ceilings too high. should i lower them? soffit?

TileApril 21, 2014

The ceilings in my kitchen are 112" (9'4") high, and I'm not sure what to do with them. I plan on using 39" Ikea Adel Medium Brown cabinets, so I have 16 inches of space above the cabinets.

I've come up with the following options:

A) stacking the cabinets. I tried to do this using the Ikea software but I couldn't get it to look right. I also had some trouble with cabinet options.

B) Soffit (L-shaped or perimeter)

C) Soffit + Crown Molding. Do stained cabinets look good with crown molding? Getting white cabinets is also an option, especially if white will help me achieve a more custom, built-in look.

D) Lower ceiling by a few inches (kitchen is currently completely gutted with no ceiling)

E) Leave ceiling at 112" and use the 16" of space above cabinets for storage

F) Tray ceiling

What would you recommend? Would a soffit look weird with my refrigerator sticking out by 28.5 inches?

here are some pictures:

This post was edited by Tile on Mon, Apr 21, 14 at 23:55

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If it were me, I wouldn't do a soffit. I would either do stacked, probably glass fronted, or leave it open for storage.
Also, yes, personally I think crown molding looks great with stained wood, you just stain the molding to match.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 11:57PM
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Doesn't IKEA have 36" tall cabs? You could then do 15s above and have room for crown molding, too. Whatever, I would not do a soffit unless it was needed for wiring, etc.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 12:03AM
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Ditto Deedles re:soffit at least in the traditional sense. I love her idea of stacked cabinets. But if you are not into the look or just don't want to buy - would that be seven additional cabinets? - then consider changing the ceiling height a la Sara Susanka in the Not So Big House. She uses tray ceilings with lighting details in them and drops ceilings to emphasize the uniqueness of spaces. Super cool.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 1:42AM
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Since Ikea only has 30 and 39" tall wall cabinets, Would you consider using 30" cabinets stacked with the 15" then frame out to the ceiling and include a wide 5" molding?

I have 2 ikea plans so that I could include the price and details for the stacked cabinets.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 2:27AM
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I've seen a lot of people ripping out soffits, dropped ceilings, and ceiling trims these days. I would be very cautious about doing anything like that. High ceilings are an asset!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 2:29AM
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Ikea sells horizontal cabinets with glass doors with thin aluminum frames that swing upward and a glass shelf inside (or used to; if they don't, you can use other brand's cabinets here) installed in the space between the ceiling and the top of the wall cabinets. I can't seem to find a picture online with this setup (even though I installed them as such in one kitchen), but imagine if the ones in this pic were installed above the full-height 30" or 39"h wood wall cabinets rather than below them and you'll get an idea. They look particularly good if the insides are lighted with LED strips or small disks.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 2:46AM
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I agree that soffits seem very dated at least where I am. High ceilings with tall cabinets look great. I think stacking them w/ glass cabinets above and tall crown molding would be really nice. I would NOT lower the ceilings at all. Tall ceilings, within reason as yours are, are definitely a selling asset. Where we are, houses with 8 ft. ceilings struggle to sell.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 7:38AM
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robo (z6a)

Ikea's horizontal cab don't line up perfectly with the vertical cabs which is a darn shame!

Also the glass front cabs only come in 30 or 39" tall.

But it looks nice to have glass on the bottom and plain on the top. Or maybe get custom doors from scherrs.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 8:42AM
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If you can get the Ikea sizes to work out, option A would be terrific. I'm also partial to option F1, a coffered ceiling, which is what we did. Because of practical considerations part of our 9' ceiling was lowered to 8', and I also like how the aesthetics worked out for us:

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 8:58AM
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Agree with others, no soffit.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 10:34AM
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Even if you can't do stacked cabinets, a space between the cabinets and ceiling is preferable to soffits. I have a space and it doesn't bother me at all. We're redoing our kitchen and I can't afford stacked, so I'm leaving my gap.

What I would do (what I am doing, in fact) is to put taller cabinets above the range hood and the fridge, to break up your row of cabinets. You should be able to pop those up so they're close to the ceiling, and then do a nice crown mold around the top of them. Also, I tend to think that above cabinet lighting does a nice job of making the space above cabinets a feature rather than an afterthought.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 10:53AM
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Okay, so no soffit then. I'm so glad I made this post in time! I had no idea that some people consider soffits undesirable.

I can get the horizontal glass cabinets to line up with the cabinets on the west wall, but I will need two fillers pieces for them to connect with the cabinets in the northwest corner...unless I should be connecting them diagonally? Do I need to connect them at all? Would it look bad if I left a gap in the corner?

I also can't figure out what to do with the cabinets above the fridge.

Should I consider a different color of cabinets? Is it easier to achieve the "built-in" custom look if I used white cabinets that are easier to match with paint or crown molding?

Here is a link that might be useful: http://kitchenplanner.ikea.com/US/UI/Pages/VPUI.htm?LoadDesign=8bf8333e60ed4994bff77dfdf111ee09&UIContext=Kitchen&IsSharedDesign=1

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 12:23PM
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I also don't mind some space above cabinets...but do you think it's possible to have too much space? I have about 16"

Is this what you meant by popping up the cabinets above the range hood and fridge?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 12:35PM
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Why the anti-soffit sentiments? It is a royal pain to clean the tops of kitchen cabinets. Adding upper storage space is an extra expense for space you can't reach without a step ladder.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 1:01PM
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Well, I really meant to make the cabinets over the fridge and hood taller than they are, not to double up. The spacing may not be right in your kitchen, for the fridge at least, since it isn't centered, but you could try it. It looks funny in your images, but I'm not sure if that's just because you have double cabinets there.

Chisue, maybe this is gross of me... I've never once cleaned the space above my cabinets in the four years I've lived here. I've looked up there, too - it's not too awful. A little dusty. But I don't see why someone would need to clean in a totally unseen space often - if I were fastidious, I'd probably go for 2x per year...

16" of space? I guess that's kind of deep. I have 12", which sometimes seems slightly shallow to me, though. I often think an inch or two more would be more visually pleasing. So I don't know.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 2:18PM
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We moved into our new home in 2001. I, too, thought little about the tops of the kitchen cabinets...until I did. They were indeed gross. I have mild asthma, so our house isn't 'open to the breeze' as much as some, but I had to hire someone to clean these cabinet tops.

I don't know why I never thought about it at home, because the kitchen cabinet tops at our Maui condo need to be washed frequently. The sliders are open a lot there, with 'red dirt' dust blowing into the condo off the lanai.

I think soffits give a nice, 'fitted' look, and you don't have dirt up there.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 3:01PM
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i love stacked, especially when the top ones are glass fronts, so i'd go that route. if you don't need soffits, don't add them. i think it's fine for your cabinets not to go to the ceiling if you don't want them to.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 3:23PM
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I like the idea of stacked cabinets and using the ones on top as the lighting source for your kitchen area.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 6:24PM
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I love stacked cabinets. Check out this awesome DIY IKEA kitchen with stacked cabinets.

Here is a link that might be useful: Finished Kitchen: Circa 1840 Working Farmhouse, IKEA Budget Reno

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 10:14PM
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Consider getting custom cabinets which can be made right up to the ceiling. You can often find custom cabinets cheaper than stock ones. That's what I did in my kitchen.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 10:28PM
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Are you guys sure stacked cabinets would look better in my particular kitchen?

It doesn't look right in my pictures:

Perhaps my kitchen is too small for stacked cabinets? It's only 160 sqft...

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 9:35AM
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I think a small kitchen is all the more reason to maximize storage. Are those the only cabinets you can put in for upper uppers?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 9:52AM
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I like the picture you posted with the glass uppers stacked. The only one that looks a bit strange is over the fridge. What is the reason why you can't have anything above the single cabinet to the right of the window?

Here is a link that might be useful: stacked to the ceiling

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 10:19AM
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There is no reason you have to get stacked uppers. In fact you could just put in your regular uppers and live with it for a while. If you decide you don't like the open space up there then you can get them later.

I personally like having open space above my cabinets. I actually had my kitchen wired with outlets hidden above my cabinets that are controlled by a wall switch so I could run lights up there. At night I have only those on and it gives a nice soft glow to my kitchen.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 11:52AM
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I had lights over my cabinets in my previous home - I loved that nighttime glow.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 12:18PM
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threegraces, unfortunately Ikea only offers 30" and 39" horizontal cabinets :-(

I was able to get the uppers to line up properly by getting rid of the corner cabinet (leaving about 1 ft of dead space). How do you think this looks?

How do you think this looks?

I still can't figure out what to do with the area above the fridge...

Edit: some additional modifications...What do you think?

with solid instead of glass doors

This post was edited by Tile on Thu, Apr 24, 14 at 13:14

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 12:24PM
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I think that surrounding your above-sink window with dark cabinets looks really oppressive.

Tile, it would be helpful if you kept your layout questions to one thread. I had actually done a layout for you with horizontal glass cabs above the radiator to lessen the need for storage around your sink window (in a previous thread), but I would have no idea how to point you to that now.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 1:39PM
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Our ceiling is about the same height as yours. We ripped out a soffit and are going for stacked cabinets over the pantry pull-outs. But instead of stacking the cabinets along the wall over the sink, we pushed them up and put open shelves under them. I'll attach a copy of the picture that was our inspiration.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 1:45PM
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PS: We also went for this 2-tone effect, because as feisty68 points out, dark upper cabinets stacked to the ceiling and surrounding the sink didn't have the open, airy feel we wanted. GC just stopped by to say the cabinets are in, but it will be another week or two before we can install them. If you're interested, I'll post pics when they're up.

The "open shelves" are really just a box with no door, as best as I can tell.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 1:51PM
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byzantine has a good idea, imo. Love that pic!

All the cabs in your rendering are looking busy AND it seems to my eye to be a problem when they don't line up from lower to upper. My eye doesn't know where to look.
How's about simplifying just for fun? In your program, try the 39" uppers raised above a shelf like in the pic byzantine posted just for a look-see. (Don't I sound bossy! :)

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 2:49PM
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@feisty68: I apologize for the multiple threads! I really appreciate your feedback, and your layout gave me many new ideas! I didn't do the horizontal cabinets above the radiator because I'm not really looking for extra storage space (have large closet/pantry).

@byzantine & deedles: Thank you for your wonderful idea! I wish I had thought of it sooner. I actually saw something very similar from a blog:


I think I will try to do something similar. Too bad Ikea's kitchen planning software doesn't you to use custom shelving.

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to Older Thread

This post was edited by Tile on Fri, Apr 25, 14 at 13:30

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 1:23PM
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I made another major change to my layout...What do you think?

I got rid of the upper corner cabinet because I want to do the open shelving thing in my previous post.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://kitchenplanner.ikea.com/US/UI/Pages/VPUI.htm?LoadDesign=78ebccf9449844bc9e629a9917861771&UIContext=Kitchen&IsSharedDesign=1

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 1:29PM
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I don't know your dimensions (particularly the peninsula with seating) but I see two problems with it: 1) it doesn't look like there's really enough room for 5 people, and 2) even if it were, it looks like the counter at a diner - I always envision 5 people sitting in a row all of them eating and reading their newspapers. It doesn't look family-friendly to me at all.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 1:53PM
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Thanks for your input. I'd probably only put 3 stools there, maybe 4 if I put one at the end.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 2:21PM
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It feels like you're moving in the right direction. Losing all those extra uppers looks good. Keep going!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 10:28PM
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We are building our kitchen right now and have the same exact ceiling height that you do (9'4"). I liked your design with the table in the middle instead of the peninsula, it seems more open and I think it would have a better traffic flow. If it were me, I would try to make the cabinets around the window symmetrical w/ the options that IKEA offers (I'm assuming you're getting your cabinets from them). So, if they don't offer a narrow upper upper cabinet that would line up w/ the door breaks in your lower uppers- maybe skip the stacked cabinet look? Looks like it will be a cute kitchen! :-)

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 11:27AM
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The cabinet by the fridge in your first to the ceiling layouts is an issue. I see two options: hack an upper cabinet to match width of the lower so that cabinets on both sides of the window are stacked to the ceiling or (my preference) eliminate it totally and shorten the length of the cabinet on the other side of the window so the distance to an upper is the same on each side.

I would also consider making a fridge cabinet that my fridge slid into so the cabinet material would encase the fridge on the sink side; that might also need to be a hack (I do not know if a fridge cabinet is an Ikea option). Even without the fridge cabinet, I would pull the cabinet above the fridge forward by installing a lower cabinet above the fridge ( another hack perhaps).

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 2:30AM
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Here's my attempt to approximate the open shelving look using Ikea's software...The shelves (just open boxes) would have to be custom made:

I think I may give up on the floor to ceiling look for now...I don't know how good it will look in my kitchen, and I'd have to find someone to build the boxes for me. I hope it's something I can add on later.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 9:40AM
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@Ranton: Do you mean something like this?
Ikea sells large panels that I can use to encase the fridge. I wish I could fit a tall pantry or pullout cabinet to encase the fridge, but I only have 8 inches between the fridge & wall.

What do you think of this panel over the sink that connects the cabinets to the left and right of the window?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 9:48AM
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Could you do one glass faced door on either side of the sink instead of 2 on the left? The one on the left would open towards the stove, which might make dishes easier to put away from the dishwasher.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 12:26PM
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I do not like the connecting board; It looks like there should be ceiling moulding closing that gap at the top...looks unfinished to me.

If you have 8 inches to the wall, does IKEA make a full height pullout or an under-counter one that could be double stacked and hacked? I have seen them in various widths from 3 to 8 inches online...again not sure what IKEA offers.

I would take the cabs as close to the ceiling as possible with IKEA's configurations and trim any gap with moulding. If you do not like that look, then just buy the tallest cabinets possible and leave the space above open as long as it is something like 12 inches minimum so it looks purposeful. If the gap is too short, then I would use trim/moulding for more finished look.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 2:44PM
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Could you use the fan cabinets for your upper-uppers? They don't have any glass front (although you could get doors made which would be cheaper than getting the whole box made) if you really wanted glass. I love the look of glass but ultimately my upper-uppers are for stashing lots of seldom used items, none of them being especially show worthy so in the end I don't regret not doing glass.

If you haven't already, you might want to post on ikeafans. Not sure how active they are now, it's been a couple of years since I went there but if anyone can help you with the planning tool, it's probably someone there.

Here is a link that might be useful: ikea fans

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 9:38PM
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Somebody mentioned them on another thread - what are "fan cabinets"?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 11:50AM
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Not sure why they are called that but they are just shorter cabinets that would work as upper-uppers.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 4:04PM
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