How to Make the Space Above Kitchen Cabinets Look Good

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The concept of beautifying the interiors of households is not new. From time immemorial, human beings have treasured their homes, and tried, not only for comfort in everyday living, but also aesthetic and spiritual value elevation of their living style and habitat. The Kitchen has been central to this continuing effort to reach out to the higher echelons, seeing that it all started with the hearth fires of ancient caves. This was the original Kitchen.

The larger and focused Kitchens that followed, particularly in very large households of wealthy people, had great and heavy wooden tables to serve as work spaces, and wall shelves and wall hooks for the utensils came later. But there were no Kitchen Cabinets. Kitchen Cabinets came much later, as late as the early 20th Century. But Kitchen Cabinets often left ugly open spaces above. How to Make the Space Above Kitchen Cabinets Look Good is the focus of this short review below. 

The Problem

A precursor of the Kitchen Cabinet was the Hoosier Cabinet, which was on the market in the 1910s This was a single piece of furniture, which incorporated work and storage surfaces together. Such was its popularity that it sold over 2 million pieces by 1920. The final design of Kitchen Cabinets was usually a box-shaped piece of furniture, with doors and drawers for storage, and a table top as a work surface if necessary. The came the era of Wall-mounted Cabinets, this affected great space savings in the Kitchen. Kitchens in turn could now occupy less space (by utilization of unused wall areas). But this too created its own problems.

The wall cabinets could not be too high, or their higher storage spaces would become unreachable by hand. Ceilings were of course much higher. That left an unsightly space in between the top of the wall cabinet and the ceiling. So while this “modern” Kitchen seemed to have all the mods and cons, its very ugliness drove the owners and users to seek better and prettier solutions. And some of these solutions will be discussed in the next section.

Generally, it is the space above the Cabinet that needs attention, while under cabinet CD player with AM/FM radio conveniently solves the problem of any leftover space under the Cabinet.

Utilize it for more storage. Buy glass cylinders to reduce the clutter in your pantry and store back stock above your shaker kitchen cabinets.

The Solution

Some of the solutions to the problem of How to Make the Space Above Kitchen Cabinets Look Good are presented below:

  • The most sophisticated option seems to be to build the wall Kitchen Cabinet right up to the ceiling. But this has two problems. The first is that it makes the cabinet far larger than necessary. This in turn increases the price of an already expensive piece of furniture even further. The second is that the topmost shelves are thereby rendered more or less inaccessible, and therefore only good for long term storage of rarely needed kitchenware. 
  • The adding of a Soffit that matches the Cabinet is a fine solution, but must be done by the Cabinet maker to ensure perfect matching. The Soffit is a kind of cover or screen, and is usually a kind of body structure. This is built to hide wiring, piping such as for chimneys, or just plain gaps between the cabinet and the ceiling. The size and shape depends very much on the shape and size of the open space of the gap, as well as the age and usage of the house, particularly the Kitchen. Thus some Soffits are very large, and may extend out past the Cabinets.
  • The soffit can be used in the following ways:
  • Fill the space in with the trim.
  • Fill the space in with a furr down.
  • Use a contrasting color for the trim to fill in the space.
  • Paint the Soffit with the same color as the Kitchen walls, or a contrast color.
  • Paint the Soffit with the same color as the Cabinet.
  • A basic choice comes before procuring the Kitchen Cabinet. There are two types: Inset versus Overlay. This determines the types of covering for the space above the cabinets. The clear attempt is to make the furniture look built in rather than free standing odd bits of furniture with dead space above, which destroy the harmoniousness of the room or space. 
  • A Bulkhead is a Kitchen Soffit where a portion of the ceiling is built lower than the area around it, in order to prevent unsightly dead spaces above the cabinets. This was common before 2000, but is mostly being discarded now, because of cost and unwieldiness. 
  • The space above can also be decorated with subtle wallpapering, or even potted greenery. This last solution has the added huge advantage of helping oxygenate the stale atmosphere of the kitchen, and provide healthy air.

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Sophie Turner
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