Over the Cabinet Decorating :: Updated

decor pad

I updated this post to add photos of my weirdo soffits, enjoy.

One of the most common posts requests I get is for information on how to decorate over the kitchen cabinets.  I’ve tried and tried to avoid the question.  Because 9 times of of 10 I don’t like decor over the kitchen cabinets.  I think people tend to put too much pressure on themselves to decorate every surface–I’d rather see pretty molding above a cabinet than have attention drawn to the top of {my} builder grade cabs.

However, I do think there are ways to really utilize the space above your cabinets really well.  Like in that photo up there, the tops of the cabinets are an extention of the cabs and the bowls relate to everything else going on.  I like that.

Home Design Interior

This is my personal pet peeve with over the cabinet decor. Please forgive me if this is your kitchen.  If you love it, then by all means leave the pretend, long, lanky greenery on top of your cabinets.  But I dare say, it adds nothing to the room.  I think it would be better off empty.  If they must have something up there, maybe white dishes–some plates hung on the wall above the cabs, some urns or something?

I’m at a loss.  Teach me oh wise decoratory friends, show me the folly of my naked top of cabinet ways. How do you decorate above your cabinets?

for the record, here is my kitchen with the worlds largest soffits–why did this seem like a good idea to someone?

and in the other corner?  no soffits.


Did you catch the announcement about our ebay adventure?


  1. This sure got everybody fired up!! I had above the cabinet space in our last home and filled it with a collection and never loved it…when we staged the house I took it all down and loved it for a day or two…then felt bored!

    Now, I inherited a worse problem and believe me it takes humility to show you this!!!
    I have not painted walls or cabinets yet cuz I’m not sure where I’m headed. I am red/white vintage kitchen junk fanatic, so the color scheme must stay but I would like to infuse some yellow or green or something…but now I’m way off track!

    I have molding that’s a couple of inches wide all around, but it doesn’t sit at the top of the cabinet. It was someone’s answer to the empty space. The neighbor tells me the first lady had plates and the next lady had the infamous greenery…which was not an option for me either!!
    Here it is http://www.dirtyhands-beautifullife.blogspot.com
    Let’s see what this nester crowd’s got!
    (oh…it’s at the bottom and if you click the pic it will bring you right back here so that the world will know it’s a cry for help!)

  2. I live in a 100 yr old house, and the cabinets go all the way to the ceiling. Problem solved! :) (Although, I do have to use a step stool to get things from the top two shelves, even though I am 5’5”).

    I WAS inspired to take all the cabinet doors off last fall. So now it more resembles your top photo, shelves all the way up.

  3. i’m no help. my above cupboards are bare. i’m a minimalist (read: lazy) at heart so i have to absolutely adore something to go to much work to put something where no one may ever notice.
    HOWEVER, one of the comments gave me an idea. what about getting glass vases of various sizes and filling them with colorful things? i was thinking fake lemons and limes. at least that was the idea i got for my kitchen…

  4. Hard call…but I wanted something on mine…..took me about three days to get it looking like i like it……here’s a link:
    for context:

  5. Well here goes one more post. Years ago when I had soffits in my kitchen, I began collecting ceramic molds and displaying them on the soffits. I love my mold collection and gained quite a few unusual ones, some quite old. Several moves later, my kitchen has 8 ft. ceilings and a much smaller space above the cabinets. I had to pare down my mold collection as display space was limited but I still have my favorites up there. THey hold memories for me as some were given to me by my now deceased mother. Molds are not something you see in kitchens every day either. I love them!

  6. I actually put a lot less above my cabinets than in the past. My last kitchen I had only baskets and they were “thrown” up there ever so creatively. So they looked like a big pile. I saw a photo that made me think people had just tossed their baskets up when they were finished using them. I thought it looked cool. They were big chunky, nubby baskets. Now I have only a couple of spots of “horrors” fake greenery along with baskets and silverplate pieces. I think it looks very pretty. You can see a glimpse in this post,

  7. When I saw the beadboard work on OlderandWisor, it reminded of something Rhoda, from Southern Hospitality, did with her kitchen cabinets.
    She used beadboard wallpaper.


  8. I meant to add that I have the same problem with my big soffits, and have always been at a loss as to what to do with them. I’m thinking of painting the cabinets and then perhaps use OldandWisor or Southern Hospitality’s beadboard technique. We shall see!

  9. Ugh, I am having this same problem! Did you read my mind? I had stuff on our cabinets for a few years. I thought it was too busy so I took it down. Then I thought it looks so bare up there because we have really tall ceilings and it was such a big gap. I just posted on my blog a couple days ago about how I added some dishes and stuff on top, but I’m still tweaking the arrangement:

    I would love to paint my cabinets and add some huge and beautiful crown molding over the cabinets. And maybe even build in some smaller cabinets on top of the current ones. However, we might be moving so for right now I have to leave the cabinets as is until we figure out if we are staying or moving.

  10. You inspired me to post about my decorating above my cabinets!! I use a mix of vintage enamelware, soda crates, etc. Just another little detail to look at in the cottage!! Thanks for your inspiration!!


  11. My favorite above-cabinet decorating that I’ve seen is whenever someone who collects pretty colored glass (like blue, red, or green) and they strategically and elegantly display them above their cabinets. Its something that adds a pop of color. Its a way to show off a unique collection without having it somewhere it can get knocked over by kids or pets. However, I think probably perhaps the easiest thing to do for your cabinets in particular would be to choose a fun quote that means something to your family or a kitchen-themed quote and stencil or use one of those rub-on-decal-thingys (I honestly cannot think of the name now…) and wrap it around your kitchen.

  12. With a tiny galley kitchen that has massive soffits, would you suggest painting the soffits the wall color or the color of the ceiling? I don’t know which would give the disappearing affect (we also have low 1950s ceilings!). I’m a huge fan of the paper towel dusting solution for above the counter space… I will tell my MIL about that.

  13. I have soffits in my kitchen. I don’t care for “themey” kitchens (shudders), but when we moved into our house, I didn’t know what to do. I left them blank for a while, and slowly started buying unique and interesting dinner plates in greens, browns, and whites. (No Corel!) Finally I had enough! I bought cheapo plate hangers and hung up my plates on the soffits. Each plate is unique. I painted Psalm 147:14 on the space over the kitchen sink. I love it! Makes me smile every time I walk into my kitchen.

  14. My cabinets have the world’s deepest crown moulding on top, so I’m at a total loss how to decorate up there. Right now, I’ve hidden several flat-ish things, like the lefse griddle my MIL gave us for Christmas one year (Swedish family = must have a lefse griddle) and a few, rarely-used platters. I’d love to put something cute and decorative up there, but it would get half submerged by the crown, so it stays plain (and very dusty!) up there.

    In my last kitchen, we had the soffits with the world’s least functional plate rail on them. It was too close to the ceiling to hold actual plates (even salad plates), so I ended up doing the grapevine with fake grapes hanging off of it thing. It wasn’t exactly my ultimate vision for my kitchen, but you work with what you have, right?

  15. Girl, you hit the nail on the head.

    I have NEVER understood the love affair with all that above-cabinet space. Seriously.

    When we reno’d our old house kitchen (it’s about the size of a postage stamp, give or take) we actually stacked shorter top cabinets above regulation cabinets to create a double-height that runs all the way to the ceiling. Add some crown molding and Done!

    Best job ever because it provides closed storage for infrequently used items and people always rave about our “old fashioned” cabinets. (that are actually cheapo Lowe’s in-stock cabinetry).

    I’ve seen people do amazing things with old tins, signs, etc. above their cabinets but that requires an ongoing commitment to nearly continuous dusting and de-greasing that is simply beyond my capacity.

    Good luck with your “upper areas.”

    (P.S. ITA with you on the greenery).

  16. Here’s a couple shots of part of our over cabinet areas…

    And Here

    I have had them eclectic like this for almost 5 years now…I am thinking it’s time to change it up? I just am not sure how….ideas? I don’t hate it yet but it has been a while!!

  17. Ooops, sorry I didn’t link it right.. HERE is the other one

  18. Hi Nester! I just posted my space above my cabinets after reading this. I used to have A LOT up there, then nothing. I think it’s JUST right now, lol. I know what you m ean though, the fake greenery is yucko! I don’t have a lot of “display” space in my kitchen. And I tend to like my counters for “working” even though I do have a few decorative items on mine.
    Here they are! :) http://wwwthethriftygypsy.blogspot.com/2010/03/decorating-above-cabinets.html

  19. It seems if you decorate above your kitchen cabs it’s either really good or really bad – there’s no middle ground. Unfortunately, I have kitchen cabs that look kind of naked without anything on top of them. I think what works best are small vignettes of things you’d normally find in a kitchen, a pitcher, platter, bowl combo for instance.

    I’m trying to figure out a way to build covered storage over my cabinets because I’d prefer to have them go up to the ceiling without ripping down the current cabinets.

  20. I have the same huge soffits. When we bought the house there was some very busy stenciling up there that I hated for about 5 years before getting around to painting over it. I pained the room a very light gold (called Belgian Waffle) and the soffits brown. I have 4 plates hanging up there (2 on the long wall; 1 on each short wall) that were made for me by a professional potter. I love how it looks now.

  21. That is so funny! I just discovered your website a few days ago.. love it, by the way. I have the ugly ivy above my cabinets. I never really saw it as ugly but I did question why it made sense for ivy to grow out the top of cabinets. Now after reading all these posts, I most definitely want to change it! I did see in a friends home that she had one of those wooden signs with her last name and Established in.. above her cabinets. It looked really classy. I am not sure what else you would put up there in addition to that.

  22. We have crown molding and then blank space. At one point (hanging my head) I did succumb to some of the fake greenery. I did dump it, then tried baskets, wooden letters that said Cucina, tried some ceramics-NOTHING but nothing looked right. The scale is just off. Bare is best.

  23. I am currently in the dilemna of what to do with my cabinets. I had my crystal cups & bowls (that I never intend on using but feel guilty about getting rid of) up there for a while, but it was much too formal for me. Right now, my cabinet tops are bare. I will figure something out one of these days.

    My mother has a solution for me. “Why don’t you just get a bunch of ivy to put up there?” *shudder*

  24. I have a cottage with a loft that over looks my kitchen and would like some ideas of what to put on top of my cabinets that are seen from the loft. I want something that covers the whole area so that the bare tops of cabinets are not showing.

    • That’s a pretty cool predicament! Have you considered some shelf paper (or wrapping paper, on the cheap)? That could be fun and unexpected. Even storing flat platters (that wouldn’t necessarily be visible from below) could be a nice way to show those off from a different angle (I’m always bummed that the only place I have for my cool serving ware is inside of cabinets).

  25. I never put anything up there…I guess every situation is different. I go with the phrase…when in doubt do without :)

  26. I looooved creating nifty little vignettes in my former kitchen….then we downsized homes. AND my husband and had just framed my California Avocado posters for Christmas for me!! so now, four framed posters are all that’s above my cabinets and I adore it!!!! Less is more!

  27. i agree- i haaaaate fake plants for the most part.

  28. I’m dealing with this delimma. I love that top pic. You have great taste.

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  1. […] my decorating friend The Nester put out this cry on her blog: Teach me oh wise decoratory friends, show me the folly of my naked top of cabinet ways. How do […]

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