Generally Speaking on Cabinets To the Ceiling / Your thoughts?

amck2March 10, 2014

Judging from current posts I know that I'm among many remodeling who feel they should consider cabinets to the ceiling to bring their kitchen up to date.

But when I thnk of kitchens I've "known" through nearly 6 decades, most have not had cabs to the ceiling. My sister's does - she has repainted original custom cabs in a 100+ yr house. It's a charming but small, closed off kitchen & I'm sure they were constructed to get the most vertical storage possible.

Then there was the kitchen in my childhood home, those of my aunts, and the one in our first home that all had 30" or so cabs that went to the soffit. Later, many of our friends bought larger 2nd homes with high vaulted and varied ceiling heights & they tended to do staggered cabs. Most whose traditional 2nd homes, like mine, with 8' or 9' ceilings have 30" cabs in the mid to high level price range.

I see practically none of this cabinetry in blogs and current design magazines. They all show to the ceiling (or open shelves, which is a whole other topic..). What is ironic is that many of the showcased homes have a walk-in or at least closet sized pantry - not to mention loads of efficient built-in storage cabinetry. There doesn't seem to be a need for the to-ceiling cabs except for the look.

I get that they read custom/aspirational because they have to be made and installed to fit rooms that are not usually "square," I do like the idea of not having to clean over the cabinet tops. But I also remember designers making arguments to remove soffits to GET that gap over your cabs to "open your space."

I like the to-ceiling look but I wonder if it's here to stay (not forever, but 10 yrs..) There is no way I'm going to use the upper cabs regularly and sense the expense of new cabinets may be a waste. However, I don't want to be shortsighted with this remodel and go through all the work to have a kitchen many would see as outdated upon completion.

Would love to know how KD's see this - a trend we can pass on or something people with nice, but not exclusive homes, should invest in?

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Whenever possible, always take your cabinetry to the ceiling. It is a much more finished and timeless look. If you have high ceilings, use 42" cabinetry with crown moldings above. Keep in mind that cabinetry to the ceiling is not always practical. If you have 10" ceilings, you will not be able to reach the upper cabinets without a ladder or stool. The cost of 42" cabinets is not going to have significant impact on your total kitchen remodel budget. Avoid the staggered height look as that is rather passé, unless you are using it in an accent piece such as a range hood

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 1:50PM
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My Mom built cabinets to the ceiling in her house in 1977. While it's true that she didn't access those top cabs often, she certainly made use of the space.

Last summer I remodeled my kitchen, and I LOVE my 42" uppers so much more than the old 30" ones! Mine aren't stacked, so I can adjust the shelves as needed. I asked for extra shelves, so I can store more things without stacking. My 6'4" DH can reach everything; I keep a folding stool under the sink.

I have a vaulted ceiling, so I still have open space above my cabinets, but it's high enough that no one is tempted to toss junk up there (like they did before).

I don't think efficient use of space will ever go out of style.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 2:03PM
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We chose not to take the cabinets to the ceiling. I have never personally liked the look of endless miles of cabinetry in a room, and I prefer a more open, airy look. Our kitchen is large and I didn't need the extra storage space-- I might have felt differently in a smaller kitchen. I know I'm in the minority here, but to each his/her own.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 2:12PM
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For me it depends on the kitchen as a whole. I've seen where the cabinets to ceiling seemed to closed in and then the same size kitchen with open area above the cabinets made it seem more open. It also depends on natural light and color choices.

In our old kitchen years ago we did a mini remodel where we took out the soffits. It made a small kitchen seem more open. In our new kitchen we took the cabinets to the ceiling which is slightly less than 8. It works in the new kitchen.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 2:12PM
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This is something I have considered heavily as I begin my planning process. It has already been recommended to me to extend my 30" cabs to at least 39" as I contemplate removing our soffit (which I am now certain we will do.

However, I am not one who keeps stuff around against the slight possibility I might need it five years from now.

I am also not one who will store stuff high enough that I need to use a step stool or my gorilla-armed DH (God bless him, those arms ARE handy!) to access it; 30" cabs allow me to fully reach the top shelves with a strong reach, and I am 5' 7"

I am also not one to spend more money for function I will not use. Now, IF the price difference for taller cabs is the same as heavier crown molding I might reconsider.

There comes a point where ceiling-height cabs give a kitchen a very over-bearing feel, so it must be taken in consideration with the rest of the house and how much space one has to work with.

Finally, I am someone who has plenty of space in which to put a hutch for storage or can use my over-sized laundry room to store seldom-used appliances and hoarded (stocked!) food staples, so I am not unbiased in my response. :o)

I will, however, install a nice crown molding because it does help cabs look less like they are floating around on my (standard-height) walls.

Sorry for being so verbose today; guess I am just on a roll. :o/

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 3:00PM
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I have spent the last 8 months remodeling my kitchen and I did not take the cabinets to the ceiling.

I'm not worried about resale because this is our permanent home so I designed my kitchen and cabinets for what I like, not what some future buyer would want.

I, personally feel cabinets to the ceiling feel overwhelming and make a room seem smaller. Having just 1 foot of open space above seems to make the space much more open. I also like to put decorations on top of my cabinetry and I have accent lighting up there which enhances the overall look and warmth of the room in the evenings.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 3:20PM
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I have reached a stage where I'm pretty secure bucking a trend if it doesn't suit me - hair, clothes , decor - but I am so conflicted about these cabinets I really don't know my own mind. Which is why I'm picking yours :)

Thanks for all responses thus far.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 4:10PM
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My 1926 kitchen has original cabinets to the ceiling so I don't think it's a trend.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 4:23PM
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amck, can you mock it up in the Lowe's kitchen planner? I have found that tool to be infinitely valuable as far as layout and perspective. At the very least you would be able to see cabs both ways. It is really not hard to do.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 9:22PM
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I love cabinets to the ceiling. I think they make my kitchen seem much bigger/taller. Have seen originals in many old houses - don't think it's a trend and for us, it is certainly functional. We don't have a pantry so we use every inch of every cabinet, which is probably more indicative of too much stuff vs. too little space but...

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 11:16PM
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Our to the ceiling cabinets MAKE the kitchen - they give it a sweeping large open airy feeling - and the extra storage space is fabulous.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 12:05AM
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I had cabs not to the ceiling - dust above was hard to clean!
I had soffits with shorter cabs- just looked squatty(might have made up that word)
I now have cabs to ceiling and it gives the kitchen a much fresher and finished look. My kitchen is mid-sized. I do need a stool for the top shelf but store less used items on the top shelf.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 5:13AM
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In our last house, which was really small, I remodeled the kitchen. In the remodel, I took the cabinets to the 9' ceiling. Yes, I had to use a stool to reach the top shelf, but it was great to have all that space! Our new house has 42" cabinets and 12' ceilings in the kitchen. I wish I had gone with 48" or even 54" cabinets. I like having storage!

Before (ignore the "greenery." It was stuffed up there as I unpacked. It made its way to Goodwill soon after):

After - not quite finished (microwave went into closet soon after this photo):

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 5:32AM
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My reasoning for the "to the ceiling" cabinets is that there's no place for dust to accumulate.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 8:13AM
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the price difference for 39" or 42" cabs is usually cheaper than doing a fancy crown molding. here's what i just found out, adding crown to the cabs is around $800 for my 23 linear ft, then the installers charge roughly $800-1000. i skipped the crown altogether and bought 39" cabs. i have never had cabs with crown molding, don't like the look and am on a budget so eliminating that for me personally was a no brainer. the houses in my area are mostly cookie cutter newish builds (less than 20 years) and none of the builders do crown on the cabs so for resale it will have no impact. if you are in a fancy home or fancy area, you may want to check out zillow to see what comps have in their kitchen.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 8:47AM
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Here's my before and after - same footprint. I have vaulted ceilings, so the cabs don't go to the ceiling - but they would, if the walls were 8' all around. I LOVE the extra space! I had extra shelves made for most of the uppers, which makes the storage space even more useful.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 9:54AM
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robo (z6a)

I always liked cabs to the ceiling and growing up, that's what we had in our older homes (my parents weren't renovators, to put it lightly). We have a vaulted ceiling in our new kitchen and I kind of regret not going full custom and getting cabs built in place with angled doors....would have been so cool! Next time. But we did get them to scribe a flat trim piece to the angled ceiling and I love it. The installers....not so loving it.

This post was edited by robotropolis on Tue, Mar 11, 14 at 9:59

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 9:55AM
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annkh, I think your "ceiling height" cabs fit your space, and I also think that about bbstx's cabs.

I hope I won't get quotes like that for crown molding. :o/

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 10:12AM
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I didn't know it was a trend, but we are planning in them for our upcoming remodel. I suppose it may not look right in every situation (depending on the proportions and colors and light), but I would rather not have the dust farm that accumulates above upper cabinets and I expect we will find uses for the extra storage, like vases that are rarely used, or the roasting pan I only use for Thanksgiving (which will free up space that it's currently taking in the garage). Even if they stay empty, they are more functional than shorter cabinets (for both dust& potential storage reasons), and I think they look fine (especially in the ubiquitous white Shaker style cabinets that are so popular now).

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 11:33AM
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To the ceiling. I have never heard anyone say "I have too much storage space in my home" : )

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 8:41PM
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I like the look, especially for an older house, but I just can't imagine getting up there, even with a step stool. My "before kitchen" has 9' walls with 42" wall cabinets - so, one foot of empty space. I stand on the counter when I need to retrieve something I stashed on the top. And I'm tall-ish.

How do y'all get up that high?!

[OP: Unlike some other answers you're getting, I don't think that the existence of a style 80-100 years ago necessarily makes it timeless or disqualifies it from "trend" status. There's only a finite number of styles and we've cycled through some of them more than once. During theIr off-cycle, they're often perceived as dated. It'll be interesting to see the shelf-life (pun!) of ceiling cabinets, especially in not-old houses. So, basically, I'm no help at all...)

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 8:41PM
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Duplicate post

This post was edited by Zigzags on Tue, Mar 11, 14 at 20:58

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 8:42PM
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We are in our new home design phase. I thought cabinets to the ceiling were a no brainer - more storage! But now I plan to choose 42" (with 9 ft ceiling) and put lighting on top of the cabinets. I had lighting on top of cabinets in a previous home and it provides a nice layer of light. As with storage, I can never have too much light in my kitchen.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 9:21PM
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I think it will also depend on your kitchen layout and color scheme. I find some make it look cramped and some make it look bigger.

We did not go all the way up with our cabinets because 1) I know I would never use the space, 2) budget issue and most importantly 3) we have beams and it would have been quite awkward to work around the beams.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 10:14PM
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I have a 2-step stool stashed under the sink. With it I can reach to the top shelves of my 42" uppers. I'm 5'4".

When I had 30" uppers and diagonal corner cabinets, I needed to stand on the counters to reach the top shelf of those corners. Easy-reach literally are an easy reach with a stool.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 11:05PM
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Ours do not go to the ceiling and it doesn't bother me in the least. There are many things I'd change about our remodel but that isn't one of them. Glad we didn't sink the extra money in extra cabinet space I'd never use.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 9:36AM
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I have 42" cabinets with a vaulted ceiling now, and will have 42" cabinets in the new build with 10 ft. ceilings. The space above doesn't bother me at all. We will have a decent sized kitchen (14 x 16), and the crown molding upgrade for us was only $600. I think the crown molding "finishes" the tops of the cabinets.

I personally don't like the look of shorter cabinets, especially with higher ceilings than 8 ft. I would do 39" or 42". Not staggered.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 12:34PM
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My parents house which was built in 1961 has 30" cabinets and is open above. I always thought either the builder measured for the cabinets wrong or ran out of money. So I usually think people just couldn't afford to fill the space.

My DHs grandpa built maple cabinets to the ceiling in the 9' kitchen. It was the last addition onto this old house which was done in the early 1950s. I love them even though I'm 4'11. I only store holiday things up there like DHs grandma did. My FIL jokes his mom was short but had tall sons so didn't have to worry about it.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 3:39PM
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Our hundred and twenty five year old house had cabinets to the ceiling when we moved in. Knotty pine from the fifties, mind you, but we kind of liked them. When we gutted our kitchen, we went with cabinets to the ceiling with crown moulding against a copper ceiling. It gives us lots if space to store lesser used stuff and looks really finished.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 8:19PM
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