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.


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Comments

  1. Girl, I am at a loss for what to do over my cabs. Like you, I am not a big fan of junk up there for just for the sake of decorating a surface. But because my kitchen is part of a great room with giant vaulted ceilings, the highest point above my cabs is about 5 or 6 feet! It looks crazy bare up there. I hope your brilliant readers have some solutions. Maybe you could do a “pimp my cabs” linky party. : )

  2. I’m going to be very interested to hear what people have to say about this one. I go back and forth on my kitchen cabinets. I wish the cabinets went clear up to the ceiling; then I wouldn’t have to make the decision of whether to decorate or not. Sometimes I do decorate, sometimes I don’t. When it’s bear, it looks start and cold. When it’s decorated, it looks cluttered and fussy. I really don’t know what the answer is.

  3. I got tried of trying to figure out what to put on top of my cabinets, so I finally took everything off and just put a vinyl phrase (a scripture actually) on the wall above the cabinets. Done!

  4. I like bowls, pitchers, urns, platters, maybe even cute baskets above cabinets but just like you, I can’t stand the garland-y stuff. Ick.

    My cabinets go up to my very low ceilings, but I do have a shelf on one end of the kitchen where there are no cabinets and lined the shelf with mason jars and love it.

  5. At our old house I collect antique kitchen accessories and had them all up there. I had to sit them on phone books to be seen over the lip of the cabinets, but I loved it all. Loved shopping for them. When we moved, they were all covered in 6 inches of dust and I think I just left the phone books. GROSS.

    No worries at this house. I don’t have a “top of the cabinets” at this house.

  6. I have friends who took black and white photos of their kids, blew them up and put them above the cabinets…it was a very cool look for their modernish kitchen. How about a collection of antique tin cans? Or on top of my cabinets a collection of glass cake stands and lids. Collections of like items can make a powerful statement (like the white bowls) without looking like a junk yard…and definitely no fake greens…or fake grape vines! ugh!

  7. It’s definitely one of those spaces that needs something… but what?! I agree that fake greenery should be banned from the kitchen – particularly when it gets all grimey (ewww). I have 1 friend who is a decorating genius and she stores her seasonal table linens up there, all stacked nicely in beautiful picnic baskets.

  8. I used to have an all white kitchen when we lived in New Orleans. I took big glass vases (all different) and filled them with the Mardi Gras beads that we wanted to have as keepsakes.

    Of course, now I live in Virginia in a green kitchen with brown cabinents and there is no space over them – the last homeowners brought the wall down so we have an odd casement like effect. ::sigh:: I miss the pretty purple, green and gold beads. And now I have a bunch of vases and beads.

  9. Whenever I see over the cabinet decor I always think about what a pain in the a$$ it would be to dust all that stuff. At least when it’s bare up there, the dust isn’t visible.

    And what’s up with the place settings on the counter top that obviously isn’t a bar? The stylist sure messed up with that picture decor!

  10. I forgot – my mother put our family’s collection of historic (non-working) weapons over hers. So there’s several shotguns, a sword and a nightstick. It somehow works, but only because she has 20 foot tall ceilings in there!

  11. i need to learn this lesson, too. at christmas, it’s no problem. thank goodness for department 56 houses and presents that don’t fit under the tree. but the other 11 months of the year? i’m at a loss. it looks so sad and barren up there.

  12. I think crown molding looks and works the best. It’s the dust factor for sure! Who wants dust drifting down in the kitchen. We solved our kitchen delema when we gutted our kitchen. Cabs all the way to the ceiling with crown around the top.
    smiles, alice

  13. Sadly my old house had that greenery…just like that…but it had a drop ceiling that prevented any more space and so I left it. LOL For that greenery one above I definately think lose it or at least put something above it to make it less boring. Maybe some architectural pieces above and some lighting to make pretty shadows?
    I have a dear friend whose kitchen is done in ‘coffee’ theme and she has old grinders above to tie it together. I think less is more…and you have to know when to quit…but the kitchen above begs for something AT LEAST in the back corner. Of course it also begs me to paint the cabinets, and make ALL The top cabinets glass like the one on the left. :D

    • OH honey, I”ve had that stuff on my cabs too! Just like sausage rolled bangs and textured ceilings, we’ve all been there.

  14. I have to thank you for opening my eyes to the disturbing decorating folly of putting greenery on top of cabinets. Last year, when I made my black toile mistreatments for our kitchen, and I was already standing on our counters in my stinky bare feet, I ripped that greenery down with glee. It felt so good!

    I don’t know where I got the idea that it looked good in the first place. THANK YOU for freeing me from fake plants. I owe you.

    Now I like them bare. I figure everything up there gets so dusty anyway, why bother.

  15. Hmmm…you sure got my gears turning with this post!
    May have to blog about this myself some day- I hear that question a lot too!

    Layla

    PS…For the record- I, too, am a fan of leaving that space empty! :-)

    • and, you have BEAUTIFUL millwork {that you did yourselves} on the top part of your cabs~that in itself is art and beautiful!

  16. I am one that DOES decorate above her cabinets..I mainly use antique English type picnic baskets and the like..
    My mother in law is the QUEEN of the fake ivy over the cabinets, but it’s her style and she loves it mixed in with her birdhouses and stuff..and believe me, HERS in clean..lol..

  17. I hate the above the cabinet space! I’m in the middle of remodeling my kitchen, so I just eliminated the space by moving my cabinets to the ceiling. I have 8 ft ceilings, so this was doable. (You can see the un-finished outcome here: http://tinyurl.com/yhl75rv)

    Personally, I like nothing or collections that are kitchen-y. My aunt has baskets, which are good because they come in a lot of different sizes and she can store things in there, one of my friends puts clear glass pitchers above her cabinets. My grandma collects cookie jars, and has them displayed on the top of her cabinets. My other aunt put a really interesting, thick molding at the top of hers, so it was a decoration in and of itself. In the end though, it’s all just dust magnets!

  18. I’m with “The Scooper” on this one. Vaulted ceilings make over the cabinet decorating tricky. For now I’m storing my soup tureens and a few other serving pieces up there–all white, so they kind of go together–but I do love Leigh’s idea of putting a vinyl saying in the space.

    Aside from that, is anyone else wishing their cabinets were as tidy at those in picture #1 of this post? Sigh. If only…

  19. I love the white kitchen! I too do not like the ivy garland look. With grease and dust flying around it’s just yucky. I believe if you do put things up there (I can’t in this house, I have a soffit and that’s bad too) you should use large easy to clean items and less is more. If your ceilings are not high then nothing is best.

  20. Well, I have boring soffits above my cabinets but I do have a ‘God Bless our Home’ plaque above one cabinet on the soffit. Other than that they are blank.

    What I like about the greenery above those cabinets in your example is the beautiful splash of hunter green color with the oak cabinets…. White dishes or urns would be really boring to me.

    Frankly, I prefer tall cabinets that meet the ceiling with an obscene amount of excessive moulding….

    • I have soffits too so there goes that decision which is kind of nice.

      You are right, white dishes would be totally boring up there, in my mind I was imagining that kitchen being mine in which case I would paint the cabs white and have some color on the walls and then my white dishes on top would show up. But, of course, I wouldn’t put dishes up there I’d beg to have that obscene amount of molding up there too. It’s to die for.

  21. It is a huge dilemma! Mine are bare. But I do ponder it often. I’ll be watching the comments for ideas! Oh, and I am so with you on the fake greenery… I am not a fan.

  22. Our cabinets go to the ceiling, for which I am super grateful. I don’t know what I’d do with the space! I am going to take some of the doors off the top cabinets and put baskets in the space, though. Maybe baskets on top? I have no idea.

  23. Large white platters and bowls – it’s classy and handy!

    I have a post coming up about it.

    Thanks for linky love yesterday. Love YOU!

  24. i am having THIS VERY DELIMMA!! easier said than done! the main problem that I have is – the ceiling above my cabinets are vaulted…my kitchen is under one half of angle, and the living room is under the other half of the angle! so anything that i put on top of the cabinets just looks all funky and off balance, because of the angle of the ceiling. Ive tried everything. i decided leaving them empty would be WISE! luckily we are renting so it isn’t a permanent delimma!! any advise for this one??

  25. ugh, I HATE the area over my cabinets. HATE IT. Right now I have blue willow up there, but I just can’t stand the area at all.

  26. I have an old Longaberger picnic basket and an old chippy birdhouse. I also hae some greenstuff…but not a big long line of it, just one pot. I think that I’m going to take it down and see how I like it without. I think that the “inner decorator” in us all feels the need to decorate every surface, but really…why? Sometimes plainer is better…

  27. My soffits are odd in that they extend beyond the ends of the cabinets. Anywhere from 1.5 to 4 inches! Just one group is 4inches. That makes it hard to add molding in order to fool the eye to make it look like a continuation of the cabinets. Any ideas?

    • Same here! Ours over laps at the top like some weird upside down edge–looks like 8 inches! And out a little to the side. My advice, just don’t draw attention to it. Sometimes you can rip them out but sometimes they house stuff like air ducts.

      • I will be painting them when the weather warms. The cabinets that is. They are a dark yucky oak. Really brings me down! So, I will just paint them the same creamy white (when I find one) that the cabinets will be. Then maybe adding crown at the ceiling. I couldn’t find a picture of your kitchen to see your weird soffits! I will also be removing some doors and adding glass to others to try to lighten up the kitchen. It seems rather tight in there right now with all that dark oak. Anyone want to come help me paint cabinets? We can sit by the pool and have margaritas afterward :)

  28. I don’t mind using that space to store/display our antique tins, bottles, jars and trays, but I worry that it’s a big parade of stuff.I need help organizing the items that should go there. And molding will have to wait until the other 20,000 things on our low-budget to-do list have been completed. =)

  29. I’m so glad we have soffits above our kitchen cabs!

    I hate fake ivy…white platters or yellow ware bowls would be all I could handle.

  30. Okay, mine were BARE for several years and it bugged me! So I bought decorative urns & finials with the ‘fleur-de-lis’ theme. After a couple years, I recognized that it was just too cluttered up there so I cleared most of it out and left only a red rectangle plaque in the center, a decorative plate on the far left and a cluster of 3 pieces on the right–an urn, a vase and a finial. It looks much better. I have an arch over my cabs with bull-nosed corners and an open-floor plan, so I feel it needs something since the eye is drawn to the arch.

    A friend of mine has a white theme mixed with clear glass and dried rolling vines…it looks really fabulous. I like the idea of black-and-white pics too!

  31. Hayley Peterson says

    I agree with the “no stuff above the kitchen cabinets.” I’ve always hated it, and because my husband was pressuring me into doing something up there since we recently bought our first home, I put random junk up there. After three days, he told me I could take it down :) But to avoid the short builder cabinets from looking too plain, We’re going to add some extra height with stained molding, kinda like Layla Palmer did in her kitchen. He’s happy and I’m happy

  32. I agree with you … just because the surface is there doesn’t mean you have to put something on it. Decorating above cabinets may be your pet peeve … mine is fake greenery …..ick.

  33. I’m with you, Nester. I’m at a loss, so my cab tops are naked. Have been since we moved in 6 years ago, and will likely stay that way. Unless you count the dust bunnies.

  34. I couldn’t agree more. Twelve years ago, as a newly wed/new homeowner, I made my cabinets look like they had ivy taking them over. Bleck! I think part of the reason that top photo looks so great is because the bowls on top don’t have to compete with anything else, like crown molding and, of coarse, what you said. It’s functioning as an extension of the cabinets.

  35. I just about had a heart attack when I scrolled down to your second picture and hadn’t read the caption! I just love about every picture you put up and so I was surprised that you liked the kitchen. Of course you don’t but it woke me up a little bit more this morning. Thanks for all your great posts! My home is a lot cuter because of you!

  36. Amanda@allthingscreative says

    I put all my home canned goods up on my cabinets. It gives the jars they’re own special place and it’s the best kind of decor for the kitchen (IMO) – the kind you can eat! It’s pretty too.

  37. Before we built this house I had never had cabinets without soffits, so I was thrilled to be able to decorate up there! My kitchen is very country/traditional, and I’m a lover of chickens. My cabinet tops hold old Fiestaware, antique milk bottles, some white hobnail pieces, antique pottery, lots of chicken decor, antique tins, etc.
    And guess what…..
    Now I’m tired of it all. I’m leaning harder and harder toward less clutter and to me it is all clutter at this point.

  38. I have vaulted ceilings in my kitchen and have stuff on my cabinets. Over one set, I have all my pieces of copper (pots, bowls, canisters, teapots, and other unusual pieces) that I’ve collected from thrift stores, yard sales, etc. I used some wooden crates different “levels” and surfaces to display them and I tried to kind of layer them so they are not all just lined up along the top. On the other cabinets, I have some old canisters, a coffee grinder, and old bucket, a cute plate, etc. Again, mostly picked up at yard sales, thrift stores, etc. It’s just stuff I like….no better reason to display it than that!

    As for the dust issue, I get up there about twice a year and give it all a good cleaning….basically when I can see the dust from where I stand. I live in the desert…I can’t be bothered to do it more often than that! You can dust everyday here and never catch up.

  39. I love having the space above my cabinets to decorate..it’s a pain to do it, tho…standing on the cabinets can be a bit inconvenient..(too lazy to bring in the ladder)…my spaces are full of antiques and right in the middle of my goodies is a sign I made that says it all …”It’s not junk….it’s a collection.”

  40. I used to have a couple of faux plants, a couple of teapots, a couple of pitchers and some decorative bunny plates on top of mine. It’s all cleared off except for three strategically placed faux green plants. I like it much better, it’s not a distraction because I really don’t want people looking up there, and cleaning up there was horrible {and I really hate to clean!}. I did that prepping my house for going on the market and even now that we are going to be staying for another year or two, I’m leaving it simplified. The non-housekeeper in me likes that!

  41. In two of my homes, with 9 foot ceilings and regular height cabinets, the space above, of at least 2 feet, was just too great to ignore. We have a collection of 7 or 8 antique ice cream makers, and they fit perfectly in that space. Above my fridge cabinets, on the other side, we displayed two large antique metal coca-cola ice chests. Big items worked for me, as I don’t like fussy, little clutter.

  42. When I remodeled my kitchen, I made sure to select cabinets that went to the ceiling to avoid the dreaded dead space. That said, I love the bowls you show pictured or even serving platters and usable items that maybe are only used a few times a year decorating the space. I have deep distaste for the fake plant/greenery look but agree with Nester – if it makes you happy, do it. But you might want to experiment a little and see if you can’t find something a little more useful and pretty for that space than fake greens. Just a thought :-)

  43. Oh sister, if you like bare cabinet tops, you would croak if you saw mine! http://marcusanddina.blogspot.com/2009/04/welcome-to-my-kitchen.html
    I just can’t bring myself to leave them naked. I have a thing for “stuff”.
    I do totally agree about the greenery though!

  44. I have never liked cabinets that go to the ceiling. Most of the time they make the kitchen feel closed in to me. I chose 36 inch cabinets with our 9 foot ceilings. I have an old pickle jar, old canning jars, picnic baskets, wood crates, a pitcher and my great grandmother’s porcelain rooster. I figure it’s the safest place for it. Some of things we use every now and then. I like the feel of the open space as long as there is not to much up there crouding it all in.

  45. I am SO with you on that. I’m not a fan either. However, we previously lived in the absolute coolest place – it was kind of like a lodge. The hand-honed rafters dated pre civil war and I’m enclosing a pic of what I did above the cabinets. Shoot me for the basket with fake ivy – so regretful. :) But I put odd things above because the cabinets were very low and had so much space above. This is the link to my pic via photobucket. Enjoy. and have a great day. Oh, that’s not me – young pretty daughter.

  46. I have been stuck on this for two weeks. We just finished our Kitchen makeover and have vaulted ceilings. I put my Kitchen on HGTV rate my space and quite a few comments were about how bare the top of my cabinets are.

    http://www.roomzaar.com/rate-my-space/Kitchens/Country-Mess-to-Checkered-Cutie/detail.esi?oid=13999343

    I bought these roosters at TJ Maxx to put up there. They were adorable red polka dotted roosters. Well they look terrible and are going back to TJ Maxx. I thought about doing the white plate thing too, buts its boring to me. I like the idea of baskets and vintage wooden crates. For now I am still contemplating. Maybe one day I’ll post the roosters too for a good laugh.

  47. well shoot. Let’s try a link again for the above comment:

    http://i745.photobucket.com/albums/xx91/loriplyler/DSCN0559.jpg

  48. I’m still undecided on what to do above mine, although I know I want to do something (there is about 2 feet of space up there- I have to do something). Right now, I have a few pitchers and plates up there, but it’s mismatched stuff I had on hand and will be changed out. The one thing I know I want up there is a handmade wooden salad bowl set (serving bowl, fork and spoon, and six individual bowls) that we bought on our honeymoon in Honduras. We never use it, but I think it’s pretty (and sentimental).

  49. Janet, I think I can hear your cabinets begging you to do this to them:
    http://www.theletteredcottage.net/2008/07/kitchen-cabinetry.html
    so lovely!

  50. Oh so funny. I had to laugh at your soffit comment. I was curious at what you would write about decorating, and as I read, I observed my own cabinets, which have about 2.5″ of space between them and the ceiling. There goes the idea of putting up some pretty pictures of something up there! Maybe I could throw a set of string lights up there or something… Hope you figure out what to put up there!

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