Not All Minimalist Kitchens Are Void of Upper Cabinets

These nine spaces show the full range.
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white kitchen cabinets
Photography by Natalie McComas

Let’s be real, having a minimalist kitchen inevitably involves some visual decluttering. It’s time to ask yourself: Do I really need those three cake stands on top of the fridge? When was the last time I used the air fryer on the counter? What you don’t need to do is resign yourself to open shelving if you don’t want to. There are plenty of other ways to streamline your space that still allow for tucking away the not-so-pretty stuff. To get inspired for your aesthetic overhaul, here are nine renovation tips from some of our favorite minimalist kitchens. 

Elevate the Humblest of Woods

plywood kitchen
Photography by Cody James; Styling by Merisa Libbey

After removing a wall to open up her Costa Mesa, California, kitchen, artist Bethany Brill chose to construct everything from the backsplash to the cupboards out of the simplest of materials: plywood. To balance out all the utilitarian elements, she sourced a single row of cheery yellow upper cabinets from Reform. They’re strategically placed up high so that they don’t cast shadows on the countertops. 

Commit to an All-Black Palette

black kitchen
Photography by Chris Mottalini

When you hear “minimalist kitchen,” you probably picture white walls, Calacatta marble countertops, and creamy subway tile. But any monochromatic scheme can have the same soothing effect—even black. Look closely at this Harlem kitchen by architecture firm Re-ad and you’ll see there is nuance to the material mix: The cabinets are actually a deep blue; the backsplash is a shiny porcelain tile with veining; and the walls are swathed in a matte limewash paint. 

Relegate Everything to a Single Wall

When Marimekko chief creative director Rebekka Bay and her husband, Ricky Nordsøn, cofounder of Nord & Sand, bought their Denmark summer house, the 1972 kitchen was still standing, complete with its original appliances. To keep their refresh of the space from looking too new, they stuck with the same single-wall layout, then modernized the finishes. The linoleum cabinets trimmed in natural oak paired with a red linoleum countertop remind the design-minded couple of the work of Alvar Aalto, Jean Prouvé, and Charlotte Perriand. 

Maximize Light With Shiny Doors

metal galley kitchen
Photography by Monika Grue Steffensen

Choosing a cabinet color for a galley kitchen can be tricky—you don’t want it to make the already tight space feel even tighter. So Copenhagen-based architects Camilla and Martin Boccardi Christensen took a different approach: stainless steel fronts. “It’s very important for us that our kitchen is super-functional, tidy, and yet beautiful and robust in its materiality,” says Camilla. They divided the space into two zones: The left side is where all the action happens (it has the sink, oven, dishwasher, and long countertop); the right side is for storage and the fridge.

Plop in a Prefab

black kitchen
Photography by William Jess Laird

Longtime editor and podcaster Spencer Bailey’s black kitchen doesn’t just look minimalist, the entire design process was simple. All the components, from the floating shelving to the appliances, are from Danish manufacturer Vipp and they took just two days to install.  

Let There Be Light

Inspired by the London home of a friend who happens to be the son of famous minimalist architect John Pawson—not even a clove of garlic gets left out on the counter!—creative producer Sue Chan began chasing that same level of zen in her L.A. house. The key to nailing that feeling in her kitchen? Sticking with a warm white and wood scheme and carving a skylight into the sloped ceiling. 

Hide the Hood

wood kitchen
Photos by Christopher Stark; Styling by Yedda Morrison; Architecture + Construction by SF Design Build

The eye is inevitably drawn to a shiny metal vent smack-dab in the middle of the room. So we say box it in. For this San Francisco home, designer Noz Nozawa chose California-sourced grey elm for the cabinetry, open shelving, and range hood surround, a variety that has a “quiet wood grain reminiscent of Japanese Hinoki cypress,” she says. 

Make It All About the Hardware 

wood cabinets with zellige tiles
Photography by Christophe Coenon

Neutral zellige tile, a wall-mounted faucet, flat slab oak doors that match the countertop—these are all common ingredients for a minimalist kitchen. What makes this space, designed by Paris-based firm Corpus Studio, serene without being boring are the sculptural cabinet knobs that look like jewelry for the millwork. 

Take All Your Storage Down a Notch

This Denmark kitchen, designed with simple framed-out Reform cabinets, is all about practicality and longevity, hence the timeless white palette. “We can always paint the walls and change the furniture to change the expression of the room. I wanted a light feeling,” says one of the owners. But more important was the decision to go with a ton of lower cabinets. This way, there’s nothing weighing down the space, plus they make it easy for their three kids (ranging in age from 3 to 8) to access what they need all on their own.

Lydia Geisel Avatar

Lydia Geisel

Home Editor

Lydia Geisel has been on the editorial team at Domino since 2017. Today, she writes and edits home and renovation stories, including house tours, before and afters, and DIYs, and leads our design news coverage. She lives in New York City.