Strange IndiaStrange India

Unless your kitchen cabinets go all the way up to the ceiling, there’s probably a foot or so of vertical space that currently does nothing but collect dust, even if you’ve maybe never given it much thought. In our storage-starved modern lives, though, having a void like that in our homes is truly a waste—because there are several ways you could be putting that empty space to work for you.


The most obvious use for that space is extra storage. You can opt to build built-in cabinet extensions (essentially wooden boxes that match the dimensions of your existing cabinets), but this essentially brings your cabinetry up to the ceiling, which you’ll probably wind up regretting because it will be a real pain to get anything down from there, and you’ll forget what’s hidden in those cabinets faster than you think.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use this space for storage, though—you just have to be thoughtful about what and how you store stuff in that space:

  • Opt for rarely used items. The best things to put up in that space are things that you’re not going to use often. Those big gift platters from your wedding you’ve used once in ten years? Perfect!

  • Arrange it artfully. The key is to manage the visual impact of the stuff you store up there. Stack matching items from large to small, and place the tallest stacks in the center and arrange everything in size order extending to the sides. This is why you want stuff you rarely use up there, so the time you put into arranging everything won’t be wasted. Stick to one “variety” of stuff, too: Bowls and serving plates, or fancy appliances you never use—not both haphazardly mixed together. Since it’s so visible, you want it to look cohesive, not haphazard.

  • Keep it clean. The space above your cabinets gets dusty—and greasy. No matter how powerful your hood vent is, cooking will grease up that space over time, so be prepared to dust and clean on a semi-regular basis.


In a similar vein, you can simply use that space to decorate. Instead of placing actual kitchen implements and appliances up there, just make a pretty arrangement using decorative stuff like vases, houseplants, or any other kind of bric-a-brac that matches well with your existing kitchen look and design. A few other ideas for decorating the space include baskets or other artsy items—or forego actual objects and use wallpaper or stick-on tiles to add a pop of graphic color to the area.


If you’re thinking of using the space for decoration, consider combining that idea with a little more purpose and turn it into a display area for:

  • Collections. If you have a habit of collecting items—figurines, decorative plates, old radios—why leave them boxed up somewhere or hidden away? Whatever it is, display your collection up on top of those cabinets. This will create a focal conversation point for guests, and let you actually enjoy your collection.

  • Books. The top of your cabinets is an almost ideal spot for books. Cookbooks would be the most obvious choice, but any library will work up there from a design point of view. For extra points, choose books of similar dimensions, and be thoughtful about the color of the spines (if arranging them that way) or the way the front covers work together if placing them face-out.

  • Photos or art. That empty space could also be a perfect spot for some framed pictures or some of the art you’ve picked up along the way. Some nice photos of your friends or family, pictures you’ve picked up from local artists (or that you made yourself), or any grouping of beautiful objects can transform your kitchen into a gallery as well.

Pro tip: You can rotate your displays like an art gallery as well, marking every dinner party and game day with a fresh display of art on top of your cabinets.

Wine rack

An excellent use for that weird space is a place to store your growing collection of wine. If you’re the sort who picks up a bottle at the grocery to drink immediately, this won’t make sense, but if you enjoy tasting wine and buy it by the carton to savor over time, you know that finding a place to store it can be a challenge (unless you have a wine cellar under your house, you fancy person).

You could simply add some freestanding wine racks like this up there. For a more ambitious project, you could build a built-in wine rack like this, which would have the advantage of keeping your bottles dust-free.


An easy way to make use of that space is to paint it with a high-quality chalkboard paint (optional: using chalkboard paint as your backsplash as well to tie everything together). You can then decorate any way you want using colored chalk, or use the space as a menu display for dinner parties, a can’t-miss message board for the family, a calendar marking monthly events, or a place to doodle creatively whenever you feel like it.

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