Published on January 10, 2020

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Photography by Tessa Neustadt

The one thing you just can’t change in a rental kitchen is the architecture—like that awkward empty space above the cupboards. But you can make the best of it. We have this on good authority from eight designers, whose expertise we tapped for the best kitchen cabinet decor ideas. 

They convinced us to think of every unoccupied nook as a design opportunity, rather than an unsightly nuisance. Who says great vignettes can’t be all the way up to the ceiling? Especially in a smaller space, where every available inch counts, the chance to squeeze in some extra style can’t be understated. Use their shopping suggestions to guide your own mini kitchen cabinet decor makeover. 

Plants

“I love mixing and matching plants to get a variety of heights, colors, and textures, and I always like a nice trailing plant for the sides of cupboards that don’t have any doors. You can spice up your vignette with different pots (think: using contrasting materials, like baskets and pottery).” —interior designer Autumn Hachey

Vintage Plates

“My first kitchen was a very cute galley. I displayed round patterned plates, and then in between them I added a few plants. I treated it like a wall installation at a Sur La Table store.” —interior designer Anita Yokota

Woven Baskets

If the ceilings are extra tall, I’ll layer collected pieces, like a vintage basket I found from treasure hunting. To me, filling this space is purely decorative—after all, it’s not exactly easy to access, and I know I’d forget what’s up there if I used it as storage!” —interior designer Amber Lewis

Ceramics

“I’m a sucker for sculptural pottery and love to create groupings. This method lets you keep your classic white kitchen without sacrificing personality.” —interior designer Kerra Michele

A Gallery Wall

I’m a big fan of leaning layered artwork above cabinets, especially if you’ve got high ceilings and can use a wide variety of frame shapes and sizes. Try mixing art forms (for example, a painting, a photograph, and an illustration), and if you’re concerned about the pieces clashing, keep them all in the same color palette.” —interior designer Ashley Scott

Framed Paintings

Skip the obvious and style it using what you love, like an oil painting in a chipped gilded frame. Locally, I source frames from Redefined Decor in Chicago. Nationally, Chairish and 1stdibs.” —interior designer Lauren Buxbaum Gordon

White Pitchers 

If you feel like you have to do something with it, don’t go crazy so you avoid dating your kitchen. Display a few vintage bread boards or white jugs.” —interior designer Ashley Moore 

Cake Stands

“Kitchen tools like cake stands, vases, or serving bowls tend to take up a lot of space and they usually only get used on special occasions. Showcasing them above the upper cupboards not only fills in that gap but it opens up your cabinetry for everyday necessities. Not to mention, it adds some design interest!” —interior designer Michelle Lisac

See more kitchen decor tips:
This Kitchen Feature May Be Indulgent, But That’s the Point
Farewell, All-White Kitchens—These 11 Cabinet Designs Are About to Take Off
The Biggest Kitchen Design Flex Is a Couch

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