What to do with that empty space above your kitchen cabinets

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 EtsyAmazon, 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.

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