that draws are wonderful (far far better than cupboards) as there is less bending and you can see everything at a glance.

  36. What color grey r your cabinets and walls. I love them!

  37. I just LOVED everything about your kitchen! Congratulations!

  38. I love this! I’m downsizing our home and have been thinking about what I want to do with the kitchen… I was thinking of not putting doors on any of my cupboards but now I’m definitely going to look into the possibility of just a couple open shelves after seeing this. I want to do all drawers as well and I think this would save me a bit of money too!

  39. SumiSaran says

    Loved the design and all the reasons for not having the upper cabinet. We were re-modelling our kitchen and we also made the decision to get rid of the upper cabinets. We were thinking along the same reasoning provided in your blog. Happy to know that we are not “crazy”.. :)

  40. Carmen Bethel says

    I only had drawers built into my 1990 house and the one we built in 2007. I loved them. I never thought about eliminating the upper cabinets but you’re right, I don’t use them. We are building again next year and will definitely not have upper cabinets. My large pantries and lower drawers should be more than adequate. Thanks for the timely article.

  41. I love the looks of your kitchen, but I worry about resale. I don’t think everyone is on board for this. Our remodel starts this week and I chose the glass front upper cabinets. I think it will have the open look, but still supply storage to make it attractive to future buyers. I see that this was done a few years ago. Do you ever regret it ?

  42. I love this. I can’t wait to get rid of upper cabinets. I feel too crammed as well. And it’s making me not enjoy cooking. And I love to xook. Great hob. You inspired me!

  43. We’re considering doing this but the one thing I’m stuck on is where to store cups and glassware. Any suggestions?
    It would really have the wow factor but that might be lost if I need to get wine glasses from a really obscure place!
    Please help.

  44. Carole Rosenbluth says

    I agree w this totally! Its so much more open and light filled this way. I think we have a tendency to fill up cabinets w crap we really dont need anyway.

  45. I am so happy I stumbled on your blog. I’m in the middle of designing my kitchen and I don’t want any uppers. My designer is having a tough time creating around that and it’s been a struggle. I keep reminding him, I haven’t had a kitchen in 9 months, I love the open space, I love the clean feeling and brightness and not something right in my face everywhere I turn in the kitchen. Your post keeps me strong..lol

    I even tossed out putting a mirror by the fridge (I figure it might deter my constant visits)..hahaha

    Well, probably no mirror but on track for “NO UPPERS”….

  46. We are in the process of designing a kitchen remodel and I am freaking out about not having enough cabinet space , as we will would like more natural light . We will have a lot of lower cabinet space but I don’t know how to design for dishes and pan storage . Help!

  47. I went to a local kitchen cabinet company and the girls there seemed to indicate that having upper kitchen cabinets was a faux pas and outdated. For twenty-thirty somethings, removing upper cabinets might seem cool, but for practical reasons, lower cabinets only isn’t great as you get older and it gets harder to get down on the floor for things. So for millenial housing, great, but planning ahead, not great. Maybe some open shelves, glass front, white cabinets, or fewer, but upper cabinets still make sense and are important unless you have huge kitchen, but most people don’t. Ditto my opinion of everyone tiling over their kitchen walls. I have so many kitchen utensils, pot holders, measuring cups etc etc hanging from my walls for convenience the idea of tile all over the kitchen walls seems like a fashion statement that is impractical and costly. All in the name of cool. Ditto those farm house sinks. Tired of them already!

  48. Hi Melissa…
    I’m gradually brainwashing my hubby to remove our upper kitchen cabinet and your blog had convinced me even more that my idea isn’t crazy after all! Lol.. Thanks gal!

  49. Machell rogers says

    Totally what I was thinking! I hate my upper cabinets. I want our small kitchen to feel more open. Glad I found your post!!!

  50. Beautiful!

    I am a kitchen and bath designer and do a lot of preliminary designs without wall cabinets. I love the sleek look…most of the time clients add them in. I really love what you did with your kitchen.

  51. I am looking for some used cabinets to put in my kitchen I need something else I want to take my old ones out I live in Princeton North Carolina and my number is 919300987 if you have any you’re willing to get rid of give me a call

  52. I love the look of your kitchen and until this article I would never have known the reason why it feels so open. I like the idea a lot. I put all drawers in my new kitchen and absolutely love it. Wish I would have thought of this by the stove because I hate cleaning the vent hood, let alone the cabinets beside it. I believe that if you love something it never goes out of style.

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