I know you’ve seen the strange gap between the ceiling and the top of your kitchen cabinets? If you are like most homeowners, there is almost too much space between the crown molding and the top of the cabinets. The empty space can be an eyesore and a real pain to clean because of that “catch dust ” problem. What a mess! It reminds me of my childhood when I help Mom and Dad find smart ways to clean to top of these cabinets.
Honestly, I could not believe how much dust settled “over the years” but it was thick and pasty when we used a damp cloth with some soap suds. It was disgusting. I have also seen some homeowners add souvenirs and other dinnerware in a decorative and ornamental fashion as if that made things more appealing. Nope!
But there are beautiful examples of an open space that can add flavor to your kitchen decor. Like this.
These gaps are neither a good nor a bad thing. After all, it is merely an unused space. The small gap doesn’t really serve any purpose but one of the easiest ways this can be addressed is with a drywall soffit vs building a soffit with rough lumber to match the higher end feel of your new base cabinets’ or old cabinets.
These structural changes are known as a bulkhead, which (a general rule of thumb ) is simply a design/structure element that fills the inches of available space between the top of wall-mounted standard cabinets (and any crown moulding) and the ceiling. The finished look eliminates the blank space, replacing an outdated look with a more streamlined look. Fewer people want the empty space and in an 8-foot ceiling environment, are choosing to have more backsplash exposure from the top of a kitchen counter and better access at the cabinets level since they are taller.
Kitchen installers and contractors like to build an architectural eliminate for good reason. You can use the awkward spaces to hide wiring, electronic components add heat ducts, and can even add canister and pot lighting which can create an ideal balance of ambient lighting to the side of the cabinets and the edge of the countertop.
But if you are meticulous about décor and design and always look for additional space, you might already know that you can still enhance narrow spaces and odd corners between the kitchen soffit and the top of your cabinets in different ways.
If adding a filler strip to the top and bottom of the wall cabinets is out of the question because you feel like it is an expensive option, there are other alternatives.
Add Another Row of Cabinets
If you prefer lower cabinets, an 8-foot-tall ceiling, or a 9-foot-tall ceiling where taller cabinets are not desired, you can add a second row of new cabinets to fill in the ceiling gap. An uneven ceiling may be challenging and your interior soffit may be uneven as you end up using drywall.
A new row of cabinets with a shorter second row stacked above often looks more professional than a single extremely tall row. It is also a great option to add some extra storage space.
However, limiting your upper cabinets to seldom-used items might be best unless your arms are incredibly longer than those of an average person.
Install a Window
Adding a new window is a clever way to fill in the large gap between the cabinets and ceiling in your new kitchen. Just remember that it will only be possible for specific architectural styles. Kitchen renovation may not always give you flexibility for cutting into the walls. However, this will not only get rid of the dead space but allow more natural light into the room, a big plus if you have a small kitchen.
Use a Furr Down to Fill in the Gap
A furr down refers to any part in the house where the ceiling height gets lowered by making a dropped ceiling using drywall and framing. You may need to use wood putty to cover scratches over a piece of wood for your cabinets or any nail holes.
Furr downs often serve a rather practical purpose, and architects use these to hide ductwork or pipes.
Furr downs can also come in handy to enclose the space above ceiling height cabinets. Depending on the construction, it may look clunky at times but can also create elegant results.
Color Contrasts Can Do the Trick
Filling in the gap between the ceiling and the tops of the cabinets in a contrasting color that will match that of the kitchen countertops can become a wonderful design element.
It can make the upper portion look like a storage element to complement the surrounding area of your kitchen.
Choose Tall Upper Kitchen Cabinetry
There is no such thing as a standard distance between the bottom of the upper cabinets and the countertop. Thus, the best way to solve the gap problem is to raise the top cabinets until they reach the ceiling. You may end up with more backsplash from the top of the counter but you can help improve your kitchen room look with fancy work with silicone caulk and a caulking gun. In recent years, backsplashes have taken as a new art form. You can now find many colored caulk options at home retailers like Home Depot.
You can also leave extra space between the cabinets and the countertop, add an open shelf under the cabinets, or opt for extremely tall armoires. These are a great way to create plenty of space for storage.
Paint the Cabinets and the Wall in the Same Color
The gap above your cabinets will be less noticeable when the cabinets get painted using the same color as the wall behind them.
Embrace That Gap
If the above options don’t sound appealing to you, or you are not ready to do even the most minor remodeling, your last option is to embrace the gap as it is. You can use it for art, decorative items, or storage.
What is the Recommended Space between the Ceiling and Above Upper Cabinets
When performing a major kitchen renovation or designing a new one, one important decision you need to make is extending the upper wall cabinetry to your ceiling or installing cabinets with space above them.
The height of kitchen cabinets in most homes is 32 or 36 available inches, and it includes a 1-foot to 2-foot interval between the ceiling and the tops of the cabinets.
There is a valid explanation for this. This capacity allows most people to reach the wall cabinets while using a ladder or standing on the floor. But wall cabinets going to the ceiling have been seeing a resurgence for the past few years. Aside from offering more space for storage, the configuration is also ideal for modern kitchen styles and historical period designs alike.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do you call the gap between the ceiling and kitchen cabinets?
The space between the ceiling and kitchen cabinets is known as the soffit. Kitchen soffits are boxy shapes designed to conceal wiring, pipes, and the like or fill the space between the ceiling and the top cabinets. These soffits tend to be very large, often extending beyond the cabinets depending on how old the house is.
Do your kitchen cabinets need to reach ceiling heights?
There is no wrong or right answer as far as cabinet height is concerned. The homeowner’s personal preference matters the most, and kitchen cabinets don’t need to touch your kitchen ceiling height.
This choice is ultimately yours to make. It is up to you if you want the continuous and smooth appearance that cabinets provide when extending up to your ceiling.
Some people prefer the appearance of continuous wall cabinets without a gap above them. Some may select a more functional approach of using endless cabinets that eliminate dead space and create more space for storage, although it may accumulate dust.
Before assuming that this additional storage space is a practical solution, remember that the storage shelves close to the ceiling might not be easy to reach. Rarely used accessories, dishes, and seasonal items get added to the highest shelves.
Can you extend your kitchen cabinets to the ceiling?
Yes, you can have your cabinets extended if you feel the gap on top of your upper cabinets is a waste of space or if your goal is to give the room a grander and more significant feel.
Extending the cabinets to your ceiling can also create extra storage space for rarely used appliances, pots, and pans while adding a touch of drama to your kitchen.
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John Thompson, Writer and Commentator, EvolutDesign.com
Soldier, writer, researcher, consultant, and bon vivant, John Thompson is the author of numerous columns, op-eds, reports, briefs, short stories and books as the “Felicity Files” and “Spirit Over Steel: A Chronology of the Second World War” (version III). Often found hunched over his computer, or in his garden, and now often found doing both. His diverse talent has led him to work in industries and projects such as energy, security and home construction and renovation.