Decorating Above Kitchen Cabinets

June 29, 2011

One of the toughest spots in the house to decorate is above the kitchen cabinets.

Do you have this problem?

It’s often a bare space of unchartered territory that you may have thought to add some decor, but just didn’t know what to display or how to pull it all together. Am I right?  Here are some helpful solutions ~

Get Started

Measure the length of cabinets, as well as the space from the top of the cabinet to the ceiling.  This will allow you to shop/look for the right items, making sure you don’t buy something too large that won’t fit or something too small that is dwarfed by the open space.

Say Goodbye to Fake Vines

No more fake vines or artificial leaves (please)!   The look is dated and too much is just too much.  If you enjoy vines and greenery (which I do), buy real and display above your cabinets…but no more fake (I hope you’re not offended, but it had to be said).  If you decide to use artificial greenery, choose pieces that look  natural and don’t over-display.  Interested in creating a real-looking faux arrangement? Check out {this} post.

Display a Collection or Theme

What do you enjoy?  Are you a collector of pottery, plates, or bottles?  How about jars, baskets, or vases?  Display pieces that interest you and that you’ll enjoy seeing every day (you’ll see it alot since it’s in the kitchen).  Follow your hobbies and let them shine through in your space.

Don’t have a collection?  What about a theme for the space above your cabinets?  Color can be a theme.  Continue the accent theme of your home or introduce a new color.  How about a vibrant and exciting red color? A pop of color here and there makes a space interesting and intriguing.

Start New & Find a Focal Point

So you’re really not a collector and have nothing to display – –  No problem!  Start from scratch.  Go Shopping!  First, find a focal point; something that is going to draw the eyes’ attention – – Try a large plate/platter, urn, lantern, or picture.  Look for larger pieces than you would usually display at eye level.  Because you’ll be standing at a distance, bigger and bolder is better.  Taller items will draw the eye up and can be displayed towards the back, while shorter items can be displayed in the front.

Try TJ Maxx, Homegoods, or Marshalls – they always have lots of vases and platters!

Sarah (the cool and awesome, Thrifty Decor Chick) transformed her over-the-cabinet space with some great selections.  She chose items of varying heights and sizes, as well as items that have similar color tones.  She then used some of the same items on her actual countertop to pull the two areas together.

On each side of Sarah’s kitchen, she chose a focal point – the left side has a large platter that stands using a display rack and the right side has a large square wicker platter that stands in the corner.  Surrounding the focal points, are other platters, pictures, vases, baskets, and greenery (if it’s fake, it looks good – this is an example of the right amount of greenery).

Baskets or Bins

One of my all time favorite to-contain-everything is baskets!  Especially if you have a small kitchen and need extra storage, use baskets above your cabinets to hold items that you don’t use every day – paper towels, napkins, extra bowls, baking supplies, etc.  Add some fun labels and you’ll know exactly what’s in there.

Display Unique Items

When I saw this before and after, I thought it was so interesting of this homeowner to display black and white photos above their kitchen cabinets.  Nothing in the space was changed other than the addition of these beautiful photos and what a difference they make – it transforms the space from a typical kitchen to a unique cooking environment.  Add something new and different – don’t be afraid or intimidated.  If your display / items don’t work, they can easily be changed or removed.

What do you have to lose?

Prop it up

Some items that are too small and/or too low won’t work because of the angle you’re standing on the floor.  Many cabinets have a crown moulding in front, so the actual cabinet top is a few inches lower than it appears.  Use a telephone book or empty box to prop up your items.

The Process

You’ve got your items together, now what?

1. Start with a clean slate above the cabinets; Remove everything/anything
2. Compile your decor and start playing with different ideas and positioning.  It’s not going to be perfect on the first shot – move things here and there…it’ll come together!
3. Vary the heights and sizes of your pieces.

I’ll be honest, the space above the kitchen cabinets is tough to fill, but it can AND should be done.  It’s important “real estate” that needs a bit of decorating.  Take a step back and fill it with what you love (even if it is faux greener…just use it sparingly please).

Images Courtesy of 320 Sycamore, Thrifty Decor Chick, Tiny Ass Apartment, Envy House, Pinterest, Pier One, Urban Grace

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  1. LOL. I agree with you about banishing the vines above the cabinets! Great ideas and tips here! Mixing up the heights and finding a focal point is good advice!

    • Thanks for stopping by SAS Interiors, Madigan! Glad you liked the tips for over-the-cabinet decor. Varying heights and finding a focal point is key for the unused space to look fabulous! xo Jenna

  2. Loved this post! I’ve lived in my house for two years and I haven’t put anything over my cabinets. You’ve inspired me to get started!

    • Glad to have inspired you Cyndi!! Send me pictures when you’ve added some decor to the top of your cabinets. xo Jenna

  3. Hey Jenna – great post! I just took down my ivy plant and it looked just like the one you posted too ha ha ha I’m sooo ashamed. Oh well, I do like the baskets. I was thinking of ones with lids, like picnic baskets – I’m afraid of dust getting in them I guess.

    • I hope I didn’t offend you (or anyone else) with my comments on faux greenery – it’s just a bit dated and there is so much more to do instead. Picnic baskets are a GREAT idea…put a label / tag on them and it’ll be a great addition to the unused space above the cabinets. xo Jenna

  4. Thanks for the tips. The space above my cabinets is currently bare but I’ve been thinking about adding a collection of milk glass with maybe a few random pops of color from other forms of pottery.

    • Hi Nicolette, I love the idea of adding milk glasses above the kitchen cabinets. With a few others items and some color, you’re newly found decorated space will look fabulous! xo Jenna

  5. This space is constantly bugging me! Thanks for the tips!

    • Thanks Debbie….hopefully with these over-the-cabinet tips, the unused space won’t bug you anymore! xo Jenna

  6. I really like the photos above the cabinets, great ideas! I of course purposely got extra tall cabinets so I wouldn’t have to decorate above them – LOL

    • If you’re able to do tall cabinets to avoid unused space above, I highly recommend it. Your kitchen looks fab! xo Jenna

  7. Hi Jenna,

    I have been looking for some great ideas for decorating above my cabinets and this post provided the inspiration I needed to get started. Great Post! Thanks so much:)

  8. Judy Edward says:

    Yikes! I’ve got the vines. Not too many though, and paird with decorative olive oil containers.
    My home is currently for sale. I think it looks pretty good.. staged properly, except for this area. OK, now I’ve got my assignment.

    • Aw, thanks Judy for the comment and I hope I didn’t offend you. A few vines / artificial greenery is okay, as long as it’s not overboard! I’m sure your place looks great. Where do you live now and where are you moving to? Well good luck with the sale of your home and the future move! xo Jenna

  9. Hi Jenna,

    Your ideas are great! This space being empty really makes my kitchen (and bedroom; I have huge 5ft tall landing accross my entire master) feel unfinished. But I am most afraid of dust… how do I clean up there before decorating and to maintain the dust?


    • Thanks so much for visiting SAS Interiors, Anita, and for the kind compliments! To access the area above the kitchen cabinets, you can either use a step stool or I’ve seen L shaped feather dusters that can access high spaces and ceiling fans – that should do the trick! Let me know what you decide! Jenna

  10. pat watters says:

    I have a collections of rooster themed items – plates, pictures, statues, glassware – you name it! They’re showc
    ased on the shelves above the cabinets, mixed with a few baskets and other items. It might not work for everyone, but I like it!

  11. Katie Brim says:

    I really would like to know where you got the materials for the top picture, the one with the fish.

    Thank you


    • All those accessories in the first picture are from Pier One. Looking to add some accessories to the top of your kitchen cabinets? -Jenna

  12. Barbara Thorp says:

    Any suggestions for a “beachy” look? I am really struggling and don’t want to spend a lot of money.

    • Different sized lanterns, a vase filled with shells, ocean / beach pictures, and personal collectibles are all “beach” type accessories that you can display above your cabinets! -Jenna

  13. Jasmine says:

    I’ve been looking for ideas on how to decorate the top of my cabinets and I came across this website… I LOVE the ideas that you offered but they are only for people with a considerable amount of space above their cabinets. What if you only have 5 inches of open space above your cabinet?

    • 5″ doesn’t really allow enough room for accessories above the cabinets. I would rather treat the cabinets as if they went to the ceiling instead of adding anything on top of them.

    • In our previous house our cabinets had that 5 inch space. We of course could not decorate but my husband did add rope lights to the top and in the evenings/night they gave an awesome glow. The kitchen looked particularly nice when the under cabinet lights were also sit o low. The light gave interest and drew your eyes up.

  14. My cabinets go all the way to the ceiling, but I’m still bookmarking it. (BTW, did you know it’s the best day of your life today…?) ;)
    Vivienne @ The V Spot recently posted..No-sew cord cover & chandelier re-do (Getting ready for Bunco week! )

  15. When I moved into my husband’s house, he had a bunch of dusty empty liquor bottles up over the cabinets. (EEW! far worse than an over abundance of ivy imho) Of course those had to go. I replaced them with a Christmas garland and rope lights (twas the season!). Once Christmas was over and I was starting to suffer from Spring fever, I replaced the Christmas garland with a strands of faux lillies in orange and yellow. very bright and happy. But they’ve been there ever since and I just repainted and reorganized my cabinets and have been wanting to do something different. You have given me some wonderful ideas! thank you, very very much!

  16. Hi Jenna,

    Just found your website and love it! My wife and I have been struggling with decorating above our cabinets. Do you have any tips when dealing with a vaulted ceiling? at one end there is about 12″ above the cabinets on the other 48″.

    • Hi Joe! Sorry for the delay in responding. Vaulted ceilings add such interesting architectural detail to a room, but can often be difficult when it comes to decorating. I would use the changing height above your cabinets to add accessories in varying heights. As the ceiling gets higher, introduce taller pieces (vases, baskets, etc). Don’t make them follow the exact line of the heightening ceiling, but have lower pieces where the ceiling is lower and then more varying heights in the higher sections. Good Luck and I can always help out more if you’re having difficulties. -Jenna

  17. I love that you have this post, I don’t have greenery but since I have red for an accent color I have the twigs with red berrys on them laying criss cross on the corner cabinet, i love antique kitchen utensils so I have one cabinet done that has an antique iron muffin tin, its in great condition and I have gotten so many compliments on it, plus Juila Childs “mastering the Art of French cooking” its not an old version, but Im still on the search, next is finding an antique flour sifter and rolling pin :) I love the platters I just don’t have that much space b/w the tops of my cabinets and the ceiling.
    Lindsay recently posted..Christmas is only 3 days away?? Where has 2012 gone??

    • Thanks so much Lindsay. So happy you were inspired. I actually just saw a picture of a kitchen with a small space b/w the cabs and ceiling – the designer used books and baskets, allowing the kitchen to look more like furniture than a kitchen. It’s a cute and unique idea. -Jenna

  18. The area above is often a grease magnet! Everything gets dirty fast since we really do cook in it daily. I’ve always been discouraged by that. Is it just me, or do you just clean up there regularly or just ignore the dirt magnet it becomes?

  19. LOVE this post! Getting to the top of my cabinets is actually on the top of my list right now and I’ve been dying to find some inspiration! Surprisingly I don’t think it’s talked about much? Thank you so much for sharing your insights! xo, Kimberly
    Kimberly @ A Night Owl recently posted..Create & Inspire Party | 1/18

  20. I like the comment about fake vines above kitchen cabinets — LOL! I used to have those. Now, my cabinet tops are decorated with various painted decorative wooden birdhouses. But, I’d love to add some baskets for extra storage! I’ve been obsessed and blogging about kitchen storage a lot lately! Love your blog, BTW!
    Lauren @MomHomeGuide recently posted..Owl Mural Study Area

  21. Terry Faseler says:

    Hi, just found you website and love it,I am on a mission to decorate above the cabinets and would like to know where I can find these items on the red coral picture and the fruit plates ideas, This would be a great start for me, I printed these 2pictures and all my friends love it too.Thank you so much and looking forward to getting more ideas !!

    • The items from the picture with the red coral and the fruit plates are from Pier One. This post is older, so I’m not sure if the store would still have inventory, but at least it can give you inspiration to find similar pieces in the same style and scale. Good Luck!


  22. Terry Faseler says:

    Hi Jenna,I spent my day shopping for the accessories in the pictures,I tried to get as close to yours but no luck trying to find a lemon plate.I have to literally have the picture in front of me since I cannot decorate,I know I love your style and hoping you will help me with this area, I went to Home Goods,World Market,Pottery Barn,Kirklands and still couldn’t find anything close to your ideas.My home is traditional and would love to find the coral plate since I love red!,Thank you so much for your amazing talent!!

  23. Terry Faseler says:

    Thank you for your response,I will definetly go to pier one !!will you be able to have more pictures from pier one??

  24. I came across this blog after my walls were just painted. I have a collection of milk bottles and a HUGE collection of pottery. I am so picky that everything is placed just right, a little left,right or wrong angle bug me so much! It literally is taking me the entire day! I am enjoying your blog. Thank you so much!

    • That is so kind of you to say Laurie! So glad you were inspired by my post to create something that you truly love. xo Jenna

  25. Sophie Gonzales says:

    What about books about the cabinets? I have so many books and no where to put them!

  26. We are short, so decor would be lost on us. We put LED rope lights up there, so there’s a nice colored glow. Quick color!

  27. Wonderful decor inspirations!
    Kara recently posted..‘Shabby Chic’ Fabric Easter Egg Pattern Using Fabric and T-Shirt Yarn

  28. I love the plates on the wall, the yellow color of the paint compliment it. It looks refreshing and cool, thank you for sharing these ideas.


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