That Empty Space Above Your Cabinets Is Actually Prime Real Estate

The only question: What are you going to put there?

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Awkward nooks. Empty corners. Open shelves that require—gasp!—extra dusting. These are all tricky areas to capitalize on from a design standpoint, but with the right approach, these bits of real estate can become the perfect place to curate a hyper-personalized, statement-making vignette. When it comes to decorating above kitchen cabinets specifically, the only thing you might be missing is  a little inspiration. Whether you’re a gardening pro, an avid traveler, or a vintage-obsessed shopper, consider your uppers the ideal spot to showcase your interests. These nine rooms have the right idea.

If You’re a Collector of Old Treasures

Photography By Belle Morizio; Styling By Naomi deMañana

In Sarah Burns’s New York City rental, anything the designer didn’t build by hand is a decades-old find that she’s collected over the years. Above her freestanding cabinets, for example, a vintage Russell Wright bread warmer and sculptural metal baskets are on display. They’re not just there to show off: They offer additional storage for extra utensils.

If You Have a Green Thumb

white kitchen with plants on cabinets
Photography by Katie Branch

Pepper in your favorite plants to add a healthy serving of greens to your kitchen. 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

When you’re at a loss for how to decorate above cabinets, simply go with all your most-used kitchen equipment so it’s in easy reach. 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, and while they might ordinarily clutter smaller side tables and shelves, they’ll fit perfectly atop 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

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 Paris in one corner, and keep the goodies you hauled back from Tokyo in another.

If Your Weakness Is Fancy Dinnerware

white kitchen butcher block counters vase collection
Courtesy of Space Exploration

Put special-occasion items like serving bowls and wine pitchers on permanent display. You might not use them every day, but at least you can admire them while you cook—and so can your 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.