5 Ways to Add Height to Your Kitchen Cabinets

Dina Cheney
Written by Dina Cheney
Updated January 6, 2022
Two layer of kitchen cabinets in a modern kitchen
Photo: LUGOSTOCK / Adobe Stock

Five ways to gain storage and a custom look

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So many builder-grade kitchens fall victim to one noticeable design flaw: the upper cabinets don’t make it all the way to the ceiling. Not only does this layout fail to maximize storage space, but gaps between cabinets and the ceiling can make a kitchen design look awkward and unfinished. Read on for simple ways to extend the height of your existing kitchen cabinets and gain a higher-end design.   

1. Stack Another Layer of Cabinets on Top

If you have the room and budget, this strategy makes the most sense and will make your ceiling look higher. As a bonus, you’ll gain storage space—a luxury always in short supply in kitchens.

When planning the height of your new upper layer of stacking cabinets, make them about half as tall as the cabinet layer below them. Think about incorporating an unexpected element, like glass doors or dramatic kitchen cabinet lighting, to set them apart. Since cabinetry is relatively challenging to install, you might want to hire a local carpenter for the job and save energy for whipping up your favorite meal.

2. Add Crown Molding 

By installing crown molding on top of your upper cabinets, you’ll achieve the illusion of height. Adding this carpentry work will make your kitchen cabinets look new and give them a custom feel. This strategy works particularly well in more formal, traditional homes, like Georgians and Colonials.

To DIY this project, remove existing crown molding (including caulk and nails). Measure out and cut new molding, then arrange each piece. Finish by nailing, caulking, priming, and painting. If you prefer to hire a pro, crown molding costs between $4 and $15 per linear foot for materials and labor.

3. Use Paint to Create the Illusion of Height

Paint your upper cabinets, the wall they’re on, and the ceiling. Using one color for all three elements will distract the eye from the cabinets and the gap. Then play up other features—like the island, light fixtures, or backsplash tile—so they serve as design focal points and complement the new paint color. For example, three pendant lights in a fun color (like yellow) over the island or an intricate tile pattern behind the stovetop will keep everyone’s focus on your stunning decor.

4. Install Shelves

 Kitchen jars with groceries stored on kitchen shelves
Photo: mixetto / E+ / Getty Images

Since it’s difficult to reach above your upper cabinets, avoid storing frequently used items there. Instead, decorate the top of kitchen cabinets. Install shelves and use them to display accessories, like small vases or collectibles. Shelves will give your kitchen a more finished look than simply placing decorative pieces on top of cabinets. Make a design statement by opting for unique shelves, like rustic wood with live edges. 

Adding shelves is more economical than purchasing another layer of wall cabinets, and if you have a really large gap, opt for two rows of shelves.

5. Box in the Space Above the Cabinets

To make a gap less obvious, bump out the wall above the cabinets, so it’s flush with the cabinet boxes. Paint the wall the same color as the cabinets, so they blend together. The downsides here are that you don’t gain any storage or make a design statement, but you’ll get a more cohesive look.

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