Published on April 23, 2020

They’re a surprisingly controversial feature: To have upper kitchen cabinets or not to have? For some, having that extra wall space really opens up the room; for others, giving up even a square inch of potential storage is out of the question. If you fall into the latter camp, keep reading. A lot goes into picking the right fronts, and even though we might not be renovating right now, that doesn’t mean we can’t brainstorm. 

Are you a once-a-month deep cleaner or do you have time to devote to frequent dusting? Is your novelty mug collection the first thing you would grab in a fire? Do you prize intricate detailing or contemporary glossiness? Unlike lower cupboards, which are somewhat limited in their design, the possibilities here are endless—and we’ve pulled together five of our favorite styles. 

For the Flea Market Magpie

You didn’t spend all those years perusing the stalls of every antiques fair you could come across to have your one-of-a-kind glassware hidden away, did you? Somewhere in between floating shelves and regular fixtures sit doorless cabinets—if you’re a renter, it’s an easy update to make. Take the fronts off their hinges to showcase your treasures. Incorporate a smattering of kitchen-friendly greenery into the mix, like Sara Toufali did. Or keep your display pared back with a selection of color-coordinated vessels, as Jess Bunge designed.

For the Cleaning-Averse

Maybe you love your carefully sourced plates as much as the next vintage aficionada, but you don’t love the upkeep that comes with open shelving; glass doors is the way to go. Joanne Duong Bartels and Luke Bartels and Starrett Zenko Ringbom have the right idea with their transparent designs. One is a plain white that blends into the wall; the other is made of secondhand wood for a rustic touch. It’s like a dinnerware museum.  

For the Categorical Minimalist

Don’t bother with flashy hardware or detailed frames; try something sleek, like a flip lift device. Take a page from Jeremy and Kim Wilson’s playbook and leave your uppers in a raw-wood finish to make the room feel more organic. Or if you’re willing to branch out, Sam Buckley’s ombré setup is the stuff of Technicolor dreams. Both feature nominal accoutrements, leaving the area looking clutter-free and perfectly seamless. 

For the Traditionalist With a Twist

cobalt blue kitchen cabinets with orange wall muralPin It
Photography by Marta Xochilt Perez; Design by Anthony George Home; Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan

You can’t go wrong with Shaker style. Characterized by a recessed center and simple border, it’s definitely a classic—but who said that has to mean boring? Take, for example, this Anthony George–designed cobalt space, where the only thing bolder than the blue is the orange squiggle pattern on the walls (okay, also the tiger rug). Or if you want to channel your favorite food group, go with an ice cream pastel à la this minty fresh Vancouver home. Keep the cupboards timeless, but have some fun with the paint.  

For the Low-Maintenance Decorator

If simplicity is what you’re after, choose regular slab doors. This type of upper kitchen cabinet is easy to look after—there are no mixed materials requiring special care or crevices where dust and particles can get stuck. They’re also a particularly great base to freestyle with: Brynn Jones added contrast to her cream-hued ones with wood knobs, and Beata Heuman chose a Kelly green wash for hers. Even for the most basic styles, it’s still all in the details. 

See more kitchen cabinet ideas:
8 Winning Backsplash Combinations for White Kitchen Cabinets
How to Finally Organize Your Kitchen Cabinets—For Good This Time
Everything You Need to Know About Spray-Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets

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