Dealing with Wasted Space on Top of Kitchen Cabinets

kitchen with a small gap between wall cabinet top and ceiling

Kitchens usually come in standard heights and dimensions so most people can work comfortably in them. Kitchen cabinets are particularly important as they determine the height and width of the work-space and storage. They come in two variants: wall cabinets and base cabinets.
Base cabinets are usually about 36 inches from the floor with countertops. Installers usually hang wall cabinets from 18 to 20 inches above the base cabinets, which is high enough to prevent most people from hitting their heads on it when working on kitchen countertops. It is also low enough for most people to access the contents of cabinets without too much trouble. From kitchen cabinets to ceiling, these elements align the entire kitchen space

These standard heights are with respect to the floor. Since the height of the ceiling is typically eight feet (96 inches), and the typical height of a wall cabinet is 36 inches, this would leave a gap of between 4 and 6 inches on top of kitchen cabinets. In most cases, the small gap between cabinets and ceiling usually go to waste. It is too high to reach comfortably unless you have a ladder, and usually too small to be of much use for anything else but as a dust collector.
You could use it as the personal playground for your cat. However, if you have no cat, or do not think having a cat hanging out in your kitchen is a good idea, think about what you can do. Here are some ideas for dealing with wasted space on top of kitchen cabinets.

Go for taller cabinets

wall cabinet that goes all the way to the ceiling
The best way to make the use of this wasted space is to simply choose taller cabinets. Most manufacturers offer RTA cabinets in 6-inch increments, from 30 to 42 inches. If you have an 8-foot ceiling and hang your wall cabinets at 18 inches above the countertops, a 42-inch high cabinet will fit snugly right up to the ceiling. Voila! No gap. If you still have a small space between cabinets and ceiling, it should be narrow enough to close with crown molding.

Add shorter cabinets

short cabinets with top hinges

If you have a 9-foot ceiling, that leaves a wide enough gap to actually put in functional cabinets. Some manufacturers offer 18-inch cabinets with top hinges. This is an ideal space for storing things you use only occasionally, such as dishes for special occasions.

Close it

gap covered by wood and crown molding

If replacing your wall cabinets with taller ones is not in the budget, you can close up the gap with some screen bead or MDF. This will give your wall cabinets a more seamless look, and you avoid any dust accumulating in them. You can paint whatever you use to cover up the gap from kitchen cabinets to ceiling with a matching color, and clean the edges with crown molding. The only people who will know you have a gap there is you and your family.

Line it with books

books along kitchen cabinet-ceiling gap

You can actually use the space between kitchen cabinets and ceiling as a bookcase, especially if you have very little storage space. Covering it up might be even more of a waste. You can put your cookbooks in there, or other kinds of books that you do not read regularly. You do have to be circumspect about where you put them, as any books over the cooking area or your refrigerator can get pretty steamy.

Use it as planters

plants in kitchen cabinet-ceiling gap

Gaps on top of kitchen cabinets is bad from a feng shui perspective, as it is a spot where stagnant energy can accumulate. On the other hand, plants are good. You can catch two birds with one stone by converting that awkward space into platters. Choose plants that thrive in low-light, high-humidity conditions and require little attention such as philodendron or photos. Live plants work well because they look great and clean the air at the same time. You can also choose artificial plants for even less maintenance.

Store rarely-used items

baskets along kitchen cabinet-ceiling gap

Instead of stashing stuff you almost never use in closets or attics, you can store them on top of kitchen cabinets. So, use the small gap between cabinets and ceiling to store your rarely used items. Keep them organized in decorative baskets or plastic bins. This will also look quite attractive. Choosing plastic bins with covers will also keep the contents dust-free.

Display decorative items

artwork or vintage items along kitchen cabinet-ceiling gap

If the space on top of your cabinets is more than 4 or 6 inches, you can actually use it as a display case. You can line your favorite artwork along its length, or arrange vintage pots and pots in attractive groups. You can also put pottery and ceramic pieces in there if you have any. Since the kitchen is often the center of the home, placing your decorative stuff in it without taking up regular work and storage space is a clever use of the space.


The top of your wall kitchen cabinets to the ceiling tend to be an issue for many people, but these tips should give you some idea of dealing with the wasted space. You do not need a professional installer to implement most of these strategies, but it does help when you incorporate it into your design during a remodel. Cabinet Land Kitchen and Beyond is a local remodeling company with a showroom located in Schaumburg, Illinois. We service the areas of Chicago, Schaumburg, Arlington Height. Des Plaines, Hoffman Estate, Elk Grove Village in Illinois.

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