That Empty Space Above Your Cabinets Is Actually Prime Real Estate

We’re afraid of dead space. Awkward nooks, random open corners…these are all tricky areas to capitalize on from a design standpoint. But if they’re done right, they can make just as big a statement as the splashiest accent wall. When it comes to decorating above kitchen cabinets, all it takes is a little inspiration. 

That bit of real estate is actually the perfect place to curate a hyper-personalized vignette. Are you a gardening pro? Are your suitcases always bursting with flea market souvenirs? Are you the friend group member always dragging the others to galleries? Whatever your interests, consider your uppers the ideal spot to showcase them. These eight rooms have the right idea.

If You Have a Green Thumb

white kitchen with plants on cabinets
Photography by Katie Branch

Take your talents to the cupboards and pepper in a number of your favorite greens to add a pop of nature. Choose something trailing, like a philodendron or pothos—both are low-maintenance (so you won’t have to constantly be taking them down to fuss over their soil) and look even better when the tendrils fall. 

If You’re a Serial Baker

open shelving in kitchen
Photography by Chris Loves Julia

Keep all your go-to equipment within easy reach. You can free up valuable drawer space by propping up bulkier appliances, like a KitchenAid stand mixer, on the top shelf; just be sure you can still reach it. Smaller items, such as cutting boards and pitchers, also fit snugly. Layer them for a collected feel. 

If Your Dream Holiday Is Southern France

pink scullery with sink curtain
Photography and Design by Studio Laloc

Woven baskets have a very I-picked-this-up-in-a-little-French-market vibe to them, and adding some to any space instantly infuses rustic charm. Bonus: You can use them to go grocery shopping in lieu of tote bags. They’re the definition of functional decor. 

If You Collect Oddities

pink kitchen marble island cactus collection
Courtesy of Plykea

Your kitschy thrift store treasures deserve a moment in the spotlight; why not use them to bring character to kitchen cabinets? Whether it’s novelty candles or an impressive collection of ceramic cacti, make them the guest of honor (and keep them safe from prying little hands). 

If You’re an Art Buff

blue kitchen with artwork on walls
Photography by Stephen Kent Johnson

When you’re stuck with some extra wall space but no shelving to speak of, you can’t go wrong with artwork. Hang your colorful pieces in uniform frames for a cool take on a regular gallery wall. IKEA’s Ribba series is an affordable option; Anthony D’Argenzio swears by it for housing his own vintage photographs. 

If Your Travel Souvenirs Are Everywhere

teal kitchen cabinets and colorful backdrop
Photography by Martine Munro

Take the pressure off your mantel or bookcase and group some of these sentimental items atop the cupboards. Arrange by color or try a geography-oriented curation: Categorize all your mementos from last summer’s trip to Hong Kong in one corner, and keep the goodies you hauled back from Stockholm in another. 

If Your Weakness Is Fancy Dinnerware

white kitchen butcher block counters vase collection
Courtesy of Space Exploration

Put larger items, like serving bowls and wine pitchers, on permanent display. You might not get to use them every day, but at least you can admire them while you cook—and so can your future dinner party guests. Mix textures to keep the area from feeling too perfect. 

If You Never Do Anything Expected

white kitchen with paper vases on top of cabinets
Photography by Jonas Ingerstedt; Home of Åsa Stenerhag

Throw out the rule book and bring some sculptural pieces to your cabinetry—but make them paper. It’s a playful spin on the classic kitchen vignette and (perhaps best of all) doesn’t require any dusting. 

See more ideas for your kitchen cabinets:
So You’re Thinking About Painting the Kitchen Cabinets Yourself
Glass Kitchen Cabinets Are Like Open Shelving, Without the Dusting
5 Kitchen Cabinet Makeovers That Will Inspire You to Pick Up the Paintbrush