Home Decor

What to Do With That Empty Space Above Your Kitchen Cabinets

Eye-catching decor, pops of greenery, art displays—the options are endless.

May 25, 2022
Photo by Getty Images

I did a lot of apartment hopping in my 20s, and while my temporary homes often varied significantly in terms of location and style, most had a few things in common: tiny bathrooms, limited storage space, and a big ol’ gap over the kitchen cabinets. I understand why the latter is often necessary, especially in apartments—if you installed standard-size cabinets flush with the ceiling, there’s no way you’d ever be able to reach inside them—but that didn’t make the gaping space any less awkward.

Most of the time, I just let the space above my cabinets go to waste, but there are ways you can make better use of it—as a display for decorations, extra storage space, or a combination of both. The internet has plenty of ideas for decorating above kitchen cabinets, and these are a few of my favorites.

The Tips

1. Use a Sign as Your Focal Point

One of the problems I always had when decorating above cabinets is that a lot of decorative items seem dwarfed by the large opening. If you want the space to seem “full,” you’re going to have to really pack it with decor. However, an easy solution is to use a sign as a focal point above your cabinets. You can find cute options on Etsy, Amazon, or even at stores like Michaels, and from there, you can simply place a few decorative items, like faux flowers, on each side for a balanced design.

2. Call in the Baskets

When in doubt, baskets are always a good choice. This kitchen has an impressive collection of baskets on top of the cabinets—the different shapes and sizes help create visual interest, but the consistent color offers a cohesive look. Plus, you can always add a few decorative vases or faux plants to break up the display.

3. Pack in Some Plants

Plants can make any space feel more homey, and I love the eclectic array of greenery on top of these kitchen counters. However, I’ll be the first to admit that putting plants up that high would require a lot of upkeep (assuming you’re using real ones). You’d have to climb up there on a regular basis to water them all, which is almost certainly too much effort for a lazy gardener such as myself. You could create a similar look using fake plants, though, which you’d only have to dust occasionally.

4. Get Creative with Flea Market Finds

Brand new decorations can be quite pricey, but if you don’t mind a more rustic look, you can definitely find budget-friendly options at your local flea market, thrift store, or even just neighborhood yard sales. This person has used old window frames to create a cool farmhouse-style display, breaking it up with an oversized cutting board.

5. Create Extra Storage

If you have a smaller kitchen, why not use the space above your cabinets for extra storage? With the help of a few baskets or bins, you’ll have the perfect spot to stash infrequently used kitchen items, such as specialty baking pans or even extra pantry supplies. (Just make sure any food items are stored in airtight containers to prevent pests from moving in.)

6. Expand Your Cabinets

If you truly hate the empty space above your cabinets, you can always get rid of it. (Assuming you own and aren’t renting, that is.) With a few pieces of plywood, the right power tools, and a can-do attitude, you can expand your cabinets upward, creating an enclosed space that makes your kitchen feel more cohesive.

7. Create a Seasonal Display

You can keep your kitchen feeling fresh by changing up your above-the-cabinet displays each season. I love the idea of having pumpkins and orange foliage up there in the fall, and this winter-themed display with miniature Christmas trees is just too cute! Plus, if you’re switching out the decor on a semi-regular basis, you’ll also remember to dust up there.

8. Show Off Your Special China

If you don’t have a china cabinet, you can put your favorite dishes on display above your kitchen cabinets. All you need is a few plate stands to safely prop up your fine china—and this person actually put charger plates behind the dishes to create more dimension. Smart!

9. Display Your Favorite Art

Your kitchen cabinets might not be the first spot you think to display artwork, but here’s proof that it actually works quite well. This kitchen has a collection of complementary oil paintings arranged in the large space over the kitchen cabinets, but I could totally see a large family portrait on a canvas or an oversized piece of statement art work just as well.

10. Use Greenery in Tight Spaces

Sometimes the gap over your cabinets might be just a few inches tall, which doesn’t leave you very many options for decorating. In these instances, I love the idea of using some faux greenery to brighten up the space. A few meticulously draped garlands will help make your kitchen feel more homey, and it’s also a low-maintenance decor option, which is always a plus.

11. Add an Extra Shelf

Show off your collection of milk glass or vintage Pyrex by adding an extra shelf on top of your kitchen cabinets. While you could install a shelf, this particular design simply uses three sturdy wine racks to prop up a piece of wood—an ingenious idea that’s ideal for renters and homeowners alike! As an added bonus, you’ll also have a new spot to stash your favorite bottles of wine.

How do you use the space above your kitchen cabinets? Let us know in the comments!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • CK
  • thetack1347
  • kristine
  • beth
  • bellw67
Freelance writer, product tester & baking enthusiast.


CK June 6, 2022
Every one of the photos makes the space look small and cluttered.
thetack1347 June 3, 2022
I love these ideas but, given that I have a gas stove, they are just not practical. Anything stored in the open for more than a few weeks will be covered in dust and grime. It would quickly become a cleaning nightmare.
kristine June 3, 2022
Don't have space above kitchen cabinets but have a nearby wardrobe atop of which I store a stack of baskets nested by size & topped with an inverted flat basket (lid) keeping dust at bay until needed...usually to unpack Christmas ornaments
Baskets are just too useful
beth June 2, 2022
When I had space above the cabinets in my tiny condo kitchen, I put my cookbook library up there!
bellw67 May 31, 2022
Numbers 6 and ll are nice. I don't have any space above my cupboards now in my apartment but, my house had space above that I used for my extra pots and stockpots. Lids on to keep out the dust with a quick wipe before using. I think plants might be hard to water up there and the artwork and decor stuff would be hard to clean.
Ruth May 26, 2022
I'd rethink the artwork over the stove. Speaking from experience, it gets greasy up there.
Cam F. May 26, 2022
Good ideas but remember..Do not put anything up there that you can’t wash in sink or dishwasher. It will be grimy and dusty in no time so artwork is a really bad idea.
Lesli May 25, 2022
Food 52, you’re kidding about storing wine in the highest place in the house, right? This can be the warmest place in the house, so if you want ruined wine, by all means, put it up there. Please tell me you’re not serious.
Smaug May 27, 2022
Between the heat, the grease, the inconvenience, the dubious lighting- maybe the worst spot in the house for plants.
bluegoose53 May 25, 2022
Baskets or woven trays - but displayed individually, not just crammed in. Had tried baskets, but too much trouble to get down (10' ceilings).
bluegoose53 May 25, 2022
Meant to stay storage baskets were too much trouble.